When transgender students experience harassment, they often leave college

The latest U.S. Transgender Survey, released in 2015 by the National Center for Transgender Equality, is the largest-ever survey of trans adults in the history of the nation. 

The survey asked 27,715 transgender people about their experiences in all aspects of life—from mental health, to family life, to employment. Many of the findings held implications for college administrators.

Out of the survey respondents who attended college or vocational school, less than half (46%) said that members of their schools' community—including classmates, faculty, and staff—knew they were transgender.

Of this percentage who reported their school communities did know they were transgender, the survey found that nearly a quarter (24%) reported being verbally, physically, or sexually harassed.

By race, the percentage of students who reported they had been harassed were:

  • 37% of American Indian students;
  • 28% of black students;
  • 27% of Middle Eastern students;
  • 23% of white students;
  • 23% of Latino/a students; and
  • 22% of Asian students. 

Out of these students who reported having experienced harassment, 16% reported having left college or vocational school on account of the harassment. Broken down by gender:

  • 21% of transgender women who experienced harassment dropped out;
  • 16% of transgender men who experienced harassment reported the same; and
  • 12% of non-binary students who experienced harassment reported the same.

The survey also considered respondents' current employment status.

Some respondents reported that they currently work in the underground economy, and these were among the most likely to report leaving college because of harassment. Nearly one third of respondents working in the underground economy say harassment pushed them from college.

Out of all respondents who had attended college or vocational school at some point, the survey found that 1% had been expelled or forced out of school, and 5% left school for other reasons that had to do with their transgender identities. 

From our experts: Creating gender-inclusive restrooms on campus

The survey then looked at the students who are currently enrolled in school, of which:

  • 47% said none of their classmates knew they were transgender;
  • 28% said some of their classmates knew they were transgender;
  • 10% said most of their classmates knew they were transgender; and
  • 15% said all of their classmates knew they were transgender.

Among respondents reporting that some, most, or all of their classmates knew they were transgender:

  • 39% said their classmates were neither supportive nor unsupportive;
  • 35% said their classmates were supportive;
  • 21% said their classmates were very supportive;
  • 4% said their classmates were unsupportive; and
  • 1% said their classmates were very unsupportive.

(Segal, PBS, 12/8/15; USTS report, accessed 12/12/15).

Learn how to support LGBTQ+ students

The 10 most LGBTQ-friendly colleges

3 easy changes that build a more inclusive campus

What your transgender students want on campus (other than bathrooms)

The change 20 colleges made to make campus more inclusive

8 ways to make classrooms welcoming to transgender students

Why inclusion efforts aren't keeping up with diversity on campus—and what you can do to fix it


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