Saturday, April 23, 2016

what it means to be transgender

The cover of Lovesexy
Gary Gates is an LGBT demographer at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law’s Williams Institute, which studies sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy. He is responsible for one of the most frequently cited estimates of the transgender population — 700,000, about 0.3 percent of U.S. adults. That figure is based on data from two surveys. One, conducted in Massachusetts in 2007 and 2009, found that 0.5 percent of respondents ages 18 to 64 identified as transgender. The other, done in California in 2003 to look at trends in LGBT tobacco use, found that 0.1 percent of adults in California identified as transgender. Using the surveys to get to the 0.3 percent estimate “takes a lot of statistical gymnastics,” Gates said.

He acknowledged his estimate has “substantial limitations,” adding that the only way to do better is to use nationwide surveys.

Gates has spent most of his career trying to convince survey writers to better include LGBT Americans in their research. Major breakthroughs have been made. In 2013, after years of consultation, the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey included a section on sexual orientation. As a result, nationally representative data is available for the first time on lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans — but asking questions on gender identity is still a long way off.

That’s partly because there is disagreement about what it means to be transgender, and because of some people’s reluctance to identify themselves that way.

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