hard truths

Being Transgender Pretty Much Means You’re Going To Struggle Through Life

Quizzing some 6,450 transgender Americans, a study from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force finds Ts are “four to five times more likely than the general population to live in extreme poverty, with an annual household income of less than $10,000 at all levels of educational attainment. Those surveyed were twice as likely to be unemployed; 26 percent had lost a job because they were transgender, though if you factor in not being hired in the first place or denied a promotion, that number rises to 47 percent. A full 90 percent of respondents reported harassment or other mistreatment in the workplace. … Those who have been fired due to anti-transgender bias are far more likely to enter the underground economy, where sex work and drug sales expose participants to a range of increased risks, including incarceration and a higher incidence of intravenous drug use and HIV (with rates in the survey at four times the national average). No wonder respondents, when asked to list their policy priorities, threw the biggest numbers (70 percent) behind protection for transgender/gender nonconforming people from discrimination in hiring and at work. Transgender people often suffer harm from the very systems designed to protect most citizens. Twenty-two percent report being harassed by police, but the problem extends beyond law enforcement.” And while this is the largest study of its kind, providing some of the most concrete details on what trans Americans face in their lives, none of this is “surprising” in the true sense of the word. Not when we have elected public officials throwing an entire group of people under the bus.

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  • Kev C

    “an annual household income of less than $10,000 at all levels of educational attainment.”

    Basically, this means that having an education is much, much less important than fitting in. If you want to be successful, be average.

  • Tori

    @Kev C: Huh?

  • Kev C

    @Tori: What I said. Same low income regardless of education level.

  • rhen

    As a M2F, I can attest to all of that and more. I was laid off a week ago, and have had 4 jobs over the last 3 years. I have had to put up with bigots at each job, have watched less qualified people be promoted ahead of me (even if I can work circles around them). I can’t seem to settle into a nice secure job or earn a wage based on my skills. I am a responsible person, I show up to work on time and kick ass every day. Unfortunately that doesn’t matter when most people have no respect or empathy for my situation. I have an amazing partner and we have a 9 month old son together. All I want to do is provide some basic security for them and myself but this struggle takes it’s toll on my self worth and ultimately our relationship is peppered with financial stress. How they expect a person to support a family and save money to pay for their transition without the ability to earn a decent living is beyond my comprehension. The system has set me up to fail as a provider. Just what the fuck do they expect people to do in this kind of situation, no wonder so many of us blow our brains out. Something needs to change for the better for TS people and their families.

  • Marlene

    The only to do that, Rhen is to do the herculean job of reforming both Congress and the entire health care industry!

    We need to have more insurance companies be required to care for transfolk just like they do any other cisgender woman. If we are paying for health care, we should be able to get hormonal therapy, as well as other treatments as needed.

    Congress needs to get off it’s lazy ass and get legislation passed to have gender identity and sexual orientation added to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, not this piecemeal effort through ENDA.

  • Nathan

    @Marlene: Transgender problems won’t get any attention until the LGBT movement can put up a united front. Transphobia is rampant in the gay community, and it seems like no gay leaders want to stand up and address this problem.

  • Shannon1981

    @Nathan: You hit the nail right on the head. I have long been bothered by the bigotry WITHIN our own community. I have often hung with other lesbians who rake bisexual women over the coals, and many gays feel that the issues that the transgender/transsexual population bring to our movement slows our progress. It seems the “L” and the “G” in LGBT are often more than willing to leave the “B” and the “T” in the dust- especially the “T”.

  • Marlene

    Right on, both of you!

    From the onset of the homophile, then gay liberation movement, the focus has *always* been on gay men! When lesbians were fighting for a seat at the table, they were told to go do “women’s work” and let them do the “real” work!

    When Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson began STAR (Street Action Transvestite Revolutionaries) to help the teen trans sex workers, they were shown the exit door and told not to come back!

    When it came time to celebrate Stonewall in NYC at one of the first Christopher Street rallies, a bunch of separatist lesbians protested the inclusion of drag queens, claiming they were a parody of women.

    Sadly, that attitude has stayed with this faction of Second Wave dinosaurs, not realizing the fact that we were *required* to act hyper-feminine by the male psychiatrists who were the gatekeepers for hormonal therapy and surgery. One doctor even bragged that if he didn’t get an erection, they wouldn’t get the surgery!

    Sadly, it’s been over 60 years, and still we have to battle the racism, sexism, and other prejudices within the LGBT community.

    The Michigan Womens’ Music Festival has for decades been the ultimate in hypocrisy. They say that women shouldn’t be restricted in their lives because of their gender, yet restrict the MtF community claiming we’ll use our so-called “male privilege”, yet they allow even post-op FtMs on the land!

  • Shannon1981

    @Marlene: The way I am seeing things, as in the way they are right now is this: The “L’s” and the “G’s” are exhibiting feelings of superiority to the “B’s” and the “T’s.” They take issue with the “B’s” passing for straight, living heterosexual lifestyles,etc because that means they don’t experience the same kind of constant discrimination that we do, and they get along just fine in straight society. In fact, nobody has to know unless they just want them to. Not usually the case with people who are purely homosexual. So that is a point of resentment. Also, to the the straight community, bisexuality is often a sounding point for their argument that it is a choice.

    As for the “T’s”- many gays blame the “T” population for the loss of ENDA because, not to be crude but this is what I am hearing- no way would the straight community tolerate pre- ops in dresses using the women’s rooms in public places and things of that nature. That’s my take from my own gay circles, both online and in real. Obviously I don’t speak for everyone, and this is as objective as an assessment as I can offer.

    People need to get over their prejudices, seriously. I admit to being reluctant to date bisexual women, and I admit to not understanding transsexualism. However, I do NOT discriminate. I find it ironic that the most hated group of people in American can’t even fully accept one another.

  • Zoe Brain


    no way would the straight community tolerate pre- ops in dresses using the women’s rooms in public places and things of that nature.

    One teeny problem there: in order to become post-op, in order to have permission for surgery… a pre-op must complete a “real life test” of at least a year. Living 24/7 as the target gender. Including using “women’s rooms in public places and things of that nature” if transitioning MtoF.

    Then there are all of the Intersexed people whose genitalia might not match either a standard M or F stereotype.

  • Shannon1981

    @Zoe Brain: I am aware of that. I am saying those are things as I see them with the problem with bigotry within our own community, from the standpoint of people I speak to- mostly other lesbians and a few gay men- who seem to have some weird ideas about gays being superior to those who are bi and/or trans.

  • ron

    waaah…the poor poor trannies. As if gay men don’t deal with all the shit listed above.

  • Marlene

    Riiight, Ronnie! A gay man living in a state or city or working at a business business who have a policy or ordinance banning sexual orientation discrimination has tons more rights than I do! Did you know that the unemployment rate for transfolk is one of the highest of ANY category… *including* African-Americans?

    How many hate crimes against gay men get ignored by the police as opposed to transgender people and trans sex workers? Did you know transfolk have a dramatically higher murder rate than anyone else?

    So don’t be surprised if you don’t see me sympathetic whatsoever when assimilationist fags like you whine.

  • Kev C

    According to statistics (long term and around the world) the highest levels of homophobia based crime occurs to:

    Trangenders of all types.
    Gay men and percieved gay, especially “fem” men.
    Lesbian women and percieved lesbian, especially “butch” women.

    Basically, anyone who doesn’t fit social gender norms is at a higher risk of violence and discrimination than those who do fit (masculine men, feminine women).

    As I said before, it’s all about fitting in.

  • Marlene

    Well, Kev… not all of us transfolk are able to “fit in”. It would be nice if we could all pass and live stealth all the time, but many of us can’t. In fact, I’m actually glad I *can’t*. I *want* society at large to know that not all transwomen don’t look like Lea T or Andrej and that we come in all shapes, sizes and colors.

  • Kev C

    @Marlene: I was framing the root problem. Society hates queers because they’re queer and don’t fit in.

  • Franky

    Gay men get those problems, yes, but nowhere near on the same level. I think I’ve only run into one trans woman who didn’t have to work as a prostitute to support herself. Then again I haven’t seen her in quite some time so that could be changed by now.

    I never quite understood the separation in the LGBT community. the L and G are mostly horrible towards the B and T. Then a lot of the L and G are horrible towards each other. I can’t speak for the L but even within the G there’s in fighting among the “fem” gays and the “butch” ones. Hell, that kind of in fighting is a regular occurrence on this site alone. How is it that a minority as hated as ours has any time to fight amongst ourselves?

  • Shannon1981

    @Franky: You last paragraph is spot on. since you cannot speak for the L, I will. The L is generally ok with the G, but in those two groups, there seems to be a lot of contempt for the B and the T. In fact, I had two lesbian buddies who didn’t speak to me for months when I was dating a bisexual woman, and occasionally hung out with her and her straight friends. They called me a traitor and said I was looking to get fag bashed. So, yeah. And IDK why we infight either. We get more hate than any other group in society. Now, due to the 3 relationships I’ve had with bi women ending over things largely relating to their attraction to men, my not *fitting in* or being able to *pass* for straight…I am very careful with them. But I don’t hate on them. And I do not blame the T’s for slowing down the progress of our movement as so many gays do. I refuse to participate in gay elitist behavior. IT isn’t any more right than what the straight people do to us. In fact, on a lot of levels, it is worse.

  • AndrastesGrace

    Your earlier comment about transfolks ability access to health care treatments (hormone therapy) as other non-transgendered (I am not using cisgender) women reinforces feminist resistance to transwomen. Are you not aware that many carriers do not cover birth control, abortion, or elective tubal ligation, or the subsidy provided is profoundly inadequate access to those services are effectively denied. It comes across as non-transwomen are afforded some sort of magical privilege. It’s definately not a privilege to pay 90% a month for cramp control while a 90 year old pitches a tent for free.

    On the subject of the MWF why don’t we ever see transmen requiring access to male space. Why all the instances of MTF’s attempting to impose their will onto women?

  • gina


    Could you please ‘Grace’ us with some examples of ‘male space’ where trans men are not permitted and they don’t have any issue with it. I can think of a number of gay environments such as the IPhone dating App Grindr which was recently accused of banning trans men and they very much made a stink about it.

    But I want to hear your list.

    I’d also like you to list some of those carriers which don’t cover birth control or elective tubal ligation. Those are pretty serious claims and require specificity. Every major health care provider I know of does indeed covers those.

  • Marlene


    “Impose their will”? My dear you have NO idea how wrong you are!

    The ones imposing their will are the cabal of antiquated Second Wave separatists who one one hand demand to be able to determine themselves their gender and their ability to work whatever job they’re qualified to do, plus admit even post-op FtMs on the land; then on the other hand, claim to be able to determine what gender *I* have, claiming that I want on the land to take over the Festival using my so-called “male privilege!

  • AndrastesGrace

    I’ll see you one transman on Grinder and raise:

    Lana Lawless Womens golf
    Renee Richards Womens Tennis
    Michelle Dumaresq Women’s Downhill
    Marianne Bagger Womens Golf

    Outside of sports how about:
    Kimberly Nixon Vancouver Rape Crisis Center
    The transwomen who want admittance/acceptance to/at the MWF

    As far as men’s organizations that do not face the same pressures. Just off the top of my head:

    Promise Keepers

    Now can you provide instances where transmen demand inclusion in those traditionally male spaces?

    You can do your own research look up each individual provider’s coverage. Perhaps visit NARAL or Planned Parenthood for statistics/studies inadequacies of contraceptive coverage/access for women. Perhaps ask women who have had first hand experience with coverage/cost for birth control. My carrier is a national provider and yet my partner shells out 50 a month for Yasmin. I acknowledge ED is a medical issue, but to compare the number of deaths from not being able to get wood to the number of women who die every in childbirth or resulting complications would be absurdity. My corporate sponsored plan includes coverage for ED treatment. Viaga, Cialis, etc are preferred drugs so the copay is cheaper than my partners monthly Cramp Control. Strangely, you completely ignored abortion in your response. This article remains a stark reminder for me of the disparities women face.


    Perhaps you’ve missed the debate to include birth control in preventative health care. googling/binging birth control preventive health care news to see the numerous articles on the efforts to improve womens access and affordability to remedy past/present discriminatory contraceptive polices. The comment Marlene made early comes across as callous and fails to acknowledge very real issues women face. It bolsters the ‘they do not care about non-trans womens issues” refrain some feminists use to reinforce the us versus them mentality.

  • laughriotgirl

    @AndrastesGrace: Lets look at apples and apples – a non-trans woman needs to correct a hormone imbalance, goes to an endocrinologist and is prescribed an estrogen supplement and testosterone blocker. This treatment is largely covered by her insurance. This exact same treatment for a trans woman is SPECIFICALLY denied by insurance companies.

    Thanks to Janice Raymond’s (a lesbian BTW) presentation in front of Congress to get trans related health care needs removed from Medicare/aid insurance companies followed suit and stopped coverage.

    Paint it how you want, but I have never seen trans women calling for the government to stop funding reproductive health (including abortion). I’ve also had a number of insurance policies from a variety of employers and ALL of them covered abortions within the first trimester (and beyond that with the prompting of a doctor), tubal ligation, and covered birth control as with any other prescription.

  • Marlene

    Laugh — That’s why I dismissed Grace’s rant. She sounds like an antiquated Second Wave feminist, who time has passed her by.

    Third Wave feminists are much more allied with us transfolk, and some have been tossed from the MWMF because they support *full* inclusion.

    Grace, I’m just as much a feminist as you are, sweetie! I have participated in and helped out the local college’s feminist group for years, including the Take Back the Night March and Rally! Third Wavers recognize the fact that sexual assault is NOT the sole property of women, as men are sexually assaulted and are victims of spousal abuse — they are in even MORE need of support due to the restrictive way they were raised.

    This is 2011 Grace…. NOT 1961! Grow up and live in this time period, NOT the past. maybe you’ll find out that a lot of your fearmongering no longer holds sway.

  • laughriotgirl

    @AndrastesGrace: Perhaps you can ask the trans guys at MWMF next August and not ask women why men do and don’t prioritize things in a way you want them to?

    If I’m correct, this article is about the issues trans people face in a variety of areas including access to health care. So why exactly would access to abortion or coverage of birth control come up? Should hetero guys bring up their experiences with family courts and custody issues in discussions about gay marriage? What about Military sexual harassment being discussed when people were talking about DADT repeal?

    As women, our medical needs are see as areas to cut costs by insurance providers. More claims are rejected or flagged for investigation when they come from a woman (and this comes from people I know in dental offices – much less GPs or Gynos). What trans women are saying is that IN ADDITION TO all the other existing inequalities that ALL women face obtaining health care and getting coverage of their medical needs from the insurance industry – we face OTHER obstacles simply because we are trans.

    I’m sure you can understand that. As a lesbian you face inequalities because you are a woman AS WELL AS because you are a lesbian. Unless you are willing to say that every time you discuss lesbophobia or homophobia you erase or minimize sexism as faced by heterosexual women your comments here are just another example of the GLB talking over, erasing, and co-opting the lives, needs, and voices of trans people.

  • gina


    “Lana Lawless Womens golf
    Renee Richards Womens Tennis
    Michelle Dumaresq Women’s Downhill
    Marianne Bagger Womens Golf”

    Let’s see, last time I looked, those four were all LEGALLY women at the time they applied to play in those sports. They weren’t situationally legally women… they were 24/7/365 legally women.

    “Kimberley Nixon”

    Was LEGALLY a woman when she was herself raped. Was legally a woman when she applied to the rape center training program. Not “a woman except in cases where her presense might upset other women”. I note that a lot of characters who kicked her out of the program have since left that organization.

    “The Mason and Shriners” — I’d like some actual proof either one of these organizations has purposefully kept out trans men. Let’s hear it. I call Urban Myth… prove me wrong.

    “Promise Keepers” is a fundamentally right wing organization. No, I don’t expect right wing organizations to accept trans people whether trans men or trans women. And I would love to hear your actual reference that this has actually even happened. Give me a specifics… you mentioning it doesn’t quite qualify as reference material.

    As Laugh Riot said, I don’t minimize the realities of sexism in health care one bit and I don’t in any way excuse it or justify it. It IS a reality. It needs to change.That women are treated like second class citizens in health care is a reality. But trans women get all that and more (or less, I should say). They are routinely denied health care and most insurance doesn’t cover any of our health needs. I was turned down for Kaiser Permanente (a company which advertising how gay friendly it is and sponsors floats on the SF Pride Parade) because of my trans history (I am post op and extremely healthy). After an extensive letter writing campaign, they eventually okayed me for a second rate plan with a high deductible.

    No one is saying contraception (which overwhelmingly covered), gynecological care (which is covered) and reproductive rights including abortion (which is mostly covered but sometimes not covered by the same people who would deny trans people any legal status or medical services… Catholic Med Centers, Baptist connected organization). So… yes, discrimination is matter of degree. Non-trans women get shortchanged. Trans women get shortchanged even more. Non trans women do get some privileges trans women don’t get. That doesn’t mean I don’t think we all deserve equality and the best health care.

  • Megan

    @ron: Your comment just goes to show the bigotry and HYPOCRISY the gay community has for trans people. There are far fewer trans people than gays so we are much less understood. For example if you tell someone you’re gay they don’t ask you what your penis looks like as if that makes a difference on how you should be treated, and that’s just the accepting people! You don’t get harassed by complete strangers on the street while walking alone for “not passing”. Please save the thinly veiled bigotry you have for the trans community for somewhere else. I understand lashing out at us helps your own self-esteem though.

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