Surveying the Transgender Scene

DC Trans Coalition carrying out needs assessment for transgender D.C. residents

By John Riley
Published on May 3, 2012, 1:20am | Comments

For the next six months to a year, the DC Trans Coalition (DCTC) will be surveying members of the District's transgender community in hopes of obtaining a fresh perspective on the major concerns facing transgender people.

DCTC hopes to collect at least 500 surveys from self-identified transgender people, particularly young women of color, in order to assess which city services are transgender-friendly and which are lacking. The surveys should produce quantifiable data that can be shared with service providers and officials who regularly interact with the transgender community, says transgender activist Ruby Corado of DCTC.

Ruby Corado
Ruby Corado
(File photo)

''We definitely want to make this available to anyone who is interested in finding out data on the transgender community in Washington, D.C.,'' she says. ''We are hopeful that government agencies will be looking at this data.''

With a similar survey undertaken in 2000, Corado told Metro Weekly in 2010, as the first steps were taken in this new effort, it's time for an update.

According to Elijah Edelman of DCTC, the aim of the project, which will continue for at least six more months, is to gain insight into the transgender community's access to culturally competent and trans-sensitive health care, employment, housing, education and immigration services. Edelman says the survey, being distributed now both online and in person, in both English and Spanish, can serve as guidance to service providers and transgender advocacy groups to define the obstacles facing the transgender community and propose practical solutions.

''I think advocacy is probably the No.1 goal of the research,'' he says.

Corado says the questions in the needs-assessment survey were based on a series of community roundtables with 108 transgender individuals who targeted certain issues of importance to members of the community. Working with the Williams Institute, a national think tank at the University of California, Los Angeles, focusing on sexual-orientation and gender-identity law and public policy; and American University, DCTC was able to incorporate the issues raised in the discussion groups and design the survey so that it would capture the information the group was seeking, Corado says.

Because the project is such a large undertaking, DCTC is going to train members of the transgender community to input survey findings into a database. Edelman expects it will take about a year to get any quantifiable results from the surveys.

Edelman says the biggest challenge is finding funding to carry out the project, since both those who take the survey and those who administer it are paid for their assistance. Through a combination of small donations, fundraisers and some larger donations from prominent individuals, including some City Council members, DCTC has been able to gather enough money to pay for 300 surveys, about 60 percent of the group's minimum target.

Edelman says that once the results are available, they can be used to shape policy or lobby for more resources, because activists will be able to cite specific data from the needs assessment. Once the survey results have been analyzed, the group hopes to work with government actors to create a task force to implement needed changes highlighted by the survey, which could include actions like restoring funding to organizations that cater to the transgender community, such Transgender Health Empowerment, which have suffered from cuts to social programs made during the recent recession.