Ellen McGirt | Essays

Insights from the largest-ever survey of trans people

Pride Parade
Photo by Patrick Perkins.

Some 92,000 people have completed the 2022 U.S. Trans Survey, the largest and most thorough survey of trans and non-binary people ever fielded. The record turnout is the result of serious grassroots activism within trans circles.

The survey, an initiative of the National Center for Transgender Equality, asked over 600 possible questions ranging from health care, employment, and education to housing and public accommodations.

You can explore their early findings here.

In an age where data, trust, and privacy are under threat — along with trans lives — this level of engagement is exceptionally good news.

“This is real data — the survey took an hour to take,” Flint, a trans creator and activist, tells Equity Observer from his home in central California. “I know because I took it, and I encouraged everyone I knew to take it.”

The insights can be used to inform deeper activism and smarter policies. “It’s all in one place now,” he says. “The methodology is sound, comprehensive, and peer-reviewed.”

Some of the findings are grim.

Of the people who did seek routine medical care — nearly a quarter were unwilling to out of fear of mistreatment — close to half reported a negative experience. And even though 87 percent of the respondents finished high school and 51 percent reported some college training, 18 percent are unemployed, far outpacing the national unemployment rate of 3.7 percent. A third are living in poverty and a third have experienced homelessness, again outpacing other demographics.

But more data is more progress.

The first iteration of the USTS was fielded in 2015 and surveyed 27,715 trans people. Its evolution to accommodate new issues — like COVID-19, family planning, physical health, reproductive health, and satisfaction — with transition-related experiences, was essential.

“If you remember, [from] 2016 onward there was just a proliferation of anti-trans legislation, whether it be bathroom bills, now onto medical care. It’s just been an onslaught for years,” Dr. Sandy E. James, the lead researcher for the 2022 USTS, tells The 19th. “But what we’ve seen based on the collection so far is this incredible resiliency.”

Resiliency will be required to navigate the political landscape in 2024.

The number of anti-trans bills being considered across the U.S. has broken records for four consecutive years, according to the Trans Legislation Tracker. We’re on track to surpass the 510 anti-LGBTQ bills that were introduced in 2023. At press time, there are 457 active anti-trans bills aiming to limit access to basic health care, education, and legal recognition in 41 states.

One of them, Wyoming’s House Bill 156, is especially alarming.

If passed, it would declare that gender-affirming care is “not in the best interest” of transgender youth within the state. “The bill would apply this presumption to custody battles, guardianships, and even the rules around Child Protective Services, raising real concerns that transgender youth could be removed from affirming parents who love them and follow best practice medical guidelines,” reports Erin Reed.

Flint, who no longer shares his last name, is a former high school teacher who was compelled to leave the profession after his classroom reading library, which included queer-affirming titles, was targeted in news stories by a Fox News reporter.

It resulted in regular waves of horrific threats — including a bomb threat — to the school and his home. He also became a local political talking point.

“It became physically unsafe for me to stay in my classroom,” he shares in this poignant post. “Fear of my [trans] existence is still being used in my community to rile up parents that don’t know any better before this next election.”

And that’s exactly why this survey matters so much, he tells Equity Observer and his many followers in two posts — here and here — on social media.

“This is real data for people in medicine who can now contend with our real experiences…for the people who say we’re all teenagers, who try to tell us that hormones are going to destroy our bodies and our lives,” he says. “Ninety-four percent are more satisfied with our lives post-transition, with 79 percent choosing the strongest possible option for expressing that.” And a whopping 98 percent of respondents on hormones report being more satisfied with their lives, “with a similar number after trans-affirming surgeries.”

This, he says, should be the new official talking point. “We’re out there, alive and happy anyway — even though so many people don’t want us to be.”

A version of this essay was originally published in the Equity Observer email newsletter. Catch up on past issues here. Sign up for insightful commentary, breaking news, and community shout-outs delivered twice weekly. Find your people.

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