Maltreatment of gender-variant First Nations people

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have continued their investigation into the state of transgender discrimination in the United States. The original analysis of their survey of 6456 transgender and gender non-conforming people produced Injustice at Every Turn. The original data was then examined more closely to produce studies of how this discrimination affects transgender people who are African American, Latino/a American, or Asian and/or Pacific Islander Americans.

In this fourth, and presumably final, installment, NCTE and NGLTF have examined the plight of American Indian and Alaskan Native transgender people. Members of the study group, ofcourse, face not only discrimination based on the fact that they are gender variant, but also discrimination based on race. The combination can be especially devastating.

Many respondents articulated their gender identity/expression in culturally-specific ways, using terms like Two-Spirit or the Navajo, nádleehé. In this report we use the umbrella phrase, “transgender and gender non-conforming,” but also recognize its limitations because the gender framework of many American Indian and Alaskan Native nations has a distinct history and cultural meaning that may or may not align with that of dominant US culture-driven frameworks for "transgender.”

I will often used the term "gender-variant" because it is shorter than "transgender or gender nonconforming". I will also tend to use "First Nations" rather than "American Indian or Native Alaskan" for the same reason.

23% of Amerind and Alaskan Native respondents reported living in extreme poverty (less than $10,000 per year). This compares to 15% of all transgender people and 8% for all First Nations Americans. The general US population has a rate of extreme poverty of 4%.

Suicide attempt rates were reported at a rate of 56% for First Nations transgender respondents, compared with 41% for all transgender respondents.

First Nations respondents who attended school while expressing a transgender identity reported alarming rates of harassment (86%), physical assault (51%), and sexual assault (21%). This resulted in 19% leaving school, while 11% were expelled because of their identity. Respondents who were harassed and/or abused by teachers in k-12 settings now show dramatically worse health and social outcomes compared to their peers who did not experience such treatment. Abuse by peers also was highly damaging.

The unemployment rate for First Nations transgender and gender non-conforming people was 18%, compared with the 7% average at the time of the survey. Thirty-seven percent of First Nations respondents had lost a job due to bias and 60% were not hired because of their gender status. If they did find employment, 65% reported being harassed at work, while 14% were physically assaulted and 10% sexually assaulted. Twenty-five percent report that at some point they turned to selling drugs or doing sex work to maintain an income. This compares to 16% of all transgender respondents.

First Nations transgender and gender non-conforming reported having been refused housing at a rate of 39%, while 20% reported being evicted because of their gender status. Forty percent reported being homeless at some period in their lives, which is nearly 6 times the rate of the general US population (7.4%). Only 23% of First Nations gender variant people own their own homes, compared with 32% of all transgender Americans and 67% of the US population. HUD reports a general home ownership rate for minority people of 49.7%.

Transgender Americans frequently report being denied medical care. This has happened to 34% of all First Nations gender-variant people. Because of fear about how they will be treated, 65% of First Nations gender-variant people have postponed medical care when they were sick or injured.

First Nations transgender and gender non-conforming respondents were HIV+ at a rate of 3.24%, compared to 2.64% for gender variant people of all races and 0.60% for the general American population. An additional 8.53% of respondents did not know their HIV status.

This report shows the devastating impact that racism and anti-transgender bias play in the lives of American Indian and Alaskan Native transgender people. The findings are as heartbreaking as they are unconscionable. They serve as a call to action to the LGBT movement and others to prioritize racial and economic justice and the needs of indigenous nations.

--Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

These findings underscore the importance of recognizing that Two-Spirit, trans and gender non-conforming American Indians and Alaskan Natives are a significant and too-often-marginalized part of LGBT communities, and communities that face substantial and sometimes unique challenges. This research contributes to our long-held belief that policy makers must understand and act on the deep disparities that exist within people of color communities.

--Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality




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i hear ya on that Robyn! i'm feeling it too....

poligirl's picture

and damn those are alarming stats... someday maybe we'll get around to true equality... i won't quit the fight, but damn if it's not disheartening to have the caring go towards where we bomb next or whose tax cuts to give first.... sigh....

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