The importance of new data on anti-trans violence and suicidality

The people behind research studies usually only get mentioned in the feminist internets when the research was framed poorly in the press, or when the study asks a question that packs sexist assumptions.

Which is too bad, because there are some bomb researchers out there doing really vital work. I was reminded of this when Vanessa posted last week about a new study on the links between anti-trans violence and suicidality. I wrote about trans folks and suicide back in 2009, and this was the best I could do for a data citation at the time:

The number of trans folks who have attempted suicide ranges from about 30 percent to over 50 percent in studies. One study found that 83 percent of trans folks have considered suicide.

There was a shortage of data on the issue – there weren’t a series of large scale, peer reviewed studies to point to for a generally accepted number. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey has been incredibly important for giving us data on a broad range of topics, but it’s a survey. We need well funded studies on all of the topics the national survey covered. In fact, we need multiple studies looking at different aspects of all of the topics. It’s a lot of data. But when you’re a marginalized community that’s being treated like shit and folks are ignoring that, you need to be able to say “look, numbers.”

This new study is an important step in that direction on the issue of suicide in the trans community, which certainly needs the focus. Having data that says, “This is happening largely because of the bigotry” is a powerful tool in political organizing. Simply put, we have to be able to point to numbers to win the rights and protections trans folks need. I can see this data being useful for directing resources towards suicide prevention for trans folks and for combatting anti-trans violence. There’s a ton of specific political issues where this data could prove helpful.

I’m incredibly grateful to the people who go into research fields to do work like this. Folks carrying out studies, collating or analyzing data, are doing impactful work. We need more folks doing this research who understand how crucial data is to the needs of marginalized communities. We need the people carrying out these studies to ask the questions that will be helpful – questions exactly like “Is there a link between anti-trans violence and suicidality?” And we need funding to be directed at these studies. I’m glad to see the body of data on this specific issue growing. I look forward to reading about more and more studies addressing topics that came up in the trans discrimination survey.

By the way, it can get pretty depressing as a trans person to read about a high rate of suicidality in your own community (I’ve also found it positive to have that part of my history recognized as something worth talking about). I think it’s important to talk about this topic because this increased risk of suicidality shouldn’t be happening. Trans folks don’t have to be suicidal, though a lot of us are or have been. If you do need support, here are some resources:

Kate Bornstein’s Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks & Other Outlaws

Transgender Emergency Fund’s page with contact info for a number of hotlines you can call

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/alesbianandascholar/ radicallyqueer

    Yes! Thanks as always, Jos, for highlighting the importance of more trans research. The suicide numbers are really the most shocking to me in our survey, but you’re exactly right–every topic the survey covers needs to be studied extensively. I’m hoping that more research funding becomes available and that more institutions support this kind of research in coming years, because the lack of it is making it so difficult to fight effectively for our community and provide education that results in change.