A recently released analysis of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS), a survey conducted among transgender and gender non-conforming adults in the U.S, has shed some much needed light on the experiences of trans and gender non-conforming asexual spectrum individuals. The resulting data will allow for more effective advocacy efforts from ace activists, and will encourage trans service providers to be ace-inclusive in their programming.
The analysis was released by UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute on March 22 and examines how trans people’s experiences of discrimination differ based on sexual orientation.
Among survey respondents, 4% identified as asexual. Although this number is somewhat higher than the estimated 1-2% of aces among the general population, it is unsurprising. According to data collected by the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) in 2014, as many as one in four aces are also trans or gender-variant.
The NTDS asked trans individuals to indicate (among other things) whether they had experienced various forms of discrimination. Compared with the average response among all survey respondents, ace respondents were more likely to report the following experiences in relation to transphobia:
- Workplace discrimination and harassment (excluding discrimination and harassment in sex work)
- Physical and/or sexual assault while in a K-12 school, had been expelled from any school, or had to leave school due to the severity of anti-trans harassment
- Family rejection
- Medical treatment refusal
- Eviction or denial of house/apartment
- Physical assault in public accommodations
- Been incarcerated, verbally harassed, physically assaulted, and/or denied equal treatment by police
Ace respondents were more likely to report that they had experienced homelessness. Additionally, they were more likely to report that they had attempted suicide than their z-sexual counterparts.
The data do not necessarily indicate causation. It is important to note that demographic factors among ace respondents could be influencing the results.
One possible explanation for these higher rates of discrimination is that the ace respondents tended to be older than respondents of other sexual orientations: an older respondent may have had more time in their lives to face various types of discrimination (especially employment discrimination), and may have grown up in a less progressive era.
Additionally, ace respondents in this survey were overwhelmingly trans women (70% compared with 49% for all survey respondents). Because trans women are more likely to face various types of discrimination, the higher proportion of ace trans women could contribute to the higher rates of discrimination toward aces that this analysis makes visible.
Regardless of the reasons for these rates of discrimination, two things are very clear: a sizeable proportion of trans individuals identify as ace, and these individuals are facing very real challenges. The analysis suggests that:
- Ace activists and advocacy organizations need to be more explicitly inclusive of trans and gender non-conforming aces.
- These activists and advocacy organizations should work more with trans organizations and service providers to help them support the aces that they work with.
- Trans organizations and service providers should ensure their resources and programs are ace-inclusive.
- Advocacy and support groups should be mindful of the ways that ace and trans identities may interact to create unique risk and resiliency factors.
- More research is needed on the various discriminations experienced by ace individuals.
The National Center on Transgender Equality, and the National LGBTQ Task Force should be applauded for their explicit inclusion of asexuality in the design of this survey, while the Williams Institute should be recognized for including this orientation in their survey analysis. Because research on the asexual spectrum is so limited, including asexual spectrum orientation options allows ace communities and advocacy organizations to better direct their resources, and helps non-ace organizations understand the need for ace-inclusion.
We at Asexual Outreach will continue to expand our explicit support for trans aces in our community while we encourage others to do the same.