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Transgenderism, transsexualism, and gender identity

Studies about discrimination

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Report of the APA's task force on gender identity and gender variance:

The American Psychological Association's (APA) task force published a report in 2008-AUG. They noted that:

".... many transgender and gender variant people experience stigmatization and discrimination as a result of living in a gendered culture into which they often do not easily fit. They may not only experience an inner sense of not belonging, but may also experience discrimination, harassment, sometimes lethal violence, and denial of basic human rights. These issues, too, often bring transgender people into contact with mental health professionals. ..."

"The stigmatization and discrimination experienced by transgender people affect virtually all aspects of their lives, including physical safety, psychological well-being, access to services, and basic human rights. ..."

"A disproportionate number of violent and sometimes lethal acts are directed against transgender and other gender variant people. Gendered facilities such as restrooms, athletic facilities, college dormitories, group homes, shelters, and prisons sometimes pose extraordinary barriers for transgender people. ..."

"As these examples illustrate, the needs of transgender people are inextricably linked to broader issues of human rights and social justice, issues with which APA is greatly concerned." 1

Homelessness:

According to a joint report 2 by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute and the National Coalition for the Homeless:

"The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that the number of homeless and runaway youth ranges from 575,000 to 1.6 million per year. ..." 3

"Our analysis of the available research suggests that between 20 percent and 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). 4

Given that between 3 percent and 5 percent of the U.S. population identifies as lesbian, gay or bisexual, it is clear that LGBT youth experience homelessness at a disproportionate rate. ..."

"Transgender youth are disproportionately represented in the homeless population. More generally, some reports indicate that one in five transgender individuals need or are at risk of needing homeless shelter assistance. However, most shelters are segregated by birth sex, regardless of the individual's gender identity, and homeless transgender youth are even ostracized by some agencies that serve their LGB peers." 5

"In a study completed by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), 90 percent of transgender youth in schools reported feeling unsafe, compared with 46 percent of gay or bisexual males and 41 percent of lesbian or bisexual female students. 6

"Additionally, transgender youth are even more marginalized than their gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) peers, often feeling unwelcome at agencies that serve GLB youth. 7

The report concluded:

"Data and anecdotal evidence speak to the particularly harsh challenges that transgender homeless youth face every day, one of the most harmful of which is the lack of information and awareness on the part of many social service professionals. At the same time, the relative lack of research specifically addressing transgender needs worsens this situation. There is a very clear need for more extensive research into the needs of this community." 8

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An article about the problems faced by transwomen (MTF transsexuals):

Lissa Harris works at a women's center in Boston MA and has first hand knowledge of the difficulties of being a homeless transwoman. She wrote in part:

"You’re 34 years old. You have a job, a home and a fiancé. You’ve just had your fourth anniversary. He likes to knit. The two of you run a radio show together. But life isn’t all beer and skittles, of course. Your fiancé, who was born a woman, is now a gay man. This is a problem, because you’re a lesbian—a lesbian who started off as a man. So then there’s your own expensive, frustrating, excruciatingly slow process of becoming a woman. After years of being a man’s man -- a Marine Corps veteran and a security professional -- it isn’t easy.

There are the child support payments for your ex-wife, who is raising your 7-year-old son. There’s the two-hour commute to your job, which is the only one you could find after the gay country club you’d been slinging burgers at decided they didn’t like you, and hired someone to take over most of your hours. You fight a lot. Something’s got to give.

Eventually, it does. You have a stormy breakup with your fiancé. You don’t have your own car, so you lose your job. You can’t go back home, so you go to the Pine Street Inn, where the women’s dorm turns you away. In the men’s dorm, you sleep in an enormous room full of cots with dozens of men, some of whom are drinking in their beds or smoking crack in the corners, some of whom want to have sex with you. You sleep lightly.

In a few months, you have gone from being a taxpaying citizen with a phone number, an address and an impressive resume, to being an invisible person whose legs people step over in the street. Welcome to Andrea Dawn Verville’s life.

While female-to-male transsexuals who’ve undergone hormone therapy and breast reduction can often pass invisibly through society as men, their male-to-female counterparts are usually not so lucky. Even with hormones and surgery, their bone structure, height, facial hair and voice inflection give them away.

In going female full-time, as Verville did a couple of years ago, transwomen pit themselves against massive societal obstacles. Unable to find jobs, many turn to prostitution, become homeless, or both. They are frequent, obvious targets for violence. A 2003 study from the University of California found that 12 percent of homeless transwomen had been sexually assaulted in the past year.

Because of the danger transwomen face in men’s homeless shelters, the Boston Public Health Commission -- which operates the Woods Mullen and Long Island shelters -- has called for transgender homeless people to be housed with the gender they identify with, not the one they were born with. A 2002 city ordinance banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression also affords some protection. (Verville keeps a copy of the ordinance in her purse in case of emergency, like a passport.)

But despite official sanctions, some Boston shelters treat “pre-operative” transsexuality as a mere act of dress code rebellion, and policies are sometimes subject to individual staff members’ shifting attitudes. The Pine Street Inn, one of the city’s largest shelters, places transwomen in the men’s dorm, and expects them to dress as men. The New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans places transgender people with the gender they identify as, but only accepts veterans. Rosie’s Place, the country’s oldest women’s shelter, accepts transwomen with open arms, but Rosie’s has few beds, and clients can only stay for 21 days at a time.

A loose network of “girls” keeps each other informed about which shelters are safe, which staff members are respectful and where they can expect to be asked for anatomical proof of their womanhood. 9

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "APA Task Force on Gender Identity and Gender Variance, American Psychological Association, 2008-AUG, at: http://www.apa.org/ This is a PDF file.
  2. "An Epidemic of Homelessness," The Task Force, at: http://www.thetaskforce.org/ (Downloading requires registration)
  3. M.J. Robertson, & P.A. Toro, "Homeless youth: Research, intervention, and policy," United States Department of Health and Human Services, 1998, at: http://aspe.hhs.gov/
  4. Op Cit., The Task Force, Pages 11-14, the addendum beginning on p.162 for a more detailed summary of the available research on the proportion of homeless youth who identify as LGBT.
  5. P. Gibson, (1989b). "Gay male and lesbian youth suicide." In "Report of the Secretary?s Task Force on Youth Suicide," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1989.
  6. J. Cianciotto, & S. Cahill, "Education Policy: Issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth," National Gay & Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute, 2003, at: http://www.thetaskforce.org/
  7. R. Haynes, R. (2001). "Towards healthier transgender youth, Crossroads, 2001, at http://www.transgenderzone.com/
  8. Op Cit., The Task Force, Page 64.
  9. Lissa Harris, "Trans and homeless: Homeless transsexuals seek shelter; get the shaft," Live Journal, 2005-JUL-02, at: http://transgender.livejournal.com/

Copyright © 2008 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2008-AUG
Latest update and review: 2011-AUG-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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