Thanks to Lt. GOV Dan Patrick’s controversial bathroom bill, transgender people are once again in the spotlight in Austin. A lack of access to bathrooms conforming to their gender, however, is just one issue transgender Texans are facing in their daily lives.
Late January, the National Center for Transgender Equality released a state-specific report extracted from the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey (USTS), which surveyed a total of 27,715 respondents nationwide, including 1,490 Texas residents.
Respondents reported being mistreated because of their gender identity in areas including the workplace, education, healthcare, housing and even encounters with the police. According to Lou Weaver, Transgender Programs Coordinator at Equality Texas, while many of the findings have served to confirm what activists already know, they are still a powerful tool in legislative battles.
"This is huge—having the ability to be able to refer to numbers, saying ‘X number of people have suffered from this,’" Weaver said. “We can say, ‘well this is going to affect real people on a daily basis.’"
Verbal attacks emerged in the report as the the most common form of harassment, although physical and sexual assault as well as denial of service were also reported.
"People are being attacked outside when they walk around," Weaver explained. "They are being yelled at, being screamed at on the street, being called slurs, being told they are not a real man or a real woman, being denied access to jobs, access to places to live. This is something that continues to happen."
Weaver encouraged those concerned by the report to reach out to the transgender persons around them and educate themselves on their lives. With Texas ranking sixth nationally in percentage of trans residents, Weaver said most Texans likely know a transgender person, even if they don’t realize it.
"While this is new, the trans folks are not new. We have been part of society for a very long time," he said.
The report came at a time when trans advocates and coalitions are gaining momentum. The climate today is already different from what it was in 2011, when the first comprehensive National Transgender Discrimination Survey was conducted.
"[We need to] start thinking about this now rather than later, because more and more youth are coming out," Weaver said. "And we need to make sure that we are showing them that we are not their first bullies, that we are taking care of all Texans."
More information on the report can be found in our slideshow, above, and on the USTS website.