Grant Presents Findings on Transgender Discrimination

Jaime Grant, a gay rights advocate, shared her work studying social injustices against the transgender minority in the United States with the Andover community last Friday. Grant, who co-authored a study titled “National Transgender Discrimination Survey,” is currently the Executive Director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Mich. For the study, Grant surveyed 6,450 transgender individuals over the course of three years, beginning in 2005. The survey included “70 questions that [our team] hoped would paint a picture for the world about the state of transgender human rights violations in the U.S.,” said Grant. Forty-one percent of the survey’s respondents said they had attempted suicide at some point in their lives, according to Grant. “[That was] the most devastating statistic in the study,” she said. In addition, the poverty rate of the transgender population is four times higher than that of the general population, according to the study. Seventy-eight percent of the survey’s respondents said they experienced harassment before the 12th grade, and 31 percent reported that the harassment was perpetrated by their teachers, rather than their peers. The Gender and Sexuality Alliance Club (GSA) invited Grant to campus to present her study as well as to discuss student participation in social advocacy, according to Gabbi Fisher ’13, Co-Head of GSA. “The first rule of social justice leadership… is that you should always start with yourself,” said Grant. “There’s a reason that social movements are led by young people… young people see the insanity of injustice… [and] can see past [it] to change [what] we cannot even imagine. So go, go, go. Don’t listen to the nay-sayers. Grow a community that will nurture your thinking and your best self and do what you know you must do to remake the world into a more just, humane and loving place.” Grant, who is married to a trans-masculine woman, drew from her own experience to emphasize the importance of social advocacy. Coming from a Catholic background, she had to choose between her sexual identity, her religion and her family. This personal struggle affected her health and later led to drug and alcohol abuse, she said. “It was really hard for me, as a person coming out, to just turn my back on Catholicism… it was very painful, and… I definitely think my drug addiction was partly [due to] that sense of that void, of just having kind of a spiritual death and not knowing what to do or where to go with my tradition,” said Grant. “I hope that people realized how the intersection of multiple identities affects someone’s life,” wrote Kai Kornegay ’14, Co-Head of GSA, in an e-mail to The Phillipian. “[Transgender issues are] an area where a lot of folks still need some good education and awareness… we as a society still have a hard time talking about gender,” said Frank Tipton, Faculty Advisor to GSA and Advisor on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues. “I’m grasping [the] fluidity of sexuality and gender… but the presentation started to confirm that it’s a real thing,” said Jaleel Williams ’15. Fisher hopes that Grant’s presentation will spur future discussion on campus about transgender issues. “We hope that we will include more discussions about the transgender identity in our [GSA] club meetings because we feel like even in the past two years we haven’t discussed that identity as much as LGB [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual] identities, for example,” said Fisher.