Early last week, Jerilyn Goodman was scrambling to prepare for a public briefing on transgender issues. Phones were ringing, appearances needed to be confirmed and schedules needed adjusting before the crowd ascended on room 121 that afternoon.
“Sorry I’m in such a hurry,” apologized Goodman as she prepared some quick facts.
Goodman is the press secretary for Wisconsin congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, the co-founder and chairwoman of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. ”She led successful efforts in the House in 2009 to pass hate crimes legislation that includes protection for transgender victims,” said Goodman. “Like The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed into law as a rider to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2010.” Baldwin also represented the LGBT population during the health care debate and was involved in adding provisions into the House version of the Affordable Care and Patient Protections Act, also known as the health care reform bill. The measures were meant to collect better data on the health of LGBT populations and lessen discrimination so they could have access to care. Unfortunately for Baldwin, her additions were not in the final signed bill.
Yet Goodman and the rest of Baldwin’s staff members are still working to educate the public on LGBT issues. The briefing, held on May 16th in the Rayburn House Office building in downtown D.C, addressed a new study called Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Study. “The study is the largest ever done on the prevalence of discrimination against transgender people,” said Goodman. “It reveals that transgender and gender non-conforming people face injustice in many places, including childhood homes, school systems that promise to shelter and educate, harsh and exclusionary workplaces, at the grocery store, at the hotel front desk in doctors’ offices, and at emergency rooms.”
The data supports Goodman’s discussion. According to the study, transgender people struggle daily with issues such as:
~Alarmingly high rates of harassment and discrimination while in grades K-12: harassment (78%), physical assault (35%) and sexual assault (12%). 51% of those who were verbally harassed, physically or sexually assaulted, or were expelled because they were transgender or gender non-conforming reported having attempted suicide.
~Direct housing discrimination — 19% reported having been refused a home or apartment and 11% reported being evicted because of their gender identity/expression.
~Double the rate of unemployment: survey respondents experienced unemployment at twice the rate of the general population at the time of the survey, with rates for people of color up to four times the national unemployment rate.
~Harassment, mistreatment or discrimination: ninety percent (90%) of those surveyed reported experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job or took actions like hiding who they are to avoid it.
The briefing included guests like Mara Keisling, the Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, Jack Harrison, a policy analyst at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Stacey Long, the NGLTF’s Federal Legislative Director, Lisa Mottet, Transgender Civil Rights Project Director at NGLTF, and Owen Smith, a transgender citizen from Maryland who was on hand to describe his discrimination experiences with housing and employment. The briefing was co-sponsored by Balwin’s congressional colleagues Barney Frank, Jared Polis and David Cicilline. For more information on the study or briefing, visit Tammy Baldwin’s website at tammybaldwin.house.gov.