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Transgender Demographics (Race and Age Among the Transgender Population)

Louise D.

Accurately measuring demographics of the transgender population in the US has proven to be extremely difficult. However, it is vital to continue trying to improve our methods and to include transgender individuals in surveys, etc.

The reason for this is simple: if you are not counted, you are not represented and are therefore left behind. Especially with population-based surveys, there needs to be inclusion of the transgender population. 

If we do not know how many adults identify as transgender in the US, then the transgender population is overlooked. Furthermore, we need to establish demographics within the transgender community in terms of variations in sexual orientation and gender identity as well. This is important because it increases awareness of individual needs that might be dependent on culture in terms of transgender identity. 


Roadblocks to Measuring the Transgender Adult Population

Sources are limited and need to rely on national surveys based on population. Despite these often do not include measures that can indicate gender identity. Clinical or convenience sample studies offer up significant variations, and this is concerning because it suggests that they cannot be generalized and are therefore not representative of the population as a whole. 

Most studies do not separate statistics from transgender populations from gay, lesbian, and bisexual statistics. They also focus on the adult population, which means that statistics on transgender youth are not included. In order to better support services for gender identity issues, we need to establish prevalence at a young age, but studies on children are difficult because of the ethical considerations involved. 

Most of the time, students related to childhood must be done by asking adults who identify as transgender to recount their childhood experiences. This is done to gather some information while protecting the current child population from exposure. 

Reasons for Inaccuracies in Statistics Based on Transgender Identities

While the main reason for inaccuracies in statistics is sample size limitations, there are also some other general reasons why data can be inaccurate. The current research based on the behavioral risk factor surveillance system is currently out of date, and with each passing year, its reliability dwindles further. 

Firstly, it is difficult to define “transgender” accurately, or at least, to agree on a definition and many variations exist. This extends to how adults identify it themselves and according to their personal definitions, whether they are transgender or not.

Especially if they are not out yet or if their gender dysphoria is not significant enough for them to be taking hormone therapy or require sex reassignment surgery to feel more secure in their gender identity. They are then likely to think that they do not entirely ‘qualify’ for the transgender option on surveys. 

Respondents might also be hesitant to formally identify themselves as transgender because they fear discrimination. Some are living in stealth, and even people closest to them might not know that they are transgender. This makes it difficult for them to participate in surveys where they need to ‘out’ themselves. 

 People might also not want to label themselves as anything, including transgender. While such definitions are essential, we cannot force people to label themselves if they do not want to. It is a very personal thing, and people have the right to keep it private if they want to. 

Discrimination towards transgender people is still rife, and there is very little in terms of protection available to this population, so many adults who identify as transgender just do not feel safe enough to identify as transgender in surveys. 

In order to work around this, survey writers need to get creative to try and establish which respondents identified as transgender without expressly asking the question. This is typically done by asking what sex is listed on the birth certificate and then later in the survey, asking what gender a person identifies with.

Even with these types of strategies, there is still a margin for error, and there is no guarantee that a transgender person will answer either question truthfully. You will also not be able to tell when someone has not been truthful in this regard. 

Demographics Information Available on Transgender People 

For this section, we are going to explore several trends in what has been reported when adults identify as transgender in existing surveys. We will not go into too much depth with technicality as it can become very jargon-heavy when one talks about statistics and data. However, there are some important points that we will bring to your attention. 

Data that was collected between 2003 and 2009 suggested that numbers were low. Transgender people only accounted for 0.3% of adults in the United States. This was around 700 000 adults who identify as transgender at the time. 

It is widely believed that these numbers were inaccurate and underreported due to concerns stated above for when adults identify as transgender. 

The Williams Institute used data from a 2014 survey done by the Centre for Disease Control: the behavioral risk factor surveillance system (BRFSS). This study collected data from only 19 states and was one of the few surveys done nationally that specifically included transgender demographic information. 

This study by the Williams Institute found the following in terms of the United States: 

  • African American – 0.8% are transgender
  • Latino – 0.8% are transgender
  • White – 0.5% are transgender
  • Other races in the US – 0.6% are transgender

In 2016 the Williams Institute further released estimates related to demographic characteristics among transgender adults:

  • African American – 16%
  • Latino – 21%
  • White – 55%
  • Other Races – 8%

The Williams Institute goes on to explain that studies like the National Transgender Discrimination Survey before 2015 found that 83% of adults who identify as transgender are white, which highlights one of their concerns related to statistics that are not representative of the general population—mainly related to sample size limitations and samples taken only from local areas. This statistic is likely only true for a specific area. 

A more recent study using data from the US Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey suggests that 1% of the adult population in the US identify as transgender. That is more than 2 million people who identify as transgender. 

Why is Gender Identity Demographics Important?

The main reason why demographic information for any population is important is so that the population is represented in relation to the general population. Specifically, in terms of the adult transgender population having demographic information increases the validity of arguments for transgender equality. It also opens up discussions for improved transgender health, including health insurance coverage.

Adults who identify as transgender should be represented in public health care, and this can only be done thoroughly when statistics are available. Understanding the transgender population size better will improve our understanding of individual needs based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Sexual orientation is included here because, for the most part, other LGBTQ+ information is also gathered along with more specific categories like transgender respondents. Population-based surveys specific to the LGBTQ+ community are usually conducted for the benefit of LGBT+ health concerns. 

We further need to know how many adults identify as transgender so that we can improve their experience in a healthcare setting, study psychiatric comorbidities, understand sexual behavior (for the purpose of public health requirements), and accurately assess the validity of sex assigned at birth as a general medical practice.

It would also be helpful to know more specific statistics, such as how many adults identify as transgender “female”. Or even how many transgender people have comorbid psychiatric and medical problems, such as substance abuse. 


Data Collection Strategies for Adults Who Identify as Transgender

While population-based surveys are one option, there are some concerns about the reliability of population-based probability samples not being generalizable. Another popular suggestion is online surveys, but this can be difficult to control.

If we want to do population-based surveys, then we have to consider that a significant degree of the population does not have access to the internet. Many adults who identify as transgender are homeless, and if we want to target a representative sample of transgender respondents, we will need to be sensitive to that. 

Getting general information in the existence of transgender individuals alone might not be enough. We need more details associated with gender expression, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the LGBTQ+ population, ratios between transgender women, transgender men, and gender-nonconforming people, and other variations in transgender identities. 

A controversial way that this can be done is by accessing electronic medical records of transgender patients for private and public medical institutions. The main concern in this regard is privacy, but if the treating doctor is required to upload records themselves, then they can ensure that identifying information is removed as that is not necessary for statistical purposes. 

While there are still options available it might be pertinent to keep exploring ways to improve data collection and make it easier to transgender individuals to participate in these surveys.

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