An Indiana Senate committee moved a bill forward Wednesday evening that would extend limited civil rights protections for gay and lesbian Hoosiers with various exemptions for those with strongly held religious beliefs. However, Senate bill 344 does not include protections of any sort for transgender persons in the state.
Freedom Indiana, Indiana Competes, and other advocate organizations have denounced the legislation as it currently reads because of the exclusion of transgender Hoosiers.
Whether or not legislators like the idea, transgender persons exist and live in Indiana. And while the state doesn’t specifically track transgender issues, national statistics illustrate the need for transgender rights and awareness education. By doing so, Indiana could find positive trends in other seemingly unrelated issues such as teen suicide, poverty, human trafficking, violent crime and healthcare.
1. Teen suicide is a big issue in Indiana.
Indiana has the highest rate of attempted teen suicides and the second highest rate for successful teen suicides in the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says suicide has been the second leading cause of death among teens in Indiana since 2009. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey
conducted by the Williams Law Institute at UCLA, attempted suicide rates in the transgender community are especially high. Trans men attempt suicide at a rate of 46 percent while trans women attempt suicide at a rate of 42 percent. The numbers are higher when isolated to young people.
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2. Poverty and homelessness is a big issue in Indiana.
Transgender people are often rejected by their families and kicked out of their homes. The Williams Institute survey
indicates 69 percent of transgender people have experienced homelessness and up to 90 percent have experienced harassment or discrimination in the workplace. Unemployment is double the rate among trans people compared to the general population and they are four times more likely to have a household income under $10,000. Shelter staff harasses more than half of transgender people who try to gain assistance from homeless shelters and 29 percent are denied services entirely.
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3. Sex trafficking is a growing issue in Indiana.
Indiana is limited in its reporting of human trafficking in general. Human trafficking, including sex trafficking, in the LGBT community is even more underreported. However, a 2013 study of homeless teens in New York City
indicated 25 percent traded sex for shelter and a third of all homeless teens were a part of the LGBTQ community. Another study by the U.S. Justice Department found that their friends brought 68 percent of transgender youth under the age of 16 into the sex trade. Many of the teens surveyed said the sex trade was the only way to make combat poverty and/or abusive homes.
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4. Violent crime is an issue in Indiana.
According to the Williams Institute study, 35 percent of transgender kids in k-12 schools reported being physically assaulted while 12 percent said they were sexually abused. A 2013 report from the National Coalition of Anti Violence Programs
indicated 72 percent of victims in anti-LGBT homicide are transgender women and 67 percent of those homicide victims are trans women of color. Tajshon Ashley Sherman, an African-American transgender woman was murdered in Indianapolis in 2014. Indianapolis native Papi Edwards, also an African-American, was shot and killed in Louisville, Kentucky in 2015.
5. Public health and the cost of healthcare are issues in Indiana.
Transgender people have alarmingly high rates of HIV infection, more than 4 times the national average. According to the Williams Institute survey, 28 percent of trans people postponed medical care due to discrimination and 48 percent postponed care due to the inability to pay for it. Because of social and economic marginalization, transgender people have exceedingly higher rates of tobacco, alcohol and drug addiction compared to the general population. And for those trans people who do actively take care of their health, 50 percent report having to educate their medical providers about transgender health issues.