A survey finds there are 1.4 million trans people in the U.S.—but there are likely more.
The most comprehensive population survey ever of transgender Americans was released on Thursday, and the numbers are stunning.
According to the Williams Institute’s state-level analysis of Centers for Disease Control data, there are at least 1.4 million transgender adults living in the United States. The number is double the previous estimate—via a 2011 survey—of 700,000 transgender Americans.
“The findings from this study are critical to current policy discussions that impact transgender people,” said Jody Herman, one of the authors of the study, in a statement on Thursday. “Policy debates on access to bathrooms, discrimination, and a host of other issues should rely on the best available data to assess potential impacts, including how many people may be affected.”
But the most shocking finding in the new population estimate is that after California, the largest amount of transgender people live in Texas and Florida—two states that lack even the most basic employment and housing protections for LGBT citizens. In both Texas and Florida—with 125,350 trans people and 100,300 trans people, respectively— a lack of state laws prohibiting gender identity-based discrimination leaves transgender and nonbinary residents vulnerable to being fired or evicted at any time.
Both states also require expensive sex-reassignment surgery in order to change gender markers on birth certificates, despite statistics showing that the majority of transgender people either can’t afford, or choose to opt out of, surgery.
On the Transgender Law Center’s Equality Map, Texas received a negative score of -0.75 when it came to gender identity policy, basically making it one of the worst states in the country for trans people.
While the Williams Institute report shows a massive increase in the transgender population, it’s still impossible to accurately estimate how many trans people—or even LGBT people—live in the country. Some LGBT advocates and community members took to social media on Thursday to express that the survey numbers are likely much lower than the actual number of trans people in the U.S. and worldwide.
The U.S. Census does not currently include questions on sexual orientation or gender identity, leaving a blank when it comes to tracking the LGBT population. Large federal population surveys like the American Community Survey don’t track either sexual orientation or gender identity, and though the National Health Interview Survey was amended to include limited data on sexual orientation in 2014, it still does not count transgender respondents.
Because there is zero federal data, the Williams Institute was forced to use highly limited data for the current survey—only 19 states include gender identity questions on the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Using transgender numbers from those states, researchers then estimated numbers for the remaining states based on population percentages.
Even among the 19 states that did opt-in to include the question “Do you identify as transgender,” the CDC survey results only represent a random assortment of people who answered phone calls at a 40.5 percent rate on cellphones and a 48.7 percent rate on landlines.
Basically, we still don’t know how many trans people there are—because state and federal governments are afraid to even ask.
But even if the new survey’s numbers weren’t likely much lower than reality, they are incredible. If the results of the U.S. transgender population survey were applied to the world population, there would be at minimum 44.4 million transgender people on Earth. That’s more than the number of people living in Canada.
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