Challenges abound for transgender activists
NEW YORK — Many transgender Americans face intolerance in almost every aspect of their lives, contributing to high levels of homelessness, unemployment, and despair, according to a comprehensive survey being released today.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality say their survey of 6,450 transgender people is the largest of its kind. It details discrimination encountered at every turn — in childhood homes, in schools and workplaces, at stores and hotels, and at the hands of doctors, judges, landlords, and police.
“Their lives are just a crapshoot,’’ said Rea Carey, executive director of the task force. “They don’t know from one interaction to the next whether they will be treated with respect and dignity. It’s not the way people should be living their day-to-day life.’’
The report comes at a sobering time for the transgender community.
While their gay-rights allies celebrated the recent Senate vote that will enable gays to serve openly in the military, transgender people were left out of the debate and remain barred from service.
Efforts to pass a federal law barring workplace discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation failed in the previous Democratic-controlled Congress — gender identity was a key stumbling block — and the new Republican-led House is considered less likely to pass legislation on the issue.
Uncertain of prospects for progress at the federal level, activists hope to make headway through lawsuits, corporate diversity programs, local antibias ordinances, and public education efforts. They hope the survey will buttress those efforts; some of the data had been released in preliminary reports, but the final version contains new details and is prefaced by an emotional plea for Americans to rethink their attitudes.
“It is part of social and legal convention in the United States to discriminate against, ridicule, and abuse transgender and gender nonconforming people,’’ the survey says.