A local university included LGBT issues, with a focus on the transgender community, at a research forum Wednesday. Harper Jean Tobin, the director of policy for the National Center for Transgender Equality, and researchers presented findings at the Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership’s 2017 Helen I. Moorehead-Laurencin, MD Sex and Gender Research Forum. The event, held at Drexel University’s Gerri C. Lebow Hall, highlighted the college’s research on sex and gender.
Tobin, the keynote speaker, kicked off the event by presenting findings from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, which can be found at www.ustranssurvey.org. The transgender woman began by discussing how President Donald Trump’s administration withdrew guidance the departments of Justice and Education issued in 2016 to support transgender students.
“I don’t know about you but I had a rough couple of weeks,” Tobin said. “Not as rough — mind you — as the hundreds of thousands of young people and their families, whom I advocate for, who are both heartbroken and scared about how they are going to be treated in school for the rest of the school year.”
Tobin incorporated stories about how transgender people deal with day-to-day life. She noted that other researchers found it “baffling” that NCTE was able to get participants to fill out a lengthy 300-question survey and said it speaks to “how acutely aware transgender people are of the lack of and need for information” about their lives.
“Body parts and endocrinology, how we’re labeled at birth, don’t matter,” Tobin said. “Trans people are acutely aware of how much they matter. Ask a transgender man who has ever made an appointment for a Pap smear or a transgender woman who has ever spent an entire first date worrying what is going to happen when she discloses that some parts of her body are not, at present, what her date would expect.”
Tobin presented information and percentages about transgender experiences with identification documents, performing sex work, police interactions, airport security, bathrooms and overall visibility.
The speaker said two-thirds of participants in the national survey said did not have government-issued identification matching their gender identity. Tobin introduced this information by requesting the audience to take out their IDs.
“Take it out. Look at it,” Tobin said. “FInd where on it it lists what your gender is. How did that letter get there? Did you check a box? Did somebody else check a box for you? Has anyone you’ve shown it to ever checked what that letter said? Have you ever had a job where you checked people’s ID for any reason? Did you ever check what the gender said on it? Why is it actually there?”
Tobin also incorporated personal stories into her presentation. She referenced a time when she stayed in a California hospital for a “stomach bug.”
“I was on edge every moment about whether being trans would come up and lead to some unpleasant conversation with staff whom I was depending on,” she said.
Tobin answered audience questions following her speech. One audience member referenced the seven transgender women of color who were murdered in the country this year and asked what her organization was doing to protect the community from such violence. Tobin said NCTE has worked to put the issue in the public conversation and to urge law enforcement to adequately investigate and stop misgendering victims.
“There is not one solution to it,” Tobin said. “We have to keep talking about it. We have to insist that our government can talk about it, respond to it, document it and investigate it and we have to keep doing everything else that we can to improve the conditions of people’s daily lives so they are not exposed to and targeted for violence so readily.”
The forum also featured several “Flash Talks” where researchers presented information in four-minute segments. LGBT-focused sessions included “Breast Cancer Screening in the Transgender Community” and “Attachment-Based Family Therapy for Suicidal LGBTQI Youth: An Implementation Study.”
The full live feed of the Sex and Gender Research Forum can be viewed at drexel.edu/medicine/sgrf.