In a truly distressing new report, National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force claimed that not only are transgender people harassed, discriminated against, denied medical care and mistreated by the police, they have a suicide rate that is 26 times higher than the average American. It's even higher than people with chronic depression or members of the military.
41 percent of the more than 6,400 respondents reported having attempted suicide, and 90 percent said that they had been harassed or discriminated against. They also had double the rate of unemployment and compared to the general population, were four times more likely to live in extreme poverty, with a household income of less than $10,000 a year. 47 percent said that they had experienced discriminary workplace treatment, like being fired or denied a promotion, because of their gender identification.
Writing for the American Prospect, Nancy Goldstein highlights one of the many shocking stories of trans abuse:
"In 1995, D.C. resident Tyra Hunter died from entirely treatable injuries incurred in a car accident. First, the firefighters who arrived at the scene stopped emergency medical treatment once they cut away her clothes to discover male genitalia...Once they stopped joking around and got her to the emergency room, the doctor refused to treat her. She died there of blunt force trauma and medical negligence. Fifteen years after Hunter's death, the survey's numbers still stink: 19 percent of respondents reported being refused care because of their gender identity or expression, with even higher figures for respondents of color. Nearly 3 percent reported being attacked in emergency rooms."
Even in Washington D.C., which leads the country in transgender rights, the Department of Corrections was slow to act against this kind of horrific discrimination, and during initial steps, trans rights activists reported that officials were "openly mocking our requests and literally taking naps during meetings."
The report has suggestions for beginning to end injustice against trans people, starting with federal, state and local laws against discrimination and individual company policies. Family acceptance was also crucial, though, for the study respondents, a stunning 57 percent of whom had experienced family rejection.
The executive summary concludes, "This report is a call to action for all of us, especially for those who pass laws and set policies and practices...And everyone else, from those who drive buses or teach our children to those who sit on the judicial bench or write prescriptions, must also take up the call for human rights for transgender and gender non-conforming people, and confront this pattern of abuse and injustice."
From this perspective, we could all be doing more to end discrimination against people who don't conform to the male/female gender binary. So although legislation is a crucial part of the equation, much of the obligation for changing the facts in this horrifying report rests with us.