Injustice at Every Turn — Part I: Education

Scarlet Letter

Yesterday I examined the sample taken by the researchers for the report Injustice at Every Turn, disseminated jointly by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

The first turn will be education.

Education is a fundamental human right. It can expand our horizons, help us learn about ourselves and our world and build foundational skills for our working lives. In the United States, there is a strong connection between one’s level of educational attainment and income. In addition, individuals who have higher education levels are less likely to be dependent on public safety-net programs, to be incarcerated, or to experience extreme poverty. They are also more likely to have positive health outcomes, such as lower rates of smoking, and high rates of civic participation.

Unfortunately, not all students have the opportunity to pursue education in a safe environment. Our data shows that transgender and gender non-conforming people are currently unable to access equal educational opportunities because of harassment, discrimination and even violence. Our data also shows the way this discrimination impacts educational attainment, which in turn affects other outcomes such as income, incarceration, health and suicidality, over respondents’ life spans.

49% of study participants reported engaging in educational pursuits as a trans or gender non-conforming person at some point in their lives.  29% reported doing so while in K-12 and 40% while in college, technical school or graduate school.

Such respondents were more likely to be black (52% of black respondents expressed a transgender identity or were gender non-conforming at school), latino/a (57%) Asian (59%) American Indian (56%), or Multiracial (63%) than white (46%).  They were also more likely to live in New England (56%) California (57%) or other West Coast states (which generally means Oregon, Washington, Alaska or Hawaii) (53%).  The lowest region was the South (38%).

(Personally, the diarist transitioned while a tenured faculty member at the University of Central Arkansas.)

I am afraid in school and I am slowly coming out. I came out to one of my teachers and I have never felt so good in my life.

Of those with current household income under $10K, 63% had expressed transgender identity or gender non-conformity at school.  The rates at other current income levels were:

$10K-20K — 60%

$20K-50K — 50%

$50K-100K — 41%

$100K+ — 36%

People who today express a transgender identity were 50% likely to have expressed a transgender identity or gender non-conformity in school.  This who are gender non-conforming today were 68% likely to have done so.

Not being out at school has sheltered me from many of the challenges other transgender/gender non-conforming people face.

FTM respondents reported a rate of 72% compared to 37% for MTF respondents.


1.  Those who expressed a transgender identity or gender non-conformity while in grades K-12 reported alarming rates of harassment (72%), physical assault (35%) and sexual assault (12%).  When all school settings are considered, harassment or bullying happened at a level of 59%, 23% were physically assaulted and 8% sexually assaulted.  Harassment, assault or expulsion was more likely to occur to someone who was multiracial (71%) or latino/a (65%) and least likely to occur to those who identified as black (48%).  65% of FTMs reported at least one of these abuses, while the rate was 53% for MTFs.  The rate for all trans was 59% and for gender non-conforming it was 70%.

I am not allowed to use the facilities I would like and have been denied requests for unisex bathrooms.

If only K-12 treatment is considered, the South led the way in the rate of harassment and violence.  Those who are transmen today reported higher rates than those who are transwomen today.  Gender non-conforming people experienced higher rates than either trans population.

Multiracial students experienced higher rates of physical assault (45%) as did those who lived in the South (40%) and the West (40%).  The rate for MTF trans students was 43%, as opposed to a rate of 34% for FTM students.

Sexual assault was more likely to occur to American Indian students (24%), multiracial (18%), Asian (17%) and black (15%) respondents.  This rate was 15% for MTF students and 10% for FTM.  Black students had the lowest rate of harassment by other students (44%) and physical assault by other students (26%), while latino/a students were the least likely to sexual assaulted by a fellow student (7%).

Multiracial students reported the highest level of bullying by other students (83%) and physical assault by other students (45%), while American Indian student experienced the highest levels of sexual assault by other students (21%).  FTM students reported higher levels of harassment and bullying 82%, while MTF students were more likely to be physically (42%) or sexually (14%) assaulted.

2.  15% left schooling grades K-12 or higher because of the harassment.

3.  6% of respondents were expelled during K-12 for gender identity/expression.  5% were expelled from school when all school experience is considered.

4.  Rather than being protected by educational personnel, 31% of the sample reported being harassed, 5% reported physical assault, and 3% reported sexual assault by teachers or staff.

As a teacher myself, I have a very hard time getting a grasp on this one.  Mistreatment by teachers or staff has a much greater impaction mistreatment by other students.

35% of Latino/a students reported harassment by teachers/stafff, while 42% reported actual bullying.  Multi-racial students and Native American students reported the highest rates of physical assault by teachers/staff at 6%.  African American students experienced the highest rate of sexual assault by teachers/staff at 7%.

FTM transfolk experienced teacher bullying and harassment at a rate of 35%, while the rate for 30% for MTFs, but MTFs were almost twice as likely to be physically or sexually assaulted (7% and 3%, respectively) than FTMs (4% and 2%).

My sister has faced more outright discrimination for her support of me than I have. I transitioned in her last year in high school, the students verbally harassed her regularly to the point that she considered dropping out and just getting her GED. Teachers would also verbally harass her, saying things like “You will go to hell for your support of that abomination” and generally treating her unequally compared to other students.

Indeed, attacking those who may support us seems to be common.  It becomes a not-so-subtle way of controlling us by eliminating our friends.

5.  Students of color reported experiencing harassment at higher rates than white students.  MTF students reported higher levels of violence and FTM and gender non-conforming students reported higher rates of harassment and bullying.

6.  19% of respondents expressing transgender identity or gender non-conformity in a higher education setting were denied access to gender appropriate housing.  5% were denied on-campus housing altogether.  11% either lost or were denied financial aid because of gender identity/expression.

7.  Despite the mistreatment respondents reported considerably higher rates of educational attainment than the general population, with 47% obtaining a college or graduate degree, as compared with only 27% of the general public.  This often was due to respondents returning to school later in life.

I personally grok that, having obtained my BA when I was 28 and my PhD at the age of 33.

8.  Educational attainment does not provide respondents with protection from poverty as is generally common in the US.  At each level of educational attainment, respondents reported considerably lower incomes than the general population.  The sample was 4 to 5 times more likely to have a household income less than $10K at each educational category, including college graduates.  Those who experienced mistreatment were 50% less likely to earn $50K/year than the general population.

9.  Respondents who reported being physically assaulted in school due to gender identity/expression were twice as likely to have done sex work o other work in the underground economy and 50% more likely to have been incarcerated.

10.  48% of those who left school due to harassment experienced homelessness.

11.  Those mistreated in school had higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse and smoking.  For those who were physically assaulted the rates of misuse of drugs and alcohol doubles.

12.  Respondents who left school due to harassment were HIV+ at a rate of 5.14%, which is more than 8 times the rate of the general population, which is 0.6%.

13.  51% of respondents who were harassed, physically or  sexually assaulted, or expelled because of gender identity or expression reported having attempted suicide.  Those who were physically by teachers or staff had an attempted suicide rate of 64%.  Those who were sexually assaulted by teachers or staff had a suicide attempt rate of 76%.

Does being older help?

In examining higher education specifically, those attending college, graduate school, professional school or technical school reported high rates of abuse by students, teachers and staff, including harassment and bullying (35%) as well as physical (5%) and sexual assault (3%).  Two percent (2%) reported expulsion due to their gender identity/expression.  At this level, the variation in frequency of harassment and assault did not vary considerably among racial groups, between regions, or by gender identity/expression.


    • Robyn on February 6, 2011 at 18:07

    …but forgot to uncheck a box.  I hope I didn’t cause any problems.

    I have to do errands and will be in and out all day.

    Next up is Employment.

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