By Ryan Roemerman, Executive Director, LGBTQ Institute – National Center for Civil and Human Rights
From a young age, transgender people are targeted for harassment, discrimination and violence, simply because of who they are. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, 80% of those in Georgia who were out, or perceived as transgender, between Kindergarten and Grade 12 (K–12) experienced some form of mistreatment. These acts of discrimination included verbal harassment, prohibitions on dress according gender identity, harsh discipline, and physical & sexual assault because people thought they were transgender.
It is no wonder then why young transgender people are aware of their transgender identity at a younger age but are not coming out earlier. Findings from the LGBTQ Institute’s Southern Survey show that transgender young people (ages 18-29) were two times more likely to be self-aware of their transgender status than older respondents were when they were in high school, but still report roughly equivalent levels of “outness” at school today. While there is more attention to transgender issues today, ignorance still remains. More than two-dozen anti-transgender youth in sports bills and more than 100 anti-transgender pieces of legislation were proposed across 30+ states in 2021 alone.
Such anti-transgender policy-making sows misinformation about transgender people and contributes to harassment and discrimination. The LGBTQ Institute Southern Survey found that nearly half (46.8%) of respondents were subject to slurs and jokes while more than a third (35.7%) reported being rejected by a friend or family member. This rejection can take the form of transgender young people being kicked-out of their homes. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality 27% of transgender respondents who experienced homelessness in the past year avoided staying in a shelter because they feared being mistreated as a transgender person; 19% experienced homelessness in the past year because of being transgender.
The most recent Atlanta Youth Count, found the majority of respondents (56%) were Black LGBTQ+ youth. The survey described the risk factors for sex and labor trafficking among youth:
- Lesbian, gay and bisexual identity
- Transgender identity
- Experiences of longer periods of homelessness
- High levels of childhood trauma
- Previous childhood systems involvement (such as Department of Family and Children Services or Department of Juvenile Justice)
Because of the factors above, these youth require special attention as well as services that are grounded in trauma-informed care principles.
To ensure this, the LGBTQ Institute at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights is serving as one of the partners in Sparking Systemic Change to identify the immediate needs of trans girls, up to age 25, who are at risk of or experiencing commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) in Fulton County. A key aspect of our work within the partnership will be to elevate the importance of survivor leadership including the inclusion of transgender survivors on our advisory board by convening a group of transgender youth who will provide insights on what impact interventions, preventions and ongoing support will make a difference in the lives of trans girls who are at risk of, experiencing, or seeking to heal from sexual exploitation. This work will allow providers to hear the wisdom and understanding into the lives and experiences of survivors to ensure that our outcomes will transform systems that historically have discriminated against transgender people.