Federal surveys like the US Census are gradually taking their transgender respondents into account. But they rarely ask questions specific to trans life: have they been denied access to reproductive health care? Are their lives better than they were before they became trans?
Enter the US Trans Survey, the nation’s largest survey specifically for trans and non-binary people. Led by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and open until November 21, its results will be cited by journalists, academics and lawmakers for the next five years.
The survey is particularly important now, given the intense attention given to trans-American rights in political arenas. Trans residents of the United States remain an understudied population that represents half a percent of all Americans — an estimated 1.6 million trans people ages 13 and older live in the United States, according to the Williams Institute, UCLA Law’s LGBTQ think tank — but continue to be targeted by lawmakers.
“This is the kind of data our community desperately needs, battling the bigotry that trans people have to endure,” said Josie Caballero, director of the US Trans Survey and Special Projects at NCTE. “This is a community-led survey by trans people, for trans people.”
The US Trans Survey asks trans and non-binary people a wide range of questions about their experiences living in the United States. They will be asked about their family life, health and employment, to begin with, as well as newly expanded sections on Covid-19, incarceration and school life, among others. (The survey asks different respondents different questions based on their previous answers; veterans, for example, will be asked about their experiences in the military.)
The goal, Caballero said, is to give trans and non-binary respondents a chance to share experiences they wouldn’t be asked about in the U.S. Census — relevant questions that speak specifically to their lives.
“I call it the Trans American Census,” Caballero said. “It’s the only time our community gets asked a lot of these questions.”
A few examples, paraphrased: if you take public transport, do you feel safe while you are there? If you went through the TSA at the airport and were flagged for a second security check, what were your public accommodations like? If you saw a mental health care provider, did they affirm your gender identity?
This year, researchers lowered the eligibility age to 16, potentially widening the pool of survey respondents with the aim of learning more about trans youth — a particularly important group of respondents, given the number of states that have attempted to limit trans teens’ access to sex. – affirming care or school sport.
The survey is also open to anyone living in the United States and its territories, regardless of citizenship status. Non-binary and gender-nonconforming respondents are also welcome to respond — even people who wonder if they might be trans or non-binary are welcome, Caballero said. And the survey’s creators were careful to protect respondents’ identities: Since they obtained a privacy certificate from the National Institutes of Health, they can legally refuse to share respondents’ identifying information when requested. courts at the local, state and federal levels. .
The survey’s organizers have identified several “priority groups” whose responses could fill important gaps in data about the lives of trans people. These groups include people of color, seniors, rural Americans, immigrants and people living with HIV/AIDS, Caballero said.
The 2015 US Trans Survey was the largest of its kind, with over 27,700 respondents across the United States. The 2022 survey aims to be even larger, said Jody Herman, the survey’s co-principal investigator and senior public policy fellow at the Williams Institute.
“USTS tries to reach as many trans people in the United States as possible,” Herman said, noting that many of its questions are designed to measure how survey respondents compare to the general population. the United States.
“Research in academia, medicine, by community organizations and others is working to fill the gaps in our knowledge about trans people, but significant gaps still exist in many areas,” Herman told CNN. “Studies like the USTS will always be needed because they ask questions that are unique to the experiences of trans people, questions that would not be included in federal surveys.”
The survey was developed with the help of several organizations that serve trans people of color, including the TransLatin@ Coalition, the Black Trans Advocacy Coalition (BTAC), and the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA). The leaders of these groups suggested questions to the research team that reflect the experiences of the members they serve,
Bamby Salcedo, president and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition, said she was advocating for a Spanish version of the survey to ensure Spanish speakers can also access it. She was involved in creating the survey, suggesting questions and wording with trans Latino respondents in mind. Now that the survey is complete, she encourages community members to visit her organization’s offices in Los Angeles, where they can take the survey for free using the tablets provided and ask questions. They have some.
“This is obviously a national inquiry, and we wanted to make sure we were part of it, but as an organization we continue to empower our community and make sure we are advocating for our specific needs,” said Salcedo to CNN.
Analyzing the data collected in the survey could take more than a year, Caballero said, especially given the volume of responses the NCTE has already received.
But once the researchers have the data they need, they will publish these results to the public in several formats: there will of course be a general report, but the researchers also plan to publish specific reports related to the aforementioned priority groups.
The 2015 survey has been widely cited since the publication of its results. From the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus to local governments, to advocacy groups like the Transgender Law Center and the National Network to End Domestic Violence and most mainstream media, including CNN, data collected seven years ago has been used to educate readers about the trans experience. , as well as creating policies to protect trans people.
“It’s a source of data that will continue to have lasting impact to educate the public, media, educators, policy makers and advance research to help fill some of these existing knowledge gaps,” said Herman.
The findings will be particularly important in helping to refute the unsubstantiated claims that many lawmakers have shared about trans people, especially trans youth. Some of the questions in the study are posed for the first time and relate directly to anti-trans talking points, including the experience of trans youth playing school sports.
For the 2022 survey to surpass the previous one in terms of inclusiveness, it needs to reach as many people as possible. Celebrities like Elliot Page and local Trans coalitions have encouraged their followers to take the survey and make their voices heard – they have until November 21 to share their experiences.
“This opportunity comes every five years,” Salcedo said. “Now is the time for us to make sure we let the world know what needs to happen for us to have a better world and a better society.”