US Capitol in the Fall

New study findings show pervasive bullying of and violence toward transgender and gender non-conforming people,

alarmingly high rates of suicide attempts

Quick Links
Join Our List
Join Our Mailing List
October 7, 2010

"... my suicide attempt had a lot to do with the fact that I felt hopeless and alone in regards to my gender identity." - Survey respondent

"[I was] harassed in public during high school, rocks thrown at me in the parking lot of high school, harassed in restaurants, drug-seeking behavior, suicide attempt, nothing about my gender identity is a conscious choice - this is the way I came out." - Survey respondent

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 - More than half of transgender and gender non-conforming people who were bullied, harassed or assaulted in school because of their gender identity have attempted suicide, according to just-released findings from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality.

"From our experience working with transgender people, we had prepared ourselves for high rates of suicide attempts, but we didn't expect anything like this," says Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. "Our study participants reported attempting suicide at a rate more than 25 times the national average." Forty-one percent of all respondents reported that they had attempted suicide, compared with a national estimated rate of 1.6 percent.

"These shocking and disheartening numbers speak to the urgency of ending bullying in our nation's schools and ending discrimination in our nation's workplaces. We know from the recent rash of suicides among young people who have been bullied just how critical it is that we act now and act decisively to save lives," says Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Among those who had been bullied, harassed or assaulted while they were in school, half reported having attempted suicide. Most notably, suicide attempt rates rise dramatically when teachers were the reported perpetrators: 59 percent for those harassed or bullied by teachers, 76 percent among those who were physically assaulted by teachers and 69 percent among those who were sexually assaulted by teachers.

Of those who reported that they had to "leave school because the harassment was so bad," 68 percent said they attempted suicide.Fully 61 percent of respondents who expressed a transgender identity or gender non-conformity while in school reported significant abuses in educational settings. From elementary through graduate school, the survey showed high levels of harassment and bullying (59 percent), physical assault (23 percent), sexual assault (8 percent), and expulsion from school (5 percent), all on the basis of gender identity or expression.

Other findings include:

  • Thirty-five percent of the participants who had been bullied, harassed, assaulted or expelled because of their gender identity or expression while in school said that they used drugs or alcohol to cope with the effects of discrimination, compared to 21 percent of those who had not had similar experiences in school.
  • Twenty-five percent reported that they were currently or formerly homeless, compared to 14 percent of those who did not report mistreatment in schools.
  • Those who reported they had to "leave school because the harassment was so bad," had an HIV infection rate of more than 5 percent, which is more than eight times the HIV infection rate for the general U.S. population.

These suicide statistics are part of broader findings related to health care and health for transgender and gender non-conforming people that will be released next week. Preliminary findings related to employment and economic insecurity, which describes employment discrimination and unemployment rates, were previously released late last year and are available here.

The National Transgender Discrimination Survey is the most extensive survey of transgender discrimination ever done. It includes responses from more than 6,400 people from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The National Center for Transgender Equality is a national social justice organization devoted to ending discrimination and violence against transgender people through education and advocacy on national issues of importance to transgender people. By empowering transgender people and our allies to educate and influence policymakers and others, NCTE facilitates a strong and clear voice for transgender equality in our nation's capital and around the country. The National Center for Transgender Equality is a 501(c)3 organization.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force builds the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement's premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all.