The Root Highlights Discrimination Faced By Transgender African Americans

In a recent article, The Root, a leading online source of news and commentary from an African-American perspective, spotlights the challenges and perseverance of Black transgender people.

The poignant piece opens with the job discrimination experienced by Kylar Broadus (pictured right), an African-American lawyer and board member of the National Black Justice Coalition, a national black LGBT civil rights organization based in Washington, D.C.

"I am a human being who deserves the right to make a living like everyone else," he tells the online news source.

The Root’s Kellee Terrell reports:

Broadus' experiences are not rare. The harsh reality is that whether they possess a J.D. or a GED, members of the African-American transgender community face severe discrimination, according to the recent study Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (pdf). The survey, the first of its kind, was a collaboration between the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Black Justice Coalition. It collected data from more than 6,500 transgender Americans and found that all transgender people face severe bias ranging from housing and health care to education and employment.

But when researchers took a deeper look at the discrimination that the black respondents faced (pdf) -- all 381 of them -- the data jumped out at them. "What was really poignant were these stark differences. In every case, black respondents fared worse than the nonblack respondents in the national survey," says Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "This is because black transgender people face anti-transgender bias coupled with structural and institutionalized racism."

Other voices included Monica Roberts, a 49-year-old black transgender advocate and founder of the award-winning blog TransGriot, the National Black Justice Coalition’s executive director, Sharon Lettman-Hicks and Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

The article also acknowledges the progress that is being made:

Despite the devastating statistics, it's important to recognize that the very existence of such data is a victory of sorts because historically, reaching the transgender community -- especially people of color -- has been incredibly difficult for researchers. Even the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention falls short on specific data on transgender people. And despite acknowledging that this community has the highest HIV risk factors of any group, the CDC lumps transgender people into the same category as men who have sex with men. (In August the CDC stated that it is revising this approach.)

"We go underreported because we live in fear," says Broadus. "I remember first coming out in my community in Missouri, and there were people who came to see me speak who had literally locked themselves in their homes and never really came out because they were terrified of what would happen if they did."

The good news is that there has been a surge in black transgender leadership over the years. Just this May, in conjunction with the National Black Justice Coalition, Broadus started the Trans People of Color Coalition as a means for transgender people to advocate for themselves. "This is an effort to build a movement," he says. "People are finding their power and realizing that they are worthy."

GLAAD commends The Root for covering the lives of transgender people of color. GLAAD encourages other media outlets to follow The Root’s strong example of including stories of LGBT people that spotlight the diversity of our community and the issues that affect us.