The following is written by Clair Farley, one of three people whose stories are featured in the new Nat Geo special American Transgender tonight at 8PM et/pt:
It wasn’t until the findings from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey were released that my observations as a counselor and employment coach were confirmed by data. The levels of discrimination against my transgender brothers and sisters were unsettling to me but I was not shocked by the report. Instead, I gained a sense of hope from the high level of resiliency that was demonstrated by my community in the face of discrimination.
As a transgender person I have faced discrimination in various settings: in college, work, the doctor’s office, public bathrooms, and many other places. Today, I see these challenges mirrored in my clients working tirelessly to find employment in a safe and equal workplace. I share my story of resiliency to provide hope because despite the fear and exhaustion, I believe we can overcome discrimination and ignorance.
In the face of our resiliency; however, the data shows the negative impact of gender related bias. Of the survey respondents who were bullied in school, especially those whose teachers instigated the violence, 76% had attempted suicide. Those who lose their jobs because of discrimination were much more likely (70%) to misuse drugs or alcohol to help cope with their experiences.
The discrimination discussed here is based on gender identity and expression: on the clothes people wear, their mannerisms, the degree to which they are perceived as fitting into a masculine or feminine stereotype.
The survey reminds us that despite the efforts we have made towards equality, we still have work ahead of us to assure equal rights and opportunity for all.
I do have hope that my community has the durability to reach the finish line regardless of any misunderstanding from an uninformed few. Almost a quarter of the people surveyed had experienced three or more major acts of discrimination, things that would reasonably knock anyone down, such as getting fired because of who they are, being sexually and physically abused, losing custody of their children, or becoming homeless. As transgender people we keep going; every day I am honored to give back my community as they look for work, a place to live, as they go back to school.
In this National Geographic film I share the story of how I found love – got married, reconciled and created a family, thrived at work and in a small business. I am no longer in awe of my own determination because as transgender people it is just in our nature.
Clair Farley is a transgender community leader, mentor, and activist working with the nation’s first transgender economic empowerment program, Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative (TEEI), at the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Community Center. Clair works with transgender people to help them overcome barriers in their personal and professional lives, and is dedicated to creating safe and equal workplaces for all people, that do not discriminate based on one’s gender identity or expression.
American Transgender premieres tonight at 8PM et/pt only on National Geographic Channel. Watch a clip »