The main character of my novel-in-progress, Songbird, is a trans woman. She struggles to find acceptance in a world that doesn’t always understand her. Along the way, she makes friends and enemies, and finds herself getting into and out of trouble trying to live her life. But how closely does her story reflect reality?
According to a report by the US-based National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, trans people in America are 4 times as likely to live in poverty as the general population, and 4 times as likely to be houseless. 41% attempt suicide in their life, compared to 1.6% of the general population. 78% experience persistent bullying and harassment in K-12 schools, and 90% report harassment and discrimination at work. 47% have been fired, not hired, or passed over for promotion due to their trans identity.
Adding race and the effects of racism bring the numbers even higher. 34% of Black trans folks have been houseless, compared to 19% of trans folks overall. 21% of Latino/a trans people left K-12 education, compared with 15% of all trans people; a further 9% were expelled from school as a result of bias. 24% of Asian American respondents engaged in sex work or drug dealing to survive, compared to 16% of all trans people. 34% of Native American trans folks reported being denied medical care, compared to 19% of trans folks in general.
Pretty bleak numbers. Across the board, trans people — but especially trans people of colour — are more likely to suffer discrimination and harassment. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation reports that anti-LGBTQ2 murders rose by 11% just from 2009 to 2011. Of victims, 87% were people of colour; 45% were trans women.
Every year, November 20th is Transgender Day of Remembrance. Folks gather to reflect and mourn those who have been lost in the past year. Recently, there has been a movement to change the focus to emphasise the strength and resilience of trans people, and I think that’s a great idea. If anyone has honoured you with the knowledge of their trans identity, take some time to let them know you support and love them. Make your work environment a safer space. Take a moment or two today to honour the memories of hate crime victims, but also hold in your thoughts the survivors of hate crimes.