Among the study’s primary findings was that trans women are 49 times more likely than mainstream populations to be living with HIV. The report details the series of risk factors that may be contributing to this statistic, which is even higher among trans women of color.
The study includes a number of recommendations, but the most integral is that further research is imperative. That the report was hailed as “shocking” is an indication that not nearly enough attention has been given, both in and outside of the LGBT community, to learning hard facts about what it actually is to live as a transgender person. In recent years, statistics have been emerging that one in five people living with HIV are unaware that they’re infected, or that more than 60 percent of new infections are among men who have sex with men; but where have the numbers been for transgender women?
There is a general dearth of LGBT health studies, but an even wider gap in information about the trans community. To the extent that it’s possible, trans women should not be conjoined with the MSM population; trans women and MSM are unique communities facing uniquely different conditions every day. To be able to proactively address issues that are often only popularized through anecdotal accounts, there needs to be a strong foundation of data. This study is a strong step in that direction.
Last week, a local state representative announced a plan to deal legislatively with some of those issues.
Rep. Mark Cohen said he will introduce a four-bill package that will address such issues as trans-inclusive benefits for state employees and transition-related treatment under Medicaid. But, as Cohen acknowledged, the legislation faces a steep uphill battle and the bills’ introduction is largely aimed at just starting the conversation.
This is a conversation that should have been started years ago.
To make up for this gap, the effort needs to be redoubled. Researchers need to be generating good data about who the trans community is. Lawmakers need to be incorporating trans-inclusivity as a benchmark of their civil-rights platforms. And the LGBT and ally community needs to be considering discrimination, or neglect, of one segment of its population as an offense to all.