It has been a landmark year for the transgender community in the U.S. Never before has our less-than-inclusive culture been so conscious of transgender people and issues. But despite growing trans visibility, the fact is that transgender people still face discrimination and violence at the rate that, considering all the progress we've made in regards to other sexuality- and gender-based communities' rights, is appalling.
While icons such as Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox prove that it is possible for transgender people to achieve the level of fame and adoration that cis-gender people have claimed since the beginning of time, the truth is that they are not exempt from the oppression and risk that many transgender people face on a daily basis.
Here are the facts:
Despite increased visibility, more transgender people have been murdered in 2015 than any other year on record. Most of the victims are trans women of color. And the number might be higher still — activists say that it's difficult to know just how many trans people are murdered in a year because the police often refer to the victims with names and pronouns reflecting their gender of birth rather than their gender identity.
The physical and sexual violence that transgender people face is unparalleled. According to a survey released in 2011, transgender people face violence and harassment in all sorts of places at any given time — in school, at home, at their workplace, in homeless shelters, at public service centers (public transportation, government agencies, retail stores, etc.), and by the police.
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Transgender people also experience higher rates of discrimination in general. According to the latest National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS), 6 percent of trans people lost a job due to bias; 50 percent were harassed on the job; 20 percent were evicted or denied housing; and 78 percent of trans students have been harassed or assaulted.
One of the most worrying — and most often exploited — statistic is the rate at which transgender people commit suicide. A staggering 41 percent of respondents to the NTDS reported attempting suicide compared to the national average of 4.6 percent.
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Contrary to conservative opinion, trans people are not more inclined to attempt suicide because they are "confused" about their gender. Researchers have found that the more discrimination a trans person faces (and let's be real here — it's a lot of discrimination), the more likely they are to try ending their lives. Poverty, sexual abuse, physical violence, homelessness, and health care bias are factors that play significant roles in this.
So, yes, while critics do heap praise on the hit TV series about a transgender parent, Transparent, and trans people do make headlines and are lauded for their accomplishments and bravery, that isn't enough. There is still a long, painful road ahead for those who simply want to be able to go about their lives without being harassed, assaulted physically and sexually, and be discriminated against just because of the gender they choose to identify with.
Cover image via a katz / Shutterstock