The ability to leave the house and access public or shared spaces such as public transit, washrooms, restaurants, and schools is taken for granted by many non-trans people. However, trans people experience much prejudice, discrimination, and violence related to being trans. The fear of such harassment or violence is also bad for our health, and may result in avoiding public spaces. We found that two-thirds of trans Ontarians had avoided a public space or situation because of a fear of harassment, being “read” (perceived as trans), or outed. About half had avoided three or more spaces or situations. Washrooms were the most commonly avoided space (57% had ever avoided a public washroom). Read more
Research & Study Results
These two-to-three page reports are intended to provide snapshots of our results in easily-accessible formats and are available in both English and French.
Trans Ontarians experience high rates of unemployment, workplace discrimination, and poverty which can make them more vulnerable to incarceration. Approximately one-quarter of trans people in Ontario report being harassed by police because they are trans, while about a quarter of racialized, and a third of Aboriginal, trans people report police harassment because of their race or ethnicity. The limited research conducted on the prison experiences of trans people in Canada suggests that trans people who live in poverty, who are sex workers, and who use drugs frequently report police harassment, and may constitute the majority of trans people who are arrested and imprisoned. We also know that Aboriginal and Black people are over-represented in Canadian prisons.
Transphobia has been described as an “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against people whose gendered identities, appearances, or behaviours deviate from societal norms”. This includes transgender, transsexual, transitioned, transgender, and gender-queer people, as well as some two-spirit people. Transphobia exists within a context of cisnormativity, the expectation that all people are- and should be- cisgender, or non-trans. Transphobia includes acts of exclusion, discrimination, and violence, as well as attitudes that trans people may themselves internalize. Here we present information about the types and levels of transphobia experienced by trans people in Ontario.
We know that like transphobia, racism and ethnicity-related discrimination are bad for our health. The concept of minority stress can help us to understand how experiences of racism and ethnicity-related discrimination, in addition to transphobia and other forms of social oppression, can lead to negative physical and mental health outcomes. We understand racism to include both structural inequalities based on socially-constructed racial categories, and exposure to specific discriminatory events, though we will focus on the latter here. To date, research has not described experiences of racism and ethnicity-related discrimination among trans people in Ontario or Canada. Therefore, we sought to describe these experiences and their overall burden among non-Aboriginal white, non-Aboriginal racialized, and Aboriginal trans Ontarians.
Gender-related terms represent concepts that are important in how people self-identify and are rooted in social, institutional, and medical histories. Sex and gender have historically been binary—male and female—and these terms have been applied to appearance, identities, and anatomies. The assumption of two and only two categories that neatly apply to all aspects of an individual is reinforced by social, medical, religious and legal systems. A sex/gender label is generally carried throughout a person’s life and any presentation desire to change this or expand its boundaries can come at great personal costs, whether financial, emotional, or social. The information gathered by Trans PULSE challenges this binary and suggests that gender presentation and identity are more complicated with a range of diverse presentations. It also makes clear the need for further education for service providers, educators, and the rest of society.
A key to good health and quality of life is being fully included as a valued member of society, having access to a safe employment setting free of harassment and which provides meaning on a daily basis, and being able to rely on a secure income from one’s employment. There is a considerable negative impact when these social determinants of health are absent, compromised, or threatened. Recent results from the U.S. have documented high levels of discrimination and harassment in employment settings, but until now similar data have not been available in a Canadian context. While some non-explicit employment protections are in place for trans people in Canadian law, employment discrimination still exists. Trans PULSE findings showed that while 71% of trans people have at least some college or university education, about half make $15,000 per year or less. In light of this we sought to better understand the unique barriers to employment faced by trans Ontarians, and the discrimination they experience in the workplace.
Recently, the news has been filled with reports of anti-gay bullying and high suicide rates among lesbian, gay and bisexual youth. Unfortunately, there has been little discussion about the situation for trans people regarding suicide. Just-released data from a large U.S. study found that 41% of trans participants had ever attempted suicide in their lifetime, but they did not include information on who might be currently at risk. Trans PULSE has taken a unique snapshot of trans people across Ontario, Canada- people with a range of identities, relationships with their bodies, and personal beliefs about the necessity of physical transition. The information on suicide we present here was collected using a unique research method that allowed us to take the most statistically accurate picture of trans people possible in Ontario. We caution that this information is alarming. This situation demands immediate action on the part of our community, policy-makers, service providers and educators. It also underscores the need for parents and families come together to support trans people in Ontario.
Our knowledge about who trans people really are is unfortunately still very limited. Many studies have focused on only those who attend certain clinics, or seek out hormone treatment or sex reassignment surgeries.(1,2) More recent studies have tried to capture what trans people “look like” by surveying people in other venues.(3) Trans PULSE has taken a unique snapshot of trans people across Ontario – people with a range of identities, relationships with their bodies, and personal beliefs about the necessity of physical transition. The information we present was collected using a unique research method that would allow us to take the most statistically accurate picture of trans people possible in Ontario.