In the Data: The 2022 US Transgender Survey
By Alie Brussel Faria
In the last two years, there has been an escalation of attacks on transgender and gender expansive lives through state bills and laws that seek to prohibit access to life saving and affirming practices, including gender affirming healthcare and accurate identity documents. Particularly, this past spring these attacks increased in states around the country, with 19 states considering different versions of bills targeting access to gender affirming care for trans and gender expansive youth. With this increased assault on trans lives, it has become even more urgent to have the tools to understand the harms of these bills on transgender and gender expansive people.
These attacks make the 2022 United States Transgender Survey (USTS) even more important. The USTS is a national survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality. The survey seeks to gather information about the lived experiences of trans and gender expansive people across the U.S. Critically, information from the USTS about access to care and other gender affirming practices (e.g., using the bathroom that feels most comfortable or securing gender changes on important documents) can be leveraged to combat this rise in anti-trans legislation by showing the harmful way that these policies exclude trans and gender expansive people from fully participating in the public life of their communities.
This year, the latest USTS has the explicit goal of reaching more diverse populations to ensure that the data accurately reflects the experiences of the transgender and gender expansive community. They are trying to reach more Black people, Indigenous people and people of color, older adults, people who live in rural areas, immigrants, Spanish speakers, and people living with HIV. With more diverse responses to the survey, advocates and policymakers can center the needs of folks who are often at highest risk for discrimination and healthcare disparities.
History of USTS: The 2022 USTS will open for a three-week period starting this summer, making it the third iteration of a national U.S. transgender survey. The first survey, the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, took place from 2008-2009 and had the groundbreaking aim to gather national information about the discriminatory experiences that transgender and gender expansive people face across major areas of life in the U.S. (e.g., housing, employment). The survey brought to light difficult and important data that exposed pervasive discrimination: serious acts of discrimination were experienced by 63% of participants. In 2015, NCTE surveyed 27,715 people in the second national transgender survey, and changed the name to the USTS. At the time, this was the largest survey of trans and gender expansive people ever conducted, and its responses provided insight on the wide-ranging experiences of transgender and gender expansive people in detail never-before available.
These two landmark surveys have had influential impacts on the lives of transgender and gender expansive folks. Historically, data around sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) has been absent from national surveys. Therefore, information about the lived experiences of trans and gender expansive people remains unclear. Unfortunately, this lack of data includes information around health disparities, discrimination and violence. Thus, the surveys conducted by community researchers serve as the key source of information about the experience of trans people for researchers, media, educators, policymakers and the public. By focusing on this systemically undercounted population and centering community-based participatory research, the USTS helps to close the data gap, bringing to light important lived experiences which inform policy and advocacy.
Alongside its partners at NCTE, Whitman-Walker Institute has been advocating for the inclusion of sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics (AKA intersex traits) data in federal surveys. Information from the USTS will not only illuminate the experiences of trans and gender expansive folks, but also help demonstrate the importance of including sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics data in national surveys conducted by the federal and state governments. National surveys are the best sources of data on LGBTQI+ disparities and can supercharge the capacity of advocates to change policies that discriminate against and harm trans and gender expansive people.