New U.S. Transgender Survey has compelling data about being trans in America

It's been five years since the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) released the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) which, for the first time, quantified the poverty, discrimination, and violence faced by transgender people, helping to frame these issues in a way that clarified the policy changes needed to address them.

The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS) is a follow up to NTDS and is the largest survey of transgender people in the United States, with almost 28,000 respondents from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and U.S. military bases overseas. Conducted in the summer of 2015 by NCTE, the anonymous online survey for transgender adults 18 and over was available in English and Spanish.

When the Census Bureau says there are no plans at this time to add questions about sexual orientation or gender identity to its surveys according to TIME's Katie Steinmetz, and when data about transgender people is so scarce - prompting advocates like Laverne Cox to urge the federal government to count LGBT people in official population data - NCTE's U.S. Transgender Survey is a critical resource for understanding the transgender community's real life experiences, urgent concerns, and vital needs.

This data can help guide advocates, organizations, and government agencies about how best to allocate attention, resources, and funding, and which policy changes are most needed. 

The findings from the survey are extensive, and reveal deeply concerning patterns of mistreatment and discrimination associated with startling disparities in employment, home ownership, access to medical and healthcare, and support networks. The survey also confirms alarmingly high rates of harassment and violence towards transgender people.

Read the full 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey here

Below are some key findings from the report.

Employment and workplace:

  • Nearly one-third (29%) of respondents were living in poverty, more than 2x the rate of the general U.S. population (14%)
  • The poverty rate for transgender people of color, including Latinx (43%), American Indian (41%), multiracial (40%), and Black (38%) respondents was up to 3x that of the general U.S. population (14%)
  • Contributing to the high rate of poverty, transgender people experience a 15% unemployment rate, which is 3x higher than the unemployment rate in the U.S. population at the time of the survey (5%)
  • Overall, 30% of respondents who had a job in the past year report being fired, denied a promotion, or experiencing some other form of mistreatment related to their gender identity or expression

Education and school:

  • The majority of respondents who were open about being transgender while in school (K-12) experienced some form of mistreatment, including verbal harassment (54%), physical attack (24%), and sexual assault (13%) 
  • 17% experienced such severe mistreatment that they withdrew from school

Housing and homelessness:

  • Nearly one-quarter (23%) of respondents experienced some form of housing discrimination in the past year
  • Nearly one-third (30%) of respondents have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives
  • More than one-quarter (26%) of those who experienced homelessness in the past year avoided staying in a shelter because they feared being mistreated as a trans person; 70% who did stay in a shelter reported some form of mistreatment, including harassment, sexual or physical assault, or being kicked out

Health and healthcare:

  • Forty percent of respondents (40%) have attempted suicide, nearly 9x the rate in the U.S. population (4.6%)
  • Seven percent (7%) attempted suicide in the past year, nearly 12x the rate in the U.S. population (0.6%)
  • One third (33%) had at least one negative experience with a health care provider in the past year related to being transgender, such as being verbally harassed or refused treatment because of their gender identity
  • Respondents were living with HIV (1.4%) at nearly 5x the rate of the U.S.population (0.3%); HIV rates were higher among transgender women (3.4%) with nearly one in five (19%) Black trans women living with HIV; American Indian (4.6%) and Latinas also reporting higher rates

Family life and faith communities:

  • 1 in 10 (10%) trans people who disclosed their gender identity to family members reported violence toward them for being transgender 
  • 1 in 12 (8%) were kicked out of their houses because of their gender identity
  • Nineteen percent (19%) of respondents who had ever been part of a spiritual or religious community left due to rejection; forty-two percent (42%) of those who left found a welcoming spiritual or religious community

When the data is examined in-depth, it is clear that all of these disparities have a much greater impact on transgender people of color and undocumented trans people.

"Despite achieving some significant policy advances and increased visibility over the past few years, transgender people continue to face enormous obstacles in almost every area of their lives. Discrimination and violence threaten transgender people’s ability to have even the basics: food, a place to sleep, a job," commented NCTE executive director Mara Keisling. "This survey demonstrates that there is a lot of work ahead to achieve simple parity and full equality for transgender people."

"We hope that the breadth and depth of this survey, which exceeds any previous examination of transgender life in the United States, prompts greater understanding and acceptance of transgender people," said Sandy James, the survey’s lead author.

The full survey report can be found at