For Immediate Release: August 29, 2017
Contact: Andrea Zekis, (907) 263-2014, Andrea@FairAnchorage.org
Today, the National Center for Transgender Equality and Fair Anchorage released Alaska-specific data from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS). The data revealed disturbing discrimination trends and a range of disparities between transgender people and the general population of the United States in all areas of life.
As the largest survey of transgender people ever conducted, the full report includes critical information on the experiences of nearly 28,000 transgender Americans from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and several U.S. military bases overseas.
My employer at the time had forbidden me to let my clients know what was happening, so there was an uncomfortable ‘elephant’ sitting on my desk that I was advised not to bring up, and this adversely affected my relationships with the families I served. As I progressed in transitioning, new clients began to refer to me as ‘he/him’ when calling or checking in for an appointment: the front desk and some of my co-workers clung to using ‘she/her’, leading to frustration for my clients, as they insisted that their worker was “the other Sam: my case manager is a guy”. After I left the job, I filed a complaint with the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission and won.
“When I transitioned in 2014, my employer and several coworkers made my work life very unpleasant, and their reluctance to acknowledge my transition had a negative impact on my effectiveness with clients. I was told not to bring up who I am and my clients were corrected when they insisted on respecting my identity and referred to me as “him,” said Sam Ohana, a social worker, husband, father, and passionate humanitarian living in Anchorage. “Because Anchorage passed our non-discrimination ordinance, I was able to file a successful complaint with the Anchorage Human Rights Commission. If Prop 1 passes, I’ll lose that protection.”
The Alaska breakout report included striking data showing that stories like Sam’s are part of a larger pattern, including:
- 43% of respondents in Alaska have experienced homelessness, and 23% experienced homelessness in just the past year because of being transgender.
- In the past year, 44% of those who saw a health care provider were turned away, harassed, attacked, or experiencing another form of discrimination because of being transgender.
- Out of those who were out or perceived to be transgender in school, 85% were mistreated because of being transgender, such as being harassed, sexually or physically assaulted, or kicked out of school, and 24% experienced such severe mistreatment that they left a K–12 school.
“Transgender folks just want what everyone wants: to live their lives, love their families, earn a living free, and pursue happiness,” said Andrea Zekis, lead organizer for Fair Anchorage. “The depressing truth of these results is that transgender people largely aren’t being allowed to do that in Alaska. Now, in addition to the everyday headwinds to liberty these number demonstrate, our community is facing institutionalized harassment in Anchorage every time we just want to use a restroom. That is what Prop 1 would do.”
“In the current political environment, our work to educate the public is more important than ever before,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of NCTE. “Our survey speaks to what we already know: transgender people experience rampant discrimination and endure substantial obstacles to meeting their most fundamental needs. We hope this state-specific information will inspire policymakers on the local, state and federal levels to enact policies that improve lives, not make them worse.”
The full national survey report and all state breakout reports can be found at www.ustranssurvey.org.
The National Center for Transgender Equality is the nation’s leading social justice advocacy organization winning life-saving change for transgender people.
Fair Anchorage is a coalition of Alaska LGBT, faith, labor, business, and civil liberties organizations brought together to fight hate whenever it is put on a ballot in our community.
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