Transgender Arkansans faced higher levels of unemployment, poverty and psychological distress than the population at large in 2015. That's according to a new study from the National Center for Transgender Equality. Of the 222 Arkansas residents surveyed, 11 percent were unemployed, 37 percent were living in poverty and 44 percent experienced severe psychological distress in the month prior to completing the survey.
The center's Executive Director Mara Keisling says the state-based findings are consistent with the organization’s larger survey of 27,715 people from around the U.S.
“We saw the same sort of economic marginalization in Arkansas that we saw across the country. We saw people who had been fired. We saw people who were disproportionately homeless. We saw people who faced physical assault and sexual assault,” said Keisling.
In 2015, the state of Arkansas had an overall unemployment rate of five percent, while the national poverty rate was 14 percent. In the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, five percent of the U.S. population reported experiencing severe psychological stress in the month prior.
The NCTE study found that 27 percent of Arkansan respondents reported having been homeless at some point in their lives. 22 percent said they experienced some form of housing discrimination because of their gender identity.
Keisling says the Arkansan respondents who completed the survey online lived in all corners of the state.
“They were all across Arkansas, they were in little towns, they were in big cities, they were in out in the middle-of-nowhere towns. And the proportion of the overall sample population that was in Arkansas is about what we’d expect based on national representation of Arkansas,” Keisling said.
And even after prospects of a bathroom bill passing the 91st Arkansas General Assembly withered last month, the NCTE report shows that many transgender Arkansans may still face discrimination when attempting to use public restrooms. The study found that nine percent of respondents reported being denied access to a public restroom. Sixty-two percent of respondents said they avoided public restrooms out of fear of confrontations.
Keisling hopes the study can help transgender people who encounter difficulties in their day to day lives understand they are not to blame.
“When a transgender person is physically assaulted or is afraid to visit a doctor or is afraid to call the police for help, they can know it’s not them. It is something about how society is treating transgender people as a whole that is why individual trans people are marginalized.”
To view the full Arkansas report, click here.