Walking while transgender

This week, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force released the first large-scale study of discrimination against transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals in the nation.

The findings are sobering.

Across the board, the more-than 6,450 respondents reported discrimination in employment, housing, education, public accommodations and, most disturbing but not surprising, at the hands of law enforcement.

According to the report, transgender and gender nonconforming individuals are more likely to interact with police than the general population: They are more likely to be victims of violent crime, more likely to be homeless, more likely to work in the underground economy (sex work or drugs), and may face harassment or arrest for presenting as their preferred gender.

Anecdotes, and even some studies, have long alleged law-enforcement bias against transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals.

Take the case of Nizah Morris, a transgender entertainer killed in 2002. She received a fatal head wound after receiving a courtesy ride from the police. The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide; it’s never been solved.

More recently, trans woman Stacey Blahnik, mother of House of Blahnik, was killed Oct. 11, 2010. Police have yet to make an arrest in the case.

In both cases, community members have alleged that the police don’t care as much because the victims were transgender.

The NCTE study found that, of those who interacted with police, 22 percent reported harassment by police due to bias, with respondents of color reporting substantially higher rates, 29-38 percent.

Nearly half, 46 percent, reported being uncomfortable seeking police assistance.

One in five reported denial of equal service by police.

Of those who had been incarcerated, respondents reported harassment more frequently by correctional officers (37 percent) than peers (35 percent) — more than one in three for both categories — which again increased dramatically for people of color.

Regarding assault while incarcerated, 16 percent of respondents reported physical assault and 15 percent reported sexual assault. African Americans reported the highest incidence of sexual assault in prison, 34 percent.

Additionally, male-to-female respondents reported higher incidences of physical and sexual assault than female-to-male counterparts.

Beyond harassment and assault in prison, transgender and gender nonconforming individuals encountered denial of routine medical care (12 percent) and hormone treatment (17 percent). Black and multiracial respondents, individuals with low household incomes and transgender women reported the highest incidence of hormone and routine health-care denial.