Trans Care Basics: Clinical Work with the Transgender Population

On March 7, the NYU Silver School of Social Work’s student organization Pride in Practice (PiP), in partnership with NYU Silver’s Out Faculty, hosted a seminar titled Trans Care Basics: Clinical Work with the Transgender Population. The workshop—supported by a 2015 Social Justice and Diversity Grant—focused on educating students and mental health professionals on best practices for addressing the complex, systemically intersecting issues affecting transgender individuals.

Carrie Davis, chief programs and policy officer at Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, began the two-hour workshop with a multimedia presentation that provided an overview of pertinent statistics affecting this diverse, often-persecuted, and chronically underrepresented population. At the crux is a lack of representative statistics for the number of many individuals in the United States identifying as transgender. For example, a medical model survey conducted by the Los Angeles Department of Public Health estimated that 0.1-0.3 percent of Angelenos are transgender (this number is much higher than most extant estimates), which would generalize to approximately 21,000 individuals in New York City. But these numbers are not likely an accurate representation of a population for whom self-disclosure is often accompanied by discrimination, oppression, and violence.

The statistics Davis shared were sobering and staggering. For transgender individuals who have transitioned, 47 percent report workplace discrimination and 75 percent report harassment within school. Trans women are six times more likely to experience violence at the hands of police. “For the transgender community, the United States is the second most dangerous place in the world. So far this year, every 1.6 days a trans person is murdered,” said Davis, citing numbers from the organizations Transgender Europe and Trans Murder Monitoring. She noted that’s a “400 percent increase in 2015,” a number that’s been referenced in popular media.

Population statistics for the transgender community are also likely impacted by the limitations of existing gender models, and semantic differences. Many surveys that ask individuals to disclose their gender utilize a binary (male/female) or Traditional Gender Model, and do not offer an option for transgender individuals.

Even progressive forms that do allow transgender, may not utilize language that is representative/relevant to the individual respondent. As Davis explained, “transgender is an umbrella term,” a catchall to attempt to encompass groups of people for whom gender is neither binary nor fixed. “Trans isn’t necessarily a transitional point on the way to binary gender expression,” she said. Many individuals fall within a gender spectrum, and identify as gender non-conforming, or genderqueer. For these individuals and others, Davis stated, “The Traditional Gender Model doesn’t actually fit large numbers of people. There’s no room for complexity.”

Throughout the event, attendees were asked to contribute their own practice experiences, and Davis encouraged an air of collaborative inquiry among the attendees. The Trans Care Basics event endowed all its participants with the critical lens and skill set necessary to examine the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic status.