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Trans people well-educated, underemployed: report

68 percent of trans Ontarians live outside Toronto

“We’re sitting on undoubtedly the biggest resource on trans lives and trans health in Canada,” says Greta Bauer, lead investigator with the Trans Pulse survey, which surveyed more than 400 trans people in Ontario.

This first bulletin covers basic trans demographics in Ontario. In addition to highlighting the great diversity among trans people in terms of ethnic background, age, parenting status and other areas, it points out that an estimated 68 percent of trans people in Ontario do not live in metropolitan Toronto — “which really highlights the need for trans-appropriate services outside Toronto,” says Bauer.

The bulletin also provides some sobering numbers.

“You can see just how underemployed trans people are, even though they’re pretty well-educated across the board,” Bauer points out. “Half make less than $15,000 a year and only 7 percent make more than $80,000. The numbers are pretty disturbing.”

The first set of Trans Pulse results has now been released. In total, according to Bauer, 433 people filled out the 87-page questionnaire — fewer than the team had hoped, but still a very significant number.

“The 1,000 was a number we pulled out of thin air,” says Bauer. “We aimed high. Part of the reason is that we wanted to make sure we had the funding if we did get that many.”

Bauer says recruitment moved at a slow pace due to the project’s respondent-driven sampling (RDS) method. In RDS studies, the only way for a person to obtain a survey to fill out was through someone who had already done so. Also, the survey was a whopping 87 pages long.

“With that in mind, we were absolutely thrilled that over 400 people were willing to fill it out!”

According to Bauer, the RDS method provides much more reliable data than simpler methods such as convenience sampling; for example, they were able to weight results based on the probability that people in a given region would be recruited.

“Trans people’s health is not on everyone’s radar, so we wanted the data to be as bulletproof as possible.”

The first set of data was released as an e-bulletin, available online at transpulse.ca.

“It’s the first of a series of many e-bulletins. It was important to us that if trans people took so much of their time and shared so much of their personal info with us, that we have community accessibility.”

Future bulletin topics will include housing, the long-term effects of hormone therapy and the factors that affect depression for trans people. More detailed analyses will also come out in academic papers, which the team will make available in open-access journals so that people not affiliated with a university have access to them.

The team also plans to use its data to produce reports for specific issues and projects, for example, to support the development of new policies surrounding the soon-to-be-updated process for accessing sex reassignment surgery (SRS) in Ontario.

“What we’re doing is using our data to help them strategize around what the community needs are going to be so that barriers to care for SRS are lowered,” says Bauer.

The Trans Pulse team was recently approved for two additional years of funding by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, lasting through 2012. “We now have the capacity to keep coming out with results. So people can expect a lot of data over a long time.”

Landing photo of Greta Bauer courtesy of transpulse.ca.