“Injustice at Every Turn”: Asian and Pacific Islander Trans* Community Faces Terrible Discrimination

You might have heard of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, published last year by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.  As part of the NTDS project, the Task Force also recently published an auxiliary report focusing on the 212 transgender and non-gender-conforming Asian-Americans and Pacific Islander respondents to the survey. Like the NTDS report, this publication is heartbreakingly titled “Injustice at Every Turn.”

The queer APIA community needs to see these statistics, and accessibility of the publication has been a top priority for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The Task Force has teamed up with the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance and the National Center for Transgender Equality to publish this report in seven languages. According to Jack Harrison, the manager of the Task Force Policy Institute, the publication is coming out in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Khmer, Hindi and Tamil and copies are readily available for viewing and download on the Task Force website.

via http://transequality.org/Resources/ntds_asianamerican_english.pdf

The report itself is emotionally difficult to read. According to the report, “The combination of anti-transgender bias with structural and interpersonal racism meant that transgender and gender non-conforming people of color, including those who were Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander [API] experienced particularly devastating levels of discrimination.” The survey reports that, among other statistics, API transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals are more likely to live in extreme poverty, to be affected by HIV and to have attempted suicide than transgender gender-nonconforming people of all races.

The report also mentions that the discrimination and “anti-trasngender bias” that many API transgender and gender non-conforming individuals face revealed “the complex interactions of that bias with race, immigration status, language ability and socio-economic status” — a complex mix of different types of discrimination coming at respondents from all directions.

Some important findings in “Injustice at Every Turn”:

+ 18% API respondents reported living in extreme poverty with a household income of less than $10,000 a year, compared with 15% poverty rate of respondents of all races.

+ One out of every twenty API respondents reported being HIV positive — an alarming amount. While 5% of API respondents were affected by HIV, 2.64% of respondents of all races reported being HIV positive.

+ 56% of API respondents have attempted suicide.

An important part of the report was about family acceptance of transgender and gender non-conforming API individuals and the fact that this has had a significant impact on rates of suicide, homelessness and HIV in API respondents. It’s remarkable how having an accepting family has affected the statistics.

+ 44% of API respondents were significantly accepted by their families.

+ Of the API respondents who were accepted by their families, 17% had attempted suicide, while the rate for those who were not accepted by their families was 35%.

+ Of the API respondents who were accepted by their families, 9% had experienced homelessness, while the rate for those who were not accepted by their families was 20%.

+ Of the API respondents who were accepted by their families, 2.78% were HIV positive, while the rate for those who were not accepted by their families was 6.38%.

via http://transequality.org/Resources/ntds_asianamerican_english.pdf

What I love about this publication is that the Task Force, NQAPIA and NCTE have placed such an emphasis on language and cultural barriers — not only as they affect access to health care and counseling, but also access to the survey itself.  According to the publication:

“The NTDS was administered in two languages — English and Spanish. However, nearly 80% of API Americans speak a language other than English at home and 36% describe themselves as speaking English less than ‘very well.’ Unfortunately as a result, the NTDS was inaccessible to large portions of the API population.”

The Task Force’s choice to focus on API transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, not just as objects as study but as full members of the LGBT community, is really commendable. The publication’s insistence on outreach and awareness is amazing — the survey team has worked hard both to ensure access to API individuals whose first language isn’t English and to conduct the next NTD survey carefully so that it reaches all possible respondents.

According to Harrison, “This is the third of four racial justice-focused trans reports we’re putting out,” with the other two surveys being focused on black respondents and Latino/a respondents. Also according to Harrison, “The American Indian and Alaskan Native report is coming out in the fall.”

Spread the word.

Click here to read “Injustice at Every Turn: A Look at Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander Respondents.”

Click here to read “Injustice at Every Turn: A Look at Black Respondents.”

Click here to read “Injustice at Every Turn: A Look at Latino/Latina Respondents.”

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Whitney Pow

Whitney is a lover of food, books, comic books and journals made for left-handed people. They are a Ph.D. candidate at Northwestern University, where their research focuses on queer video games and new media. They are also a graphic designer, writer and editor who has worked for places like Opium Magazine, Literary Death Match, Publishers Weekly and The Feminist Press. Check out their website at whitneypow.com and follow them on Twitter @whitneypow.

Whitney has written 53 articles for us.


  1. This is so disheartening =( I wish I could give everyone a hug to let them know that they are loved.

  2. We need to have better tools to build a better reality. With each generation we get more loving, affirming, and tolerant. The young people will make our world glow in places where it is now still dank.

  3. A 17% suicide rate for trans* people who were ACCEPTED by their families is still much too high! Oh my god, so horrible.

  4. these numbers are so horrible but I am so, so excited that they exist because numbers are (sadly) so neccesary to get any money to go anywhere remotely good and there just needs to be so many more numbers for queers. numbers!

    • Good point. I hadn’t thought about that before. How do we (as individuals) help to get funding go toward these particular numbers? I just want to know what I can personally do to help improve the lives of transgenders.

  5. As an Asian/Pacific Islander genderqueer person who has seriously contemplated transitioning, this is extremely disheartening to hear. It’s good to have facts and numbers though. Thanks for informing us!

  6. Pingback: 10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started My Transition | Ezymagazines

  7. Pingback: 10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started My Transition - ALL GAY Voices | Gay News, Gay Supporters, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, World Gay Pride, Military Gay Pride, LGBT News, Politics, Sports, & Entertainment

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