New Democracy Maps

Transgender Americans Face Staggering Rates of Poverty, Violence

New Reports Find Widespread Discrimination, Economic Vulnerably, and Health Disparities

Washington, D.C., February 18, 2015 — In a year when transgender Americans are experiencing unprecedented visibility in the State of the Union address, the media, and popular culture, while simultaneously suffering extreme violence, two new reports released today detail the widespread discrimination and inequities the transgender population faces, particularly transgender women and transgender people of color. From high rates of poverty, harassment, violence, poor health, limited job opportunities, and isolation from their larger communities, transgender people are among the most vulnerable communities in the country.

The two reports, Understanding Issues Facing Transgender Americans and Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for Being Transgender in America, are co-authored by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), the Center for American Progress, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), and the Transgender Law Center, in partnership with Center for Community Change, Center for Popular Democracy, GLAAD, National Association of Social Workers, and the National Education Association.

“Transgender Americans are experiencing a unique moment in history, as growing visibility leads to greater familiarity and understanding of transgender lives,” said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of MAP. “At the same time, many transgender people, particularly transgender women and transgender people of color, still face enormous barriers to their safety, health, and well-being.”

The two reports detail the myriad issues transgender Americans face. Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for Being Transgender in America paints a stark portrait of the economic insecurities that leave transgender people at high rates of unemployment and poverty. Transgender Americans face clear financial penalties simply because they are transgender and are left economically vulnerable because of two primary failures of law:

  • Pervasive discrimination and a lack of legal protections mean that transgender people struggle to find work and safe housing, make less on the job, and have higher medical costs than their non-transgender peers.
  • Failure to adequately protect transgender students means that transgender people and their families often face a hostile, unsafe, or unwelcoming school environments. Harassment, bullying, and violence make it difficult, if not impossible, for transgender students to obtain the skills and education they need to succeed. As a result, they are ill-prepared to compete for good jobs and see reduced earnings and fewer opportunities for successful jobs and careers.

“In some cases, employment discrimination, lower wages, and lack of legal protections make it harder for transgender people to cover basic necessities like rent, food, clothing, and healthcare, let alone save for the future,” said Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center. “In other instances, legal inequalities mean that transgender people are forced to pay higher costs for needs like housing, healthcare, and education.”

Understanding Issues Facing Transgender Americans provides a high-level introduction of the issues facing transgender Americans, including:

  • Violence: According to the 2013 Hate Violence Report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, transgender people were much more likely to experience threats, intimidation, harassment, discrimination, and sexual violence than non-transgender people. The report found that transgender women and transgender people of color are much more vulnerable to violence, especially at the hands of law enforcement. In 2013, more than half of all LGBT homicide victims were transgender women of color.
  • Suicide Risk: 41% of respondents to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey reported having attempting suicide at some point in their lives. This compares to 1.6% of all Americans who have reported attempting suicide. Respondents who were bullied, harassed, assaulted, or expelled because they were transgender or gender non-conforming in school reported elevated levels of suicide attempts (51%).
  • Homelessness and Discrimination in Housing: One in five transgender people has experienced homelessness at some time in their lives because of discrimination or family rejection. Transgender people facing homelessness also face discrimination from agencies that should be helping them, with nearly one in three (29%) reporting being turned away from a shelter. One in five transgender people (19%) in the United States has been refused a home or apartment, and more than one in ten (11%) have been evicted, because of their gender identity.
  • Health: Unequal access to healthcare and discriminatory healthcare exclusions deny transgender people coverage for medically necessary care, including hormone therapy, counseling, and other transition-related care. Even when transgender people have full health insurance coverage, however, they often face discrimination by health care providers.
  • HIV/AIDS: Transgender people, specifically transgender women of color, are at heightened risk for HIV. Estimates are that one in four black transgender people in the United States is living with HIV/AIDS. Discrimination, stigma, social isolation, bias among health and social service providers, and a lack of targeted prevention efforts have all contributed to these high levels of infection.
  • Discrimination in Public Accommodations: In a 2014 study conducted in Massachusetts, 65% of transgender people reported experiencing discrimination in a place of public accommodation in the past 12 months. The study revealed that bathrooms in restaurants, libraries, cinemas, shopping malls, airports, and other places open to the public were locations of frequent, sometimes serious harassment and abuse of transgender people. Only 17 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of gender identity, covering 36% of Americans.
  • Identity Documents: Official identity documents, particularly drivers’ licenses, birth certificates, social security numbers, and passports, that do not match with a transgender person’s gender presentation can obstruct employment and travel, as well as ex¬pose transgender people to harassment, violence, refusal of service, job loss, and more.

“Transgender people, especially transgender people of color, experience life-threatening situations, including violence, higher rates of HIV and AIDS, homelessness, and extreme poverty,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “There is an urgent need for protections so transgender people can live safe, healthy, and thriving lives.”

Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for Being Transgender in America is a companion to the recently released report, Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for Being LGBT in America.

Co-Authors & Partners


Founded in 2006, the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) is an independent think tank that provides rigorous research, insight and analysis that help speed equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Learn more at

The Center for American Progress (CAP) is a think tank dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through ideas and action. CAP combines bold policy ideas with a modern communications platform to help shape the national debate. CAP is designed to provide long-term leadership and support to the progressive movement. CAP’s policy experts cover a wide range of issue areas, and often work across disciplines to tackle complex, interrelated issues such as national security, energy, and climate change.

The National Center for Transgender Equality is a social justice organization dedicated to advancing the equality of transgender people through advocacy, collaboration and empowerment.

Transgender Law Center works to change law, policy, and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression.

Center for Community Change’s mission is to build the power and capacity of low-income people, especially low-income people of color, to change their communities and public policies for the better. Its focus areas include jobs and wages, immigration, retirement security, affordable housing, racial justice and barriers to employment for formerly incarcerated individuals. The Center empowers the people most affected by injustice to lead movements to improve the policies that affect their lives. For more information, visit

Center for Popular Democracy works to create equity, opportunity and a dynamic democracy in partnership with high-impact base-building organizations, organizing alliances, and progressive unions. CPD strengthens our collective capacity to envision and win an innovative pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial and economic justice agenda. For more information, visit

National Association of Social Workers is the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the world, with 132,000 members with 55 chapters in the United States and internationally. NASW works to enhance the professional growth and development of its members, to create and maintain professional standards, and to advance sound social policies. For more information, visit

National Education Association, the nation’s largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA’s 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States. For more information, visit


MAP's mission is to provide independent and rigorous research, insight and communications that help speed equality and opportunity for all. MAP works to ensure that all people have a fair chance to pursue health and happiness, earn a living, take care of the ones they love, be safe in their communities, and participate in civic life.

The National Center for Transgender Equality is a social justice organization dedicated to advancing the equality of transgender people through advocacy, collaboration and empowerment.

Transgender Law Center works to change law, policy, and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression.

GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBT acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love.


Media Contacts:
Calla Rongerude
Movement Advancement Project (MAP)
(415) 205-2420

Vincent Villano
National Center for Transgender Equality
(202) 631-9640

Noris Chavarria
Transgender Law Center
(415) 865-0176, ext. 310

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Sexual Orientation Policy Tally

The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Policy Tally

“Gender identity” is a person’s deeply-felt inner sense of being male, female, or something else or in-between. “Gender expression” refers to a person’s characteristics and behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms and speech patterns that can be described as masculine, feminine, or something else. Gender identity and expression are independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. Laws that explicitly mention “gender identity” or “gender identity and expression” primarily protect or harm transgender people. These laws also can apply to people who are not transgender, but whose sense of gender or manner of dress does not adhere to gender stereotypes.

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