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Black transgender people face startling levels of discrimination, report finds

WASHINGTON -- Black transgender and gender non-conforming people face some of the highest levels of discrimination of all transgender people according to a recently released analysis, "Injustice at Every Turn: A Look at Black Respondents in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey."

This report by the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) is a supplement to the groundbreaking national study, "Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey," which was published in February and revealed widespread discrimination experienced by transgender and gender non-conforming people across the board.

Discrimination was pervasive for the entire sample, but anti-transgender bias coupled with structural racism meant that transgender people of color experienced particularly devastating levels of discrimination, with black respondents often faring worse than all others. Among the key findings of the analysis:

* Black transgender people had an extremely high unemployment rate at 26%, two times the rate of the overall transgender sample and four times the rate of the general population.

* A startling 41% of black respondents said they had experienced homelessness at some point in their lives, more than five times the rate of the general U.S. population.

*Black transgender people lived in extreme poverty with 34% reporting a household income of less than $10,000 per year. This is more than twice the rate for transgender people of all races (15%), four times the general black population rate (9%), and eight times the general U.S. population rate (4%).

* Black transgender people were affected by HIV in devastating numbers. More than one-fifth of respondents were living with HIV (20.23%), compared to a rate of 2.64% for transgender respondents of all races, 2.4% for the general black population, and 0.60% of the general U.S. population.

"From education to employment and housing discrimination, from police brutality to health care disparities, black transgender people are suffering at extremely high rates due to bigotry and transphobia," said Sharon Lettman-Hicks, National Black Justice Coalition executive director.

"Nearly half of all black transgender respondents report being harassed at work and at school. Twenty-six percent are unemployed and 34% report annual incomes of less than $10,000 per year. These numbers are appalling and these living conditions are unacceptable for any human being -- gender conforming or not. NBJC is committed to bringing visibility to the gross inequities faced by our transgender brothers and sisters, and to creating a world where gender non-conforming individuals can work, love and seek medical attention without fear of discrimination, harassment or violence."

Also among the findings:

* Half of black respondents who attended school expressing a transgender identity or gender non-conformity reported facing harassment.

* Nearly half (49%) of black respondents reported having attempted suicide.

* On a positive note, many black transgender people who were out to their families reported that their families were as strong as before they came out. Black respondents reported this experience at a higher rate than the overall sample of transgender respondents.

"This report is a critical call to action for our policymakers to confront these horrifying realities by enacting protections without hesitation," said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "The stark truth is that the multi-layered effects of poverty, race and class discrimination are devastating for blacks. These findings show just how profoundly harmful it is when discrimination based on gender identity is also in the mix. These data make it clear that racial and economic justice are among the most critical issues facing LGBT people."

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, echoes those points.

"This report confirms what we've long known to be true: being transgender and black in the United States presents unique challenges on the path to full equality," she said. "This problem is deeply important to me and to NCTE where every day we hear from transgender people of color who survive in the face of racism and transphobia. This report should be a lesson to all of us that a world with transgender equality is a world with racial equality."

Findings from "Injustice at Every Turn: A Look at Black Respondents in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey" spotlight the vital need for social justice advocates to address a racial and an LGBT dimension within their social justice work. The analysis is a resource for those advocating for policy changes at every level of government.