WOODLAND PARK, N.J. — Every 10 years, Americans fill out census surveys identifying our age, race, hometown and other demographic traits to help determine areas in need of financial and social support. But those questionnaires have yet to dig into experiences and needs of LGBTQ people.
The U.S. Transgender Survey asks extensive questions about lived experiences of transgender, nonbinary and other gender-diverse people. It’s one of few sources that collects data about these communities, and it’s returned for the third round of responses after a seven year gap.
The National Center for Transgender Equality, along with several partners, launched the 2022 survey in October. Responses collected in 2015 created what’s considered the largest, most effective dataset about transgender people and is cited almost daily, according to U.S. Trans Survey and Special Projects Director Josie Caballero.
“When we leave communities uncounted, it makes it easier for people to spread the myth that trans people don’t exist,” said Caballero. “It is so critical to make sure that those stories are quantitatively collected in a dataset so we can report these lived experiences and social outcomes.”
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The survey goes past respondents’ surface-level gender expression. It asks questions about relationships and family structures, how safe one feels using certain restrooms, what existing as trans at work and school looks like and more. It interrogates respondents about social issues trans people often face, like domestic violence, negative interactions with police and estrangement from loved ones because of their identities.
The term transgender is used throughout questions in the survey, but people of all gender-diverse experiences, such as nonbinary or Two Spirit, can participate. There are numerous labels people use to define their gender, but transgender is typically used as a catch-all term.
Results from the 2015 survey showed troubling data about economic hardship, poor mental health, discrimination and mistreatment experienced by transgender people. However, the report also exhibited increased acceptance of gender-diverse people. Around 28,000 people completed that survey, but Caballero said this year’s surpassed that total within three days after it opened for submissions.
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One-third of respondents in 2015 identified as nonbinary, an identity that particular survey rendition asked few questions about. This year’s survey introduced a slew of new questions about gender identity to hone in on unique experiences of nonbinary people and identities beyond transgender. The survey team also considered events of the past few years, so the questionnaire delves into how recent anti-trans legislation and messaging as well as the COVID-19 pandemic impacted gender-diverse people.
The team behind the survey includes entirely transgender people.
Beyond being the largest dataset focused on transgender people, the community-led survey stands apart because transgender people built it for transgender people.
“This is serving us,” Caballero said.
Another key source for trans population data comes from Williams Institute, based at University of California-Los Angeles School of Law, which shared estimates about the nation’s transgender population. Their most recent report, published in June, estimated that 1.6 million people aged 13 and older identify as transgender in the U.S.
Caballero expects data will publish by the end of 2023. The next U.S. Transgender Survey will accept questions in five years. Respondents should be 16 or older and identify as transgender, nonbinary or an identity other than cisgender. The survey can be taken at ustranssurvey.org by Nov. 21.
Sammy Gibbons on Twitter: @sammykgibbons.