Thursday, July 14, 2016

South Carolina's Transgender Population Quadrupled in Ten Years

By Sabrina Samone, TMP

How many transgender people are there in the United States? That's a question some have had a hard time answering. Data from nearly a decade ago estimated nearly 700,000 in the United States, and barley 5,000 in South Carolina. The "estimates', are just that; gender identity is not something that U.S. government agencies like the Census Bureau have traditionally tracked, the accuracy of surveys can be compromised by those living stealth, afraid of coming out, afraid of discrimination in employment, and housing. Similar reasons that have plagued an under count with the Latino population for decades. Not too mention discrimination of being under counted by those doing the counting, but many institutions have, and are trying to give a number to the faces that are crying to the American public for equality. In the end, the visibility of those numbers will matter in this battle for civil rights.

New data this year, is shining a more accurate light on the number of Transgender Americans. A study published in June by the UCLA School of Law's Williams Institute; a think tank dedicated to conducting research on sexual orientation, and gender identity in law, and public policy, found that the number of transgender Americans has doubled what was previously thought: 06%, or 1.4 Million people.

To my surprise, being from South Carolina, it is interesting to note that the new study places South Carolina at 21st among Trans population in the U.S., with 5.8%, or 21,000 Transgender adults. Nothing at first glance to write home about, but thankful we find ourselves in the better half of the country, until you look at the past. In 2005, out of 104,000 LGBT persons in SC, there was estimated less than 5,000 transgender men, and women. One source placed the trans population of SC then at 45th, out of all states in USA. Wiki even listed South Carolina at #38 for overall LGBT population in 2000.  Though all these estimates are debatable due to the possible reasons for under counting, it is safe to say that if the latest count by the Williams Institute is the most accurate thus far, South Carolina's transgender population has not only quadrupled in ten years, but among the fastest growing in the country, with the most growth of it's trans population than any where else in the south east. I'm also pleased, that according to this diagram showing the concentration of LGBT people in South Carolina, that majority of us prefer the south eastern coast of SC, and TMP's choice to call home, Charleston/North
Charleston Metro area 844,526.

This information, does come at a critical time for all states, especially those of us in Red states where we are fighting for our simplest fundamental rights. Nearly 300,000 transgender youth, and adults may be negatively impacted by legislation introduced in 15 states. These proposed bills, would limit access to single-sex restrooms, and locker rooms at schools; limit protections based on gender identity: permit individuals, and businesses to discriminate against transgender people based on religious, and moral beliefs. Along with our constant fight for legal recognition with birth certificates, and state issued ID's.

Again, South Carolina has surprised many of us. While our neighbor to the north, North Carolina imposes their Nazi style HB2 law, and state issued SRS cards, our state Legislators and Governor Nikki Haley, a Republican said of a proposed Anti Trans bill, "I don't believe it's necessary. When I look at South Carolina, we look at our situations, we're not hearing of anybody's religious liberties that are being violated, and we're again not hearing any citizens that feel like they're being violated in terms of freedoms."

The bill not only quickly died in South Carolina, it rallied many supporters, and advocates to rush in new proposals to add gender identity to the  proposed hate crime bill in SC.  It will now give trans people protections they never had. The bill continued to back fire on Senator Bright, who proposed the bigoted agenda, by loosing his bid for re-election. Many in the SC LGBT community cheered the end of Senator "not so bright", and sighed a sigh of relief that we did not follow blindly in the footsteps of our southern neighbors, but the fight still continues for full equality.

When I started my transition ten years ago, I had to tell people here that TS didn't just stand for a tropical storm, and today I can proudly say one lone Republican Governor stood up for my rights, even to my wildest surprise. Yes many still can't find work, are harassed, and South Carolina still will not allow gender markers to be changed with out complete SRS, but there is something in the air that has never been here before for my people....HOPE, and it's growing.

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