On December 8th, the National Center for Transgender Equality held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to release and review the findings in the latest U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS). More than 28,000 trans-identifying Americans participated in the largest-ever national study on transgender experiences, which covered issues including discrimination in employment, education, health, housing, and family life, and the criminal-justice system.
G Philly spoke with Philadelphia trans advocate Sharron Cooks, who had the opportunity during the press conference to share her personal experiences with discrimination as a black trans woman.
What would you describe as the key factors shaping the recent U.S. Transgender Survey?
Discrimination exists in many areas of my life and has throughout my lifetime. The U.S Transgender Survey is a data report that discusses the pervasive mistreatment and discrimination of transgender people in America. The U.S. Transgender Survey is the largest data report of its kind. Violence, sexual assault, unemployment, sex work, lack of medical treatment, homelessness, poverty, and racial bias are examples of some of the areas that were examined.
What stood out to you?
As a black transgender woman who is an advocate, community organizer, and consultant, the U.S. Transgender Survey acknowledges and affirms my experiences of discrimination as well as provides statistical data from nearly 30,000 transgender Americans who have shared similar experiences with discrimination. The finding in the report show that transgender women of color tend to experience higher levels of racial bias, poverty, homelessness, unemployment, harassment, violence, HIV/AIDS rates, inadequate healthcare, and run-ins with law enforcement than respondents who were not of color.
What was it like being one of the few trans people of color speaking at the press conference?
During the U.S Transgender Survey press conference, I shared very personal examples of discrimination that connected my experiences to the numbers in the report. In order to advocate, educate and policy-make, it is important to have both data and personal experiences to help people understand the high levels of inequality and lack of opportunities people in the trans community face, especially trans people of color. The U.S. Transgender Survey also includes findings of the discrimination non-binary people experience, which I think is great and ground-breaking for those who identify as non-binary. The U.S. Transgender Survey data report is a very useful tool that I will be utilizing in my business and community work, and I would strongly encourage all people, businesses, and organizations to read and use the U.S. Transgender Survey in a positive and transformative way for the betterment of all our community members.
What are some motivating factors in your life that keep you optimistic despite many of these statistics?
My life was enriched greatly with the support of my family, friends, and community. I have a B.A. in philosophy with a focus on ethics from Arcadia University. I created my own company, Making Our Lives Easier LLC, that is a consulting firm that provides quality resources and information to underrepresented communities, particularly trans women of color.
What is your advice to other transgender Americans facing the issues highlighted in the report?
I know what it’s like to feel rejected and unsupported as well as the feeling of being respected, accepted, and supported, so in my role as a visible member of the transgender community it is my responsibility to bring awareness and attention to the overwhelming rates of discrimination members of our community deal with daily. I firmly believe that transformative change begins with self, but it is our job as a community and the responsibility of people in leadership to relentlessly and persistently advocate for diversity, inclusion, economic empowerment, and equality in all areas of public life for all people. Using the USTS is a great starting point.