The experiences Diamond and LaSaia describe illustrate that we shouldn’t think about transphobia separately from racism, from economic class and experiences of employment discrimination, from the racism and transphobia of social services, and contemporary policing strategies that disproportionately target poor people of color, especially those who, locked out of the employment market, are involved in street economies. Trans activism must not simply focus on transphobia alone, but the relationship between transphobia and racism, classims, capitalism, immigration, ability, and other systems of oppression.
Listen to Diamond's analysis of the systemic inequalities that trans people of color encounter.
Diamond, in conversation with Carter Brown, describes how systemic racism, combined with policing of the gender binary, mean that the already inadequate social safety net in the US is largely unavailable to trans people, making trans people much more vulnerable to poverty, violence, homelessness, and over-policing.
Diamond's story illuminates five areas where trans people face extraordinary obstacles. Let's explore them in more detail.
According to this report, 47% of respondants reported an adverse job outcome, including being fired, denied promotion, or not hired due to their trans identity. Because of this, trans people on the whole experience twice the rate of unemployment as the general population, and Black and Latinx trans people experience four times that rate of unemployment.
According to this report, one third of respondents experienced homelessness at some point in their life, a rate that is even higher for trans women of color: 59% of American Indian respondents and 51% of Black respondents. Unfortunately, 70% of those who had stayed in a shelter reported some form of mistreatment. In an important success for trans activists, the Obama administration issued guidance requiring homeless shelters to house transgender people based on their gender identity.
The Trump administration recently announced that the Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a new rule rolling back that protection, and that under this new guidance shelters have the right to house people based on biological sex, regardless of gender identity.
According to the US Transgender Survey, among people who had interactions wit the police in the prior two years, and that the police were aware of their transgender identity, 58% report some form of mistreatment.
“People of color, including American Indian (74%), multiracial (71%), Latino/a (66%), and Black (61%) respondents, were more likely to have experienced one or more forms of mistreatment. Respondents who were homeless in the past year (78%), those who were currently unemployed (75%), and people with disabilities (68%) were also more likely to report one or more of these [forms of mistreatment].”
Because of rampant violence against trans women of color in schools, pervasive employment discrimination, increased rates of homelessness, and inaccessibly social services, sex work represents a viable source of income for many. However, sex work is heavily criminalized, and new legislation like FOSTA-SESTA makes trans women of color who trade sex even more vulnerable to policing and violence.
According to this report, "transgender people who have done sex work or participated in underground economies often report elevated levels of police violence—this includes 16% of all trans people, 34% of Latino/a trans people, and 53% of Black trans people. Trans people who have done street economy work are more than twice as likely to report physical assaults by police officers and four times as likely to report sexual assault by police."
The report Injustice at Every Turn reveals alarming levels of violence reported by trans and non-binary students in k-12 schools. According to the report, “Those who expressed a transgender identity or gender non-conformity while in grades K-12 reported alarming rates of harassment (78%), physical assault (35%) and sexual violence (12%). The harassment was so severe that it led nearly one-sixth (15%) to leave school in grades K-12 or in higher education settings.” This level of violence in schools is highly correlated to experiences of homelessness and involvement in underground economies.
The layers of oppression can have compounding effects on trans people who are marginalized in multiple ways: due to their race, gender identity, class, immigration status, and ability.
Want to learn more?
- Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey - National Center for Transgender Equality & The National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce
- The Report of the 2015 US Trans Survey - National Center for Transgender Equality
- TransPop: US Transgender Population Health Study
- Homelessness Among LGBT Adults in the US by the Williams Institute
- Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex Eric A. Stanley and Nat Smith, eds; CeCeMcDonald (foreword)
- Sex Change, Social Change by Viviane Namaste
- The Revolution Will Not Be Funded by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence
- Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the US by Joey Mogul, Andrea Ritchie, and Kay Whitlock
- Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity by C. Riley Snorton
- Exile and Pride by Eli Clare
- Transgender History by Susan Stryker