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New analysis shows startling levels of discrimination against American Indian and Alaskan Native transgender people

October 8, 2012

American Indian and Alaskan Native transgender and gender non-conforming people face some of the highest levels of discrimination of all transgender people, according to a new analysis released today, Injustice at Every Turn: A Look at American Indian and Alaskan Native Respondents in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.  The release of this report on Columbus Day is an intentional effort to highlight the specific circumstances that American Indian and Alaskan Native people experience due to a history of colonialism and genocide that continues today with a federal holiday celebrating the “discovery” of America.

This report by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality is an in-depth look coming out of the groundbreaking national study, Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, which was published in 2011 and revealed widespread discrimination experienced by transgender and gender non-conforming people across all areas of life and demographics.

A key finding of the original report was that, even given the high levels of discrimination against all transgender people in the U.S., transgender people of color including American Indians and Alaskan Natives consistently reported even greater discrimination and experienced worse outcomes than the sample overall.

“This report shows the devastating impact that racism and anti-transgender bias play in the lives of American Indian and Alaskan Native transgender people,” says Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “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.”

Among the report’s key findings:

  • American Indian and Alaskan Native transgender and gender non-conforming people often live in extreme poverty, with 23 percent reporting a household income of less than $10,000 per year. This compares to the rate of 15 percent for transgender people of all races. It is about three times the general American Indian and Alaskan Native population rate (8 percent), and nearly six times the general U.S. population rate (4 percent).
  • American Indian and Alaskan Native transgender and gender non-conforming people had a very high unemployment rate at 18 percent, well over twice the rate of the general population (7 percent) at the time the survey was fielded.
  • American Indian and Alaskan Native respondents who attended school expressing a transgender identity or gender non-conformity reported alarming rates of harassment (86 percent), physical assault (51 percent) and sexual assault (21 percent) in K-12; harassment was so severe that it led 19 percent to leave school.
  • American Indian and Alaskan Native transgender and gender non-conforming people were affected by HIV in devastating numbers: 3.24 percent reported being HIV positive and an additional 8.53 percent reported that they did not know their status. This compares to rates of 2.64 percent for transgender respondents of all races, and 0.60 percent of the general U.S. population.
  • Fifty-six percent of American Indian and Alaskan Native transgender respondents reported having attempted suicide compared to 41 percent of all study respondents.

“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,” says Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “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.”

Download the report here.

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