Dr. Alex Abramovich, Scientist with CAMH’s Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, is being recognized by York Regional Police for his research and advocacy in LGBTQ2S youth and young adult homelessness, housing and health. The honour will be presented on November 20 as part of a Trans Day of Remembrance ceremony. Here, Dr. Abramovich explains the importance of the day of remembrance – and points to the work still ahead for researchers.
November 20, 2018 marks 20 years since the first Transgender Day of Remembrance, an international annual memorial to transgender (trans) people who have been killed around the world due to transphobic hatred and violence. The day also raises awareness around the continued violence experienced by trans individuals globally.
The experience of discrimination and violence varies within the trans population. For example, trans women of colour face the highest rates of discrimination and violence, and are more likely to experience violent crime, sexual assault and murder. They are stigmatized, silenced and made to be invisible in every way.
Population studies estimate between 0.5 and 1.3 per cent of adults identify as trans, with about 25 million trans people worldwide. However, decades of poor data collection and a lack of understanding and acknowledgment of the wide range of gender identities that exist have resulted in underestimates of the size of the trans population.
When we don’t ask inclusive questions, we do not collect accurate data.
Researchers still do not understand the importance of asking all participants what their gender identity is, instead forcing people into binary categories of female and male, often based on their own perceptions. When trans people are not included in key surveys, reports and research, it reinforces erasure of the trans population and trans people are excluded from consideration in the development of policies and programs.
It is well documented that trans individuals face multiple barriers accessing health care, housing, employment and education as a result of stigma, discrimination and structural violence, and experience negative physical and mental health outcomes and high rates of disease burden, including a high prevalence of mental health issues, suicide, depression, anxiety and substance use, as well as HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
As an openly trans man who has been addressing LGBTQ2S youth homelessness for over a decade, I can say first-hand that far too many trans individuals cannot leave the house without being stared at, yelled at or assaulted, and countless young people are kicked out of their homes by their parents after coming out. Trans people continue to be discriminated against when trying to access public bathrooms. The mental health implications are severe and can have a lasting negative impact.
A recent study reports that 77 per cent of trans people in Ontario had seriously considered suicide and 43 per cent had attempted suicide. Trans youth were found to be at the greatest risk of suicidality.
I very much look forward to a future in which trans people are no longer pathologized, othered, assaulted or murdered, a future in which we do not have to gather on November 20 because trans lives are valued.
Until then, we must advocate for the inclusion and safety of all trans individuals. The fight for trans rights is far from over.