The largest-ever survey of transgender Americans started collecting data on Wednesday, launching an attempt to gain the most comprehensive understanding to date of the lives of U.S. transgender people.
The 2015 U.S. Trans Survey (USTS), an initiative of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), will build on the data collected by the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey to provide a “360-degree view of trans lives,” the survey’s coordinator told Rewire.
“This is the largest study of its kind, following up on a study that gave us almost everything we know about trans people, so it’s incredibly important,” said Sandy James, survey project manager at NCTE. “This is a community survey. It’s a survey that’s for us and by us.”
The lack of data collected about transgender people by the federal government is a serious omission and a major barrier to crafting policies that promote equality, advocates say.
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“We’re at a critical moment for trans people in America, but there is basic, fundamental knowledge that we do not have,” NCTE executive director Mara Keisling said in a statement. “While we’re aware that trans people face extraordinary challenges, we cannot discern how frequent or widespread they are without up-to-date data. The survey will provide us with robust, fresh data, which will translate into significant knowledge about the trans community.”
The survey, projected to be released in the spring of 2016, will cover a range of topics, including employment, housing, healthcare, HIV/AIDS, disabilities, immigration, sex work, and police interactions.
The 2011 discrimination survey returned striking findings about poverty and discrimination.
Ninety percent of respondents reported being harassed or discriminated against in the workplace, and they were four times as likely as the general population to live in poverty. Widespread discrimination was also reported in health care, education, and other public services.
The 2015 survey, James said, will build on the questions asked in the 2011 survey and include more “nuanced” ones that delve deeper into the transgender experience. The new survey will draw on existing survey data to make more detailed comparisons between the transgender population and the general population on issues like income.
It’s a large survey with specific sampling needs, James said, so it’s important to get the word out through the initial launch and other avenues.
“It’s a big part of letting people know that the survey is for them,” James said.