U.S. survey shows transgender individuals in Pennsylvania face disproportionate discrimination | Pittsburgh City Paper

U.S. survey shows transgender individuals in Pennsylvania face disproportionate discrimination

U.S. survey shows transgender individuals in Pennsylvania face disproportionate discrimination
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The transgender flag
Scores of political pundits, media personalities and even comedians have commented on how quickly transgender individuals have been accepted into mainstream society. And while the perception of acceptance might be growing with trans individuals like Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox emerging into the celebrity spotlight, a new nationwide survey shows the average trans person is far from receiving equal treatment in the U.S.

The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, released this month, showcases how trans individuals face significantly higher rates of poverty, unemployment and workplace discrimination nationwide. The survey received responses from 1,171 trans individuals in Pennsylvania, and asked them questions about their work status, housing situation, education and restroom access.

According to the survey, 11 percent of transgender Pennsylvanians are unemployed, which is more than double the state unemployment rate during the time the survey was taken. Also, 31 percent of survey respondents reported living in poverty, while Pennsylvania's poverty rate taken at the time of the survey was 13 percent, according to census figures. One anonymous survey respondent, who lives in Pennsylvania, spoke to the struggles of trans people in the workplace.

“I came out in 2015. I've held 3 jobs since coming out,” wrote the source. “At all 3 [jobs] I've been sexually harassed, made to feel worthless to the company, and worst of all denied my right to the restroom. Everyday I cry when it comes time to work . . . I battle suicidal thoughts daily because I'm tired of being made to feel less, tired of the harassment, and just want to be happy in my own skin.”

The survey also noted that 16 percent of respondents reported losing a job at least once in their lifetime because of their gender identity and/or expression. And 21 percent of respondents experienced some form of housing discrimination in the past year because of being transgender.

For LGBT-rights organizations, this is just another reason why the state should pass the PA Fairness Act, which bans discrimination in the workplace and housing against LGBT individuals.

“The data in this survey reflects the complaints [statewide LGBT-rights group] Equality Pennsylvania has received regarding instances of discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, law-enforcement interaction, and health care for community members around the state,” said Joanne Carroll of Equality Pennsylvania’s board, in a press release. “It demonstrates further the need for the passage of the PA Fairness Act recently introduced by [state] Representative Dan Frankel, which prohibits such discrimination based on gender identity.”

Rep. Frankel (D-Squirrel Hill) has proposed the Fairness Act many times over the years. The bill has received bipartisan support (including sponsorship from more than a dozen Republican legislators) and has verbal support from Gov. Tom Wolf. The bill's biggest obstacle is that Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-Franklin) always places the Fairness Act in the State Government committee, which is chaired by arguably Pennsylvania's most anti-LGBT legislator, Daryl Metcalfe (R-Cranberry). Metcalfe has never allowed the bill to reach a vote.

Without the statewide law, LGBT Pennsylvanians, outside of the 41 municipalities and two counties that offer workplace and housing protections, can be fired from their job because of their gender and/or sexual identity. (In Western Pennsylvania, only municipalities in Allegheny and Erie county offer this protection).

According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 23 percent of transgender people in Pennsylvania who held or applied for a job in 2015 reported being fired, being denied a promotion, or not being hired for a job because of their gender identity or expression.