By Joanna Fantozzi
Students, professors and guests from other universities filled the Mildred and Ernest E. Mayo concert Hall on Friday April 16 to hear Jamie Grant, director of the Policy Institute at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, speak about transgender rights. Grant discussed the results of an innovative new survey that gave a voice to over 6,000 transgendered Americans.
The event was sponsored by the department of women and gender studies and took place during the “National Day of Silence,” where students nationwide are silent for one day in an effort to dramatize the effect of silenced members of the LGBT community.
Grant, who has a Ph.D. in Women’s Studies at the Union Institute and has led the nation’s only academic women’s center at the Union Institute, spoke about the survey that was led by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and helped transgendered people tell their story.
“I want to create a different portrait of transgender people. The old study is that they are on the fringe of society and aren’t like you and me,” Grant said.
The National Task Force that administered the study was founded in 1973, and was part of the effort to take homosexuality out of psychiatric handbooks and diagnoses. The survey was their latest advancement in educating the public about the LGBT community.
According to Grant, it was very difficult to implement the survey due to limited funds and resources.
Grant said the 70-question survey took eight months and covered a wide range of topics including gender association, housing, employment and harassment. The 6,500 respondents made up the largest sample ever collected in a survey of its kind.
“Our data tells a very dramatic story,” she said.
Grant shocked the audience with statistics like 46 percent of FTM (female to male) transgendered people surveyed have attempted suicide, 70 percent of transgendered people report having been harassed in school and 20 percent reported being harassed by teachers.
“We were pretty much weeping around the table about the suicide statistics, but it confirmed what we already knew,” Grant said.
The survey’s first question, “Do you identify as gender non-conforming in any way” produced varied results such as one respondent’s gender identification of FTX, or female to “blank” or “question mark.”
After Grant’s lecture was finished the floor was open for questions.
“I didn’t realize there was so much discrimination,” Pam Rotter, a sophomore art education major, said. “It was definitely an eye-opening experience.”