Feb.-March 2013: Violence and Attempted Suicide in the Transgender Community

In this issue:

Violence and Attempted Suicide in The Transgender Community

Transgender and gender non-conforming people* face alarmingly high rates of violence in virtually all life domains, and high rates of suicidal behavior. Although sampling transgender and gender non-conforming people is challenged by a lack of knowledge of the actual population of diverse genders in the U.S., scientific studies highlight the damage of discrimination and violence targeted at these community members’ gender identities and gender expressions.

It is also important to note that although many transgender and gender non-conforming people suffer greater violence and psychological damage, most also live satisfying and healthy lives despite these challenges.

* Please note: MPIPP’s use of “transgender” and “gender non-conforming people” reflects the terms most commonly used in research. More research on the spectrum of gender diversity, including those who are unlabeled, genderqueer, and two-spirit, for example, is greatly needed.

Suicide Attempts are associated with Violence

Numerous studies cited by the American Psychological Association(1) have shown that up to a third of transgender people are struggling with substance abuse, depression, and suicidal thoughts or attempts. Although acknowledging the high rates of serious mental health problems among transgender and gender non-conforming people is important for understanding how to prevent it, it is also important to recognize protective factors as well. For example, when young LGBT adults had families accepting of their identity, they show better self-esteem, general health, and lower depression and suicidality.(4) Transgender and gender non-conforming people have promise, as well as immense challenges.

Attempted suicide among specific populations of transgender people

The National Transgender Discrimination Survey,(3) is regarded as the most comprehensive survey of transgender and gender non-conforming people. This 2011 survey (also referred to as the NTDS) found an overall 41% of transgender people and gender non-conforming made one or more suicide attempts.

Consistent across many studies is that transgender and gender non-conforming people of color experience even higher rates of violence than their white counterparts. Higher rates of attempted suicide were reported in the NTDS(3) among respondents who were people of color, including:

  • 56% of American Indian respondents
  • 56% of Asian/Pacific Islander respondents (Please note: report available in English, traditional Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Tagalog, Tamil, and Vietnamese)
  • 54% of those who reported themselves as Multiracial
  • 45% of Black respondents
  • 44% Latino/a respondents (report also available in English and Spanish)

Other groups who reported higher levels of suicide attempts in the NTDS(3) survey were:

  • 51% who reported family rejection
  • 45% who had medically transitioned
  • 44% who were visually non-conforming in their gender expression
  • 44% of those who were generally out about their gender
  • 43% who had surgically transitioned

School-based harassment and violence = higher rates of attempted suicide

School-based harassment and violence leads to alarmingly higher rates of suicide and attempted suicide.

According to the 2011 NTDS,(3) suicide attempts were much higher when the discrimination and violence occurred in a school setting, including:

  • 76% when a teacher physically assaulted the student
  • 69% when a teacher sexually assaulted the student
  • 59% when a teacher harassed or bullied the student
  • 51% who were bullied, harassed, assaulted, or expelled from school because of their gender expression

In a statewide survey of transgender Virginians(2) reported in 2012, trans-men and trans-women’s history of gender-based violencewhen they were youth in school had nearly four times the odds of at least one suicide attempt:

  • 46% of trans-women who experienced gender-based school victimization reported a suicide attempt compared to 14.4% of those who were not victimized.
  • 41% of trans-men who experienced gender-based victimization in school reported at least one suicide attempt, compared to 19% of those who were not vicitimized.

Research also links suicide attempts to physical and sexual violence

Trans-men and trans-women also had a greater number of suicide attempts when they had survived physical or sexual violence.

In a review of self-report research, hotline data, and crime reports, Stotzer(5) concluded that the majority of transgender people experience physical and/or sexual violence, often multiple times, throughout their lifespan.

The NTDS(4) also reported higher levels of suicide attempts among those who were assaulted, including:

  • 64% who were sexually assaulted
  • 61% who survived bias-based physical assault

In a 2012 study(6) of 271 self-identified transgender people:

  • 38% reported surviving physical violence (98% of these reported the violence was targeted at their gender identity or expression).
  • 27% reported sexual violence (with 89% targeted at their gender identity or express).
  • Of those who reported surviving violence in the survey, very few reported this to the police (11% of physical violence; 9% of sexual violence).
  • Trans-women who had survived physical violence had 5 times the odds of a suicide attempt than trans-women who had never been assaulted, and trans-women who survived a sexual violence had 3.6 times the odds of suicide attempt compared to other trans-women.
  • Trans-men who had survived physical violence had more than 3 times the odds of suicide attempt than trans-men who had not been physically assaulted, and trans-men who survived sexual violence had 5 times the odds of a suicide attempt.
  • Of those who reported surviving violence in the survey, few reported this to the police (11% of physical violence; 9% of sexual violence).

For a Fact Sheet prepared by MPIPP on this topic, please click here.

National Transgender Discrimination Survey

The largest and most comprehensive survey of transgender, gender non-conforming, and other marginalized genders, Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey,(3) was conducted and reported by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. This survey includes information from 6,456 transgender and gender non-conforming U.S. adults from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands was released in 2010. Additional reports were released in 2012 that contained data and stories by race and ethnicity.

For a selection of reports, including the full report, an executive summary, demographic data, and reports by race and ethnicity, click here.

For a video clip from the National Center for Transgender Equality that discusses the survey results, click here.

Transgender Day of Remembrance

The fear of violence is real. A Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is now held each year to recognize those who have been murdered across the world. The Trans Respect Project documented 265 murders of transgender people around the world in 2012, 15 of which took place in the U.S. (See http://www.transrespect-transphobia.org/en_US/tvt-project/tmm-results/tdor2012.htm).

The event is held in November each year to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28, 1998, kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project. Since then, the project has gained momentum and is nationally recognized among LGBT organizations, their allies, and many religious communities and includes candlelight ceremonies and other events. For those organizations who wish to participate, this year’s TDOR will be held on November 20, 2013.

“You might be an ally too!” Presented at MBLGTACC

Because LGBTQ communities possess racial, ethnic, ability, religious diversity, each member of the LGBTQA community likely has opportunities to be at least one kind of ally. MPIPP’s Dr. Melissa Grey presented a seminar, “You might be an ally too” at the MBLGTACC (Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Ally College Conference). The very well attended seminar addressed discrimination within the LGBTQA community and how it limits the ability to achieve inclusion and equality. Using the intersection of race with sexual orientation and gender as a model, Melissa’s workshop provided social science-based information on the links between mental health of LGBT people of color, discrimination, and social activism. She focused on how to reduce racism against LGBTQ people of color in everyday interactions and practice effective prejudice reduction skills.

As a result of the enthusiastic reception to the workshop, MPIPP is in the process of working with a number of student organizations throughout the state to offer programs on the mental health impact of discrimination against LGBTQ people’s intersecting identities. Melissa recently met with Delta College’s Prism Alliance who is planning to have MPIPP facilitate this workshop at their college.

If you or your organization might be interested in how to build your own ally skills, please contact Melissa at Melissa@mpipp.org.


KUP Corner

As more LGBT allies are attending the KNOW US PROJECT (KUP) training, we are in the process of updating the training materials to provide better information and training for allies.

KUP training is being planned for the following dates and locations:

  • March 12, 2013 – Western Michigan University
  • March 21, 2013 – Saginaw Valley State University

Upcoming trainings are always shown on MPIPP’s website at: http://mpipp.org/kup-training-calendar.htm.

For more information on KUP or to request a KUP training, please contact Dr. Melissa Grey at Melissa@mpipp.org.

Upcoming Training

Although certainly not all inclusive, the following training may be of interest to MPIPP NEWS readers:

March 9, 2013 SOGI (Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Initiative) Education ConferenceThis conference is designed for educators and is offered by Oakland University. For registration, go to:http://www.oakland.edu/sogi.Dr. Melissa Grey of MPIPP will be co-presenting with Dr. Ellen Keyt of Oakland University (and an MPIPP volunteer) on “LGBTQ Students: Risk, Resilience, and Support”

For more information on the conference, contact Dr. Timothy Larrabee, Director, SOGI Initiative at sogi@oakland.edu or (248) 370-4614

March 13, 2013 A Silent Crisis: Creating Safe Schools for Sexual Minority YouthThis workshop, offered by the Genesee Intermediate School District, is designed to help educators understand, assess, and improve school climate and safety for all youth, especially those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning. Some of the legal and ethical obligations that school systems and their employees have — to serve and protect this population — will be addressed. The companion piece for the training, A Silent Crisis: Creating Safe Schools for Sexual Minority Youth resource guide is included with registration.For more information and the training flyer, go to: http://www.solutionwhere.com/gisdtraining/cw/showcourse.asp?2535.
March 15-16-, 2013 Clinical Issues & Gender Identity — A Training for Therapists Overview of working with transgender people• Legal & Health Issues

• Sexuality — development, functioning, transition

• Clinical Issues — intimate relationships, marriage, family concerns

• Professional, and Ethical Considerations


Denise Brogan-Kator, JD; Rachel Crandall, LMSW; Judith Kovach, PhD, LP and Project Director for MPIPP; Stephen Rassi, PhD, LMSW; Amorie Robinson, PhD, L) (aka Kofi Adoma); Sandra Samons, PhD, LMSW, LMFT; Maxine Thome, PhD, LMSW; and Andre Wilson, MS, consultant and trainer.

For more information, including a download of the flyer, click here.


Research Cited

1. American Psychological Association, Report of the Task Force on Gender Identity and Gender Variance, August, 2008.

2. Goldblu, P., Testa, R.J., Pflum, S., Hendricks, M., Brandford, J., & Bongar, B. (2012). The Relationship Between Gender-Based Victimization and Suicide Attempts in Transgender People. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 43(5), 468-465. doi: 10.1037/a0029605

3. Grant, J. M., Mottet, L.A., Tanis, J., Harrison, J., Herman, J.L, & Keisling, M. (2011). Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Washington: National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Available at: http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/reports/reports/ntds_full.pdf.

4. Ryan, C., Russell, S., Huebner, D., Diaz, R., & Sanchez, J. (2010). Family acceptance in adolescence and the health of LGBT adults.Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 23(4), 205-213. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6171.2010.00246.x

5. Stotzer, R.L. (2006). Violence against transgender people: A review of United States data. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 14, 170-179. doi: :10.1016/j.avb.2009.01.006

6. Testa, R.J., Sciacca, L.M., Hendricks, M., Goldblum, P., Bradford, J., & Bongar, B. (2012). Effects of Violence on Transgender People. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 43(5), 452-459. doi: 10.1037/a0029604

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