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New report reveals rampant discrimination against transgender people by health providers, high HIV rates and widespread lack of access to necessary care

October 13, 2010

Health data released from the largest-ever study of transgender and gender non-conforming people in the United States

“My experiences in dealing with police and hospital personnel after my rape was not pleasant and lacked a lot of sensitivity to trans issues.” — Survey Respondent

“Finding doctors who will treat, will prescribe, and will even look at you like a human being rather than a thing has been problematic. Have been denied care by doctors and major hospitals so much that I now use only urgent care physician assistants, and I never reveal my gender history.” — Survey Respondent

“I have also had several bouts with depression and anxiety disorders and once ended up in the emergency room for depression. I still bounce in and out of depression due to not being able to get the appropriate surgical procedures.” — Survey Respondent

Download the health report here.

Transgender and gender non-conforming people face rampant discrimination in health care settings, are regularly denied needed care, and experience a range of health risks because they are transgender or gender non-conforming, according to a report of more than 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming people. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey: Report on Health and Health Care was released nationally today by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Key findings include:

*Nearly 1 in 5 (19 percent) reported being refused care outright because they were transgender or gender non-conforming.

*Survey participants reported very high levels of postponing medical care when sick or injured due to discrimination and disrespect (28 percent).

*Harassment: 28 percent of respondents were subjected to harassment in medical settings.

*Significant lack of provider knowledge: 50 percent of the sample reported having to teach their medical providers about transgender care.

*Despite barriers, the majority has accessed some form of transition-related medical care, but only a minority has had any surgery, despite the fact that a strong majority stated wanting to have it someday.

*Respondents reported more than four times the national average of HIV infection, 2.64 percent in our sample compared to 0.6 percent in the general population, with rates for transgender women at 3.76 percent, and with those who are unemployed (4.67 percent) or who have engaged in sex work (15.32 percent) even higher.

*Over a quarter of the respondents reported misusing drugs or alcohol specifically to cope with the discrimination they faced due to their gender identity or expression.

*A staggering 41 percent of respondents reported attempting suicide compared to 1.6 percent of the general population.

The report also includes critical public policy recommendations, such as the urgent need to train medical professionals about how to effectively and respectfully treat transgender and gender non-conforming patients; an end to the discriminatory practice of transgender exclusion from health care coverage; the development transgender-specific programs to address suicide; the spread of HIV, and other health risks; and increased research that focuses specifically on health needs of the transgender population.

Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey said:

It is outrageous that basic health care is being denied to transgender and gender non-conforming people and that so much additional trauma is being caused by doctors instead of being resolved by doctors. The medical profession must take these data seriously and ensure that everyone in the medical care system knows how to provide transgender-sensitive medical care.

NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said:

Health care is a fundamental human right. This study clearly documents that it is regularly being denied to transgender and gender non-conforming people. The study also provides information about the serious health impact of the discrimination that transgender people face. The health risks are many times higher for people of color, for those who have lost a job due to bias, and those who were bullied in school.

The National Transgender Discrimination Survey, a joint partnership of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality, is the most extensive survey of transgender discrimination ever undertaken. The survey included 6,450 respondents from all 50 states and several territories, with a geographic and racial distribution approximating that of the general U.S. population.

Download the health report here.

Preliminary findings on employment and economic insecurity, which provide an overview of statistics from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey on the pervasive employment discrimination transgender and gender non-conforming people face, unemployment rates, poverty levels, and housing instability, are available here. Statistics related to suicide, and the relationship to bullying and harassment in school, were released last week, and are available here.

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