Survey sheds a crucial light on trans lived experiences

Transgender March in D.C. in 2018. Photo by Ted Eytan

The recent release of the 2022 U.S. Trans Survey (USTS) affirms the challenges and triumphs I see every day in my practice. As a gender specialist deeply embedded in the lives of transgender individuals and their families, I view this comprehensive survey as well-timed and a crucial tool in shedding light on the lived experiences of transgender individuals at a time when they are under attack across the United States.

The results of the survey are not merely statistics; they are the collective voices of over 90,000 transgender and gender-diverse individuals, providing an unfiltered and authentic glimpse into their lives. The findings provide us with an essential resource that can dismantle harmful stereotypes and narratives perpetuated by misguided organizations and media outlets.

We know misinformation has far-reaching and harmful consequences, influencing public perceptions of the transgender community and bolstering anti-trans policies across the nation. The release of the U.S. Trans Survey results underscores a pivotal moment for allies to step in and emphasize the importance of accurate information dissemination. And there will be more data coming. 

One of the most striking findings in the survey is the overwhelmingly positive impact of gender transition on individuals’ overall satisfaction with life. A staggering 94% of respondents who lived in a gender different from their assigned one at birth expressed heightened satisfaction. 98% (nearly all) of respondents who were currently receiving hormone treatment and 97% (nearly all) who underwent gender-affirming surgery expressed the same. This is a stark contrast to the false narrative of regret and remorse, a transphobic dog whistle that proliferates in even the most reputable of news outlets.

The survey also emphasizes the significant impact of legislation restricting or outright banning gender-affirming care. Nearly half (47%) of respondents indicated that they have considered moving to another state because of anti-trans legislation, and 10% had already moved. The disruption this causes to individuals, families, and communities is difficult to imagine. Even in sanctuary states like New Jersey, federal bans pose a persistent threat, contributing to ongoing mental health challenges for many of my clients. 

The survey brings attention to a widespread problem affecting schools and medical institutions, an issue that is prevalent here in New Jersey too. Nearly 60% of transgender students aged 16 to 17 reported mistreatment or negative incidents in K-12 settings, including verbal harassment and discriminatory policies. In healthcare institutions, 48% of respondents experienced negativity from providers due to their transgender identity, and 24% refrained from seeking medical assistance due to concerns about mistreatment. The persistent discrimination is alarming, often legitimized by religious and/or political news outlets, and should serve as a clarion call for advocates on the ground. 

To actively support transgender individuals and dismantle the pervasive barriers they face, allies must advocate interpersonally and institutionally for policies that challenge the status quo. In New Jersey, we must support organizations like Garden State Equality, The Pride Center of NJ, Spectrum Health and Wellness, HiTops, and the Newark LGBTQ Community Center as they work tirelessly to create a more affirming state, from offering safe spaces where transgender people can receive support to providing multidisciplinary allyship trainings across institutions.

In the media, allies must demand journalistic integrity and educate themselves about the forces disseminating misinformation. Engaging in online and in-person discourse can help raise awareness about the misinformation campaign that is influencing public perception and bolstering anti-trans policies across the nation.

These organizations have a disturbing trend of using confusing names to manipulate public perception (i.e. the American College of Pediatricians — an anti-LGBTQ hate group — posing as the American Academy of Pediatrics — a legitimate medical organization). This deliberate use of names that sound reputable and scientific is a calculated effort to deceive the public and legitimize biased viewpoints. Allies can learn more about the major players in this disinformation movement by reading the Southern Poverty Law Center’s CAPTAIN (Combating Anti-LGBTQ Pseudoscience through Accessible Informative Narratives) report and disseminating it widely.

Laura Hoge
Laura Hoge in the office.

“In my office, there is a large sign that reads “Trans Joy is Resistance.”

It is also on allies to attend public meetings to raise awareness of discriminatory legislation, including school board meetings where policies concerning transgender youth are being discussed. Parents of transgender and gender diverse youth are often threading a needle between advocating for and outing their own children. Allies must speak up for families with transgender children, so that parents are not forced to put their kids at risk in the process of advocating for them.

And for those of us who work alongside transgender and gender diverse youth, we must continue to foster nurturing environments that extend beyond the battles against discrimination. Cultivating joy and hope is paramount in empowering our youth to navigate challenges with resilience and envision a future filled with acceptance, equality, and possibility.

In my office, there is a large sign that reads “Trans Joy is Resistance.” Alongside our processing of pervasive oppression is a strong act of defiance — a joyful commitment to the spirit of resilience and a testament that, in the face of adversity, embracing joy becomes a powerful form of self-love and affirmation.