Life At The Intersection Of Gender Identity/Expression And Race

E-mail Email Icon Print Print Icon
Reddit Digg StumbleUpon Delicious Bookmark

A new report focuses on the unique experiences of Black transgender and gender non-conforming adults of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade January 2011 005

Photo: calvinfleming

Black LGBT Pride Parade.

In my post last week, I reviewed the results of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.  The survey of over 6,000 respondents covers the health, sociodemographic profile, and experiences with prejudice and discrimination of transgender and gender non-conforming adults in the US.  As I have remarked in previous posts, we must not assume that the experiences of all transgender and gender non-conforming people are identical.

Diversity Within Transgender Communities

At the broadest level, the label or identity transgender encompasses a diverse group of individuals whose sex assigned at birth (typically on the basis of genitalia) does not align with their current gender identity and expression.  To varying degrees, some transgender people seek to alter their bodies and outer appearance to match their inner gender identity (e.g., transwomen and transmen); although, some do not undergo this “transition.”  Others represent gender identities and expressions that fall outside of the traditional binary of female and male (e.g., genderqueer people), or that encompass both simultaneously (e.g., two spirit, androgynous, and bigender people).  Another group lives only part-time as one gender, while otherwise living as another (e.g., cross-dressers, drag kings, and drag queens).

Beyond the diversity among transgender and gender non-conforming people in terms of physical sex, gender identity, and gender expression, there is a great deal of diversity in other ways.  Transgender and gender non-conforming people vary by where they live in the US, age, ability and disability, education, income, citizenship, and so forth.

Among the 6,000+ respondents of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 21 percent identify as gay, lesbian, or same-gender-loving, 23 percent as bisexual, 20 percent as queer, and 21 percent as heterosexual.  And, while three-fourths of the respondents are Non-Hispanic White, 13 percent are non-White and 11 percent are multiracial.  However, it is important to note that this not necessarily a sample that is representative of the total transgender and gender non-conforming population in the United States.

The Lives Of Black Transgender And Gender Non-Conforming Adults

In order to fully understand the lives of transgender and gender non-conforming people, we have to account for the fact that individuals’ experiences and opportunities are shaped by more than their gender identity and expression.  To only focus on the one’s life as a transgender or gender non-conforming person misses how one’s life is also shaped by race and ethnicity, age, social class, ability, religion, nativity, and so forth.

In recognizing the importance of examining the intersection of race and gender identity/expression, the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) – a Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization – partnered with the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force to focus on the Black respondents of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.  These analyses sought to highlight any ways in which the experiences of Black transgender and gender non-conforming adults are unique relative to those of transgender and gender non-conforming people of other races and ethnicities.  In particular, given their dual minority statuses as racial/ethnic minorities and gender minorities, Black transgender and gender non-conforming adults may face more discrimination, poverty, unemployment, and poor health than White transgender and gender non-conforming adults.

Here are a few of the key findings from the National Black Justice Coalition’s report:

  • One-third of the Black respondents in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey reported living in extreme poverty (i.e., household income of $10,000 per year or less).  This rate is twice that of transgender and gender non-conforming adults of other races and ethnicities, four times that of the general Black population, and over eight times that of the general US population.
  • One-fifth of Black transgender and gender non-conforming adults reported being HIV positive.  This is nearly ten times the rate for transgender and gender non-conforming people of other ethnicities, and for the general Black population.
  • Black transgender and gender non-conforming adults who are out to their families found greater acceptance than transgender and gender non-conforming people of other races and ethnicities.
  • One-quarter of Black transgender and gender non-conforming adults are currently unemployed — twice as many as other racial and ethnic groups.
  • Black transgender and gender non-conforming people are less likely to be homeowners (14%) than transgender and gender non-conforming people of other races and ethnicities (32%).
  • Nearly half of the Black transgender and gender non-conforming respondents reported having attempted suicide in the past, compared to 41 percent for other racial and ethnic groups.

These additional burdens as Black transgender and gender non-conforming people are added to the burdens faced by all transgender and gender non-conforming people.  However, as these findings suggest, we would miss the unique experiences faced by transgender and gender non-conforming people who are also disadvantaged in other ways.

Dr. Eric Anthony Grollman

received his PhD in sociology at Indiana University. He is an Assistant Professor at the University of Richmond. Dr. Grollman's research interests lie in medical sociology, social psychology, sexualities, and race/gender/class. You can see his personal blog at http://egrollman.com.
More posts by this author »

Comments