By Brittany Worthington
Jaime Grant, Executive Director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice, is a lead author in the largest study ever undertaken on transgender people in the United State. The study, “Injustice At Every Turn,” involved 6,450 participants according to Grant and the executive summary.
“It’s the first 360 degree look at how discrimination affects transgender people,” said Grant.
Grant discussed the results of the study. “We think it gives a really stark picture of transgender life in the U.S.,” she said.
She shared some of the upsetting statistics the study uncovered such as the high rates of abuse of transgender people by persons of authority such as police officers, landlords, and bosses; one-third of participants said they were harassed by their elementary school teachers. With this constant harassment, discrimination, and lack of a support system, transgender individuals may turn to selling drugs or sex. “Transgender people use informal economies because there is no safety net,” Grand said. She noted that society often translates these actions onto the character of transgender people when really it is about structures of inequality. While 41 percent of those interviewed attempted suicide, Grant pointed out that this means that over half did not, a trait to attributes to such astounding resilience.
However, other findings in the study provided more hope. “The amazing thing about our study was the amount of resilience,” Grant said. According to Grant and the study, transgender individuals in the 24-44 age bracket have a higher rate of returning to school compared to the general population in order to earn high school, college, or graduate degrees. The study also concluded the great importance of family acceptance, in how it actually has a protective affect against things such as HIV, drug and alcohol use, and suicide.
Grant sees the implications of this study pertaining to bigger issues and questions surrounding gender here on campus. “I think of transgender issues in the larger conversation about gender,” she said. “The abuse of transgender people is meant to keep everyone in line with gender conformity.” According to Grant, such issues are as basic as the biased connotations people have about women who don’t wear high heels and makeup or men who cry at a movie and that there the rewards and punishments that accompany gender conformity or non-conformity.
Grant hopes the study will prompt discussion among K students and encourage them to question surface norms. “I hope that it becomes a lively conversation that people have,” she said. Above all, she hopes that K will become a space where people are not only able live in the gender they want but also be comfortable in expressing that.