Transgender Day of Remembrance

Yesterday was the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR).   Its purpose is to highlight the violence experienced by transgender people this past year.  There has been 238 transgender, transsexual, and gender nonconforming (trans) people on this years TDOR list, but we will never know the exact number of people killed.  What is crucial is to acknowledge that most of the people on this list (and of every list since the Day of Remembrance first started) are trans women of color, many also poor, and many very young (the youngest being 13 years of age).  What is also significant is the amount of violence these young people experienced:  Multiple gunshots, multiple stabbings, multiple physical blows, and even beheadings.  There perpetrators doing vast amounts of damage as if to literally remove any trace of these people from this world.  Can you imagine hating someone that much?  Can you imagine being on the receiving end of that hate.

One of the first activities I was involved with once I came out as transgender in 1994 was volunteer to help with GenderPAC’s transgender violence study.  At the time no one was interested in doing transgender related research.  This was also before people noticed that many trans people (especially young trans women of color) were being infected with HIV and dying.  I volunteered to do data entry, analysis, and to write up the results of the many surveys sent to me.  Over 400 surveys were delivered to my door roughly from 1995 to 1996.  Many were pretty easy to deal with if not aggravating (experiences of discrimination, verbal harassment), but there were always a few that talked about the extreme violence they’ve experienced by strangers or by supposed loved ones as well.  I never knew about the one’s who were never given the chance to fill out one of our surveys.

1998 was important in that people decided that the trans people who had their lives taken needed to be honored.  That was the start of the Transgender Day of Remembrance.  I think I’ve been to a ceremony every year (mostly), I’ve even organized a few.  Many things have changed.  More jurisdictions have established anti-discrimination and hate crimes legislation, even at the federal level there have been some changes that is beneficial to many transgender people.  But there are still too many names added to the Day of Remembrance list.  There are also those who after failing to turn the tide against same-gender marriage are now turning on the most vulnerable group within the trans community; young trans people.  Cristan Williams from the Transadvocate has been very busy detailing the lies and the harassment being done to young trans people (especially young trans women).  The issue is whether young trans people will be given the social space to express their identities safely.

This Day of Remembrance I want to remember those who were taken away through such horrendous violence because somebody (or somebodies) did not believe that they deserved to live.  I also want to remember those who are still with us but also facing hate and ignorance that may make life unbearable.  To both groups, you are in my thoughts.


Testing Gender Identity and Expression Measures in a Trans and Cis Sample

These are the results to the study my colleagues and I conducted last year for the Williams Institute as part of their Gender Identity in U.S. Surveillance (GenIUSS) Project.  A PDF copy is available.


Health research examining the disparities faced by gender minorities (transgender, transsexual, and other gender nonconforming individuals) has reached a stage where population based studies are needed in order to expand upon what smaller, community based studies have identified within the population.  One of the issues hindering the inclusion of measures needed to identify gender minority populations is the lack of measures that can effectively identify gender minority populations but can be understood by gender majority populations and provide data usable by researchers.  This study examined measures that can identify gender identity/gender transition and gender expression by conducting cognitive interviews with 50 people (25 gender minority, 25 gender majority).  The interviews asked people to read and answer the questions; afterwards they were interviewed about why they answered the way they did.  The gender identity/gender transition question was found to be understood by all participants and only requires small changes to improve its usage.  The researchers found gender minority and majority participants to have problems answering the gender expression questions.  The results show that the gender expression measures may not be effective when used in a population based study.    Researchers conclude that the gender identity/gender transition questions would be effective in quantitative studies and be useful in identifying health disparities among gender minority populations.

Examination of Gender Identity and Expression Measures within a Mid – West Sample: Report to the Williams Institute

#GLMA13 Poster Abstract: Questions to Identify Gender Diversity

Questions to Identify Gender Diversity

Emilia Lombardi, PhD; Swagata Banik, PhD; Jesper Zuber; and Katherine Mitchell
Baldwin Wallace University, Berea, Ohio

The study was supported with a grant by the Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law as part of the Gender Identity in U.S. Surveillance (GenIUSS) Project


Transgender has been defined generally as not conforming to societal norms of gender, or specifically to having a gender identity and/or expression that is contrary to one’s assigned sex at birth.  The term is used to refer to a broad range of identities and expressions within the United States and other English speaking countries.  There are efforts to identify study measures that are able to identify transgender populations, but little is known about how cisgender men and women will respond to those questions


The study interviewed 25 cisgender and transgender men and women to cognitively test how individuals respond to questions about transition status, gender nonconformity, and birth-sex assignment (the two-step and gender nonconformity measures).  The results will help assess the utility and understanding of quantitative measures designed to people’s transition status and gender nonconformity.


Factors discussed include the understandability of the questions and participants ability to accurately identify people’s transition status and gender nonconformity in a manner that has high reliability and validity within quantitative analysis.  Generally, participants were able to easily answer questions relating to transition status but had more difficulty regarding gender expression


Results will show that measures to identify transgender populations can be effectively used on cisgender populations, while still being able to identify transgender populations.

Lombardi GLMA poster

Trans veterans study finds high rate of suicide related events

Prevalence of Gender Identity Disorder and Suicide Risk Among Transgender Veterans Utilizing Veterans Health Administration Care


The paper is very unique in that the authors are utilizing a database that allowed them to examine trans people along side a cis sample within the Veterans Health Administration database  They identified their trans sample based on those who were given CD-9 diagnosis codes for Gender Identity Disorder (GID) from 2000-2011 (They did not utilize self-identification for their study).  They identified 3177 unique trans people within the time period (the vast majority were military personnel and not dependents).  They report two interesting findings.

The first was the increase in the prevalence of people being given GID diagnoses from 13/100,000 in 2002 to 23/100,000 in 2011.  There measure of prevalence was much higher than estimates made for general populations.  The implication being either that military populations have a greater percentage of trans people then general populations (i.e. Flight into hypermasculinity).  They do not identify the difference between those assigned male and those assigned female, but identify that 95% of the VHA data were assigned male.  This is one issue I have with this study.  Another possibility is that general population estimates under represent trans populations.  This may be true as the number of people given a GID diagnosis have been increasing overtime within the VHA dataset.

The second part of the study was to examine rates of suicide related measures among this population.  They found their sample to have a very high rate of suicide related events, much higher than rates found within general populations (of cis people).  They can’t say if rates are different from non-veteran trans people.

While the study is not perfect it is an important step in the study of the health issues of trans populations.  We need to include population based studies of trans people along with community based convenience samples.  This is the reason why measures are needed to effectively identify trans samples within larger populations, so that studies like this one can be done.  There are those who would question this considering the small number of trans people found within general populations studies, and the percentage of trans people within the VA study itself represented .02%% of the total VA data-set.  However, its important because while trans people represent a small population, they are likely to experience higher levels of social and health disparities that require some sort of intervention.




The Beginning of a Transgender Sociologist

1994 was the start of two of the most significant things to happen in my life.  One was the start of my PhD program, and the other was coming out as transgender.  In a way, both were tied very closely to each other.  I began to use what I was learning in my PhD program to help me learn more about what it means to be transgender, so using my new skills searching for information at my University’s library.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t much sociological literature on the subject.

Psychology and psychiatry had a long history of writings on the subject, but they were focused on transsexualism as an illness and there was very little I found useful.  I had classes on the sociology of mental illness and read the literature on stigma and saw what was written as being representative of the way society seeks to control and minimize any form of gender nonconformity.  This was not the way I was viewing myself and trans issues; I was hoping more for a critical perspective.

Fortunately 1994 was the year of two significant (for me) publications.  The first was Kate Bornstein’s book “Gender Outlaw” (I still have it and managed to get her to autograph later), and the other was an essay by Susan Stryker called “My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix:  Performing Transgender Rage”.   Both articulated a critical response to the experiences faced by transgender people.  These, along with Sandy Stone’s Essay “The Empire Strikes Back: a Posttranssexual Manifesto”, were very important in that they were other woman who are thinking the same things I was thinking.  That being trans wasn’t an illness and that trans people face numerous problems in their daily lives.  I would think that sociology would be very interested in investigating the inequities faced by trans people, but that’s not what I found.

One of the few articles I found at the time was “The process of deviance designation: The case of the homosexual transvestite” (Authors: LM Fournet, CJ Forsyth, CT Schramm) that was published in the Free Inquiry in Creative Sociology in 1988.  A very hard to find article, but one that represents the general view within sociology, that trans people represents a form of deviancy.   However, another article surprised me the most. “The socio-medical construction of transsexualism: An interpretation and critique” (Authors:  D. B. Billings and T. Urban) Published in the journal Social Problems.  In this case the social problem in question was being a transsexual, and individuals such as myself are just confused.   I wasn’t finding anything within the discipline that I felt that was actually dealt with the actual lives of transgender people.  So I felt it was important that I work to change that.

In 1996 I began to be more active as trans professionally.  I even chaired a session at the American Sociological Association meeting in New York City inviting local activists to talk about transgender issues.  I also recall a presentation on an HIV program in Rio de Janeiro targeting transgender women involved in sex work.  The topic of HIV and Transgender issues being very important to me and I was hoping to get some valuable information.  Unfortunately the talk was peppered with photos of topless trans women.  When this was brought up the answer that was given was that they consented and this is what they did to find clients.   Still a graduate student, I didn’t know how to react to the actions of a senior sociologist.   Unfortunately this also the beginning of my disenchantment with discipline of sociology, I eventually finished my program and started a post-doc in Los Angeles.  Shortly after that I legally and medically transitioned (thanks to the resources and support available in LA), but what I didn’t know at the time was that it also was the beginning of my transition from sociology to public health.

Project Summary: Finding Measures to Identify Gender Minority Populations

Research examining health disparities among gender minorities (transgender, transsexual, and other gender nonconforming individuals) has reached a stage where population based studies are needed in order to expand upon what smaller, community based studies have found.

However, the diversity of terminology and operationalization of various gender minority groups has made it difficult to identify a measure that can be used globally.

At the same time, it will be necessary to create a measure that can be understood by gender majority populations and correctly differentiate between gender majority and minority populations.

One concept that stands out is gender identity/gender transition.  Gender identity/gender transition is defined by people’s answers to two questions, one asking about one’s sex assigned at birth and another about their current sex or gender.  This “two-step” question is being advocated by the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health.

A preliminary study utilizing the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force examined the relationship between gender identity/gender transition and discrimination.  A dichotomous measure was based on two questions:

What sex were you assigned at birth
What is your primary gender identity Male      Female
Male/Man No          Yes
Female/Woman Yes         No
Part-time No          No
Other No          No

The measure identified those whose primary gender identity was consistently different from their sex assigned at birth (yes versus no).

Another concept is that of gender nonconformity.  Gender nonconformity was measured by a single question “People can tell I’m transgender/gender non-conforming even if I don’t tell them?”.  The variable ranged from zero (never) to four (always).

Plotting these two variables against people’s experiences with discrimination resulted in the following:


Those who were identified as having a gender different from their assigned sex were found to report more experiences of discrimination; even at higher levels of gender nonconformity.

The above data was found to show that a two-step gender identity question could be useful in identifying those likely to experience greater social disparities among transgender populations.  The next step was to examine whether gender majority individuals can understand and answer these questions in a way that represents their gender majority status.

Another study (funded by the Williams Institute, UCLA) examined gender identity/gender transition measures by conducting cognitive interviews with 50 people (25 gender minority, 25 gender majority).  The interviews asked people to read and answer the questions; afterwards they were interviewed about why they answered the way they did.

The study utilized these questions:

1. What is your sex or gender? (Check ALL that apply)
  • Male
  • Female
  • Other: Please specify: _____________________
 2. What sex were you assigned at birth? (Check one)
  • Male
  • Female
  • Unknown or Question Not Asked
  • Decline to State

The results show that individuals within the gender majority group consistently answered these questions in a manner that identified their gender majority status.  If they answered male (or female) in the first question, they also answered male (or female) for the second; whereas, individuals within the gender minority group had different answers for both questions, and a small number used the “other” option for the first question.

Overall, the two-step question was effective and easily understood by both groups.

  • Individuals within the gender majority group were able to answer the question about sex assigned at birth even though they never heard the phrase before.  They knew what it was referring too.
  • Most people in both groups see gender as an identity
  • People generally felt these two questions were easy to answer.
  • Gender minority group generally saw a difference between the terms sex and gender, but the gender majority group tended to see the terms to be the same.

The next step is to utilize these measures in a quantitative study with gender majority and minority populations to see how effective they are in the field.

LGBT Conference Grant Has Been Submitted

That makes two NIH grants submitted this summer.

R21 The impact of discrimination and social support upon the health of transgender men and women.

R13 Current Issues in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Health Research.  My colleagues and I are hoping to do a LGBT health conference just prior to the Gay Games being held in Cleveland next year.  Both events would work wonderfully together.

I should hear about both early in 2014.

Reposting Podcasts from 2008 Containing Interviews With Julia Serano, Talia Bettcher, and Krista Scott-Dixon

I’m reposting podcasts that I recorded back in 2008 in the media section of my website.

Topics include a discussion of Julia Serano’s book “Whipping Girl” and the anthology “Transforming Feminism” with Talia Bettcher and Krista Scott-Dixon.

Also included is a discussion with Julia Serano and Talia Bettcher regarding Alice Dreger’s report regarding people’s response to J. Michael Bailey’s book and their essays on the issue, all were published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior 37(3).

Call for Submissions for TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 2.1 (2015)

I’m one of the editors for this special issue.

“Making Transgender Count”

As a relatively new social category, the very notion of a “transgender population” poses numerous intellectual, political, and technical challenges. Who gets to define what transgender is, or who is transgender?  How are trans people counted—and by whom and for whom are they enumerated? Why is counting transgender members of a population seen as making that population’s government accountable to those individuals? What is at stake in “making transgender count”—and how might this process vary in different national, linguistic, or cultural contexts?

This issue of TSQ seeks to present a range of approaches to these challenges—everything from analyses that generate more effective and inclusive ways to measure and count gender identity and/or transgender persons, to critical perspectives on quantitative methodologies and the politics of what Ian Hacking has called “making up people.”

In many countries, large-scale national health surveys provide data that policy-makers rely on to monitor the health of the populations they oversee, and to make decisions about the allocation of resources to particular groups and regions—yet transgender people remain invisible in most such data collection projects. When administrative gender is conceived as a male/female binary determined by the sex assigned at birth, the structure, and very existence, of trans sub populations can be invisibilized by government data collection efforts. Without the routine and standardized collection of information about transgender populations, some advocates contend, transgender people will not “count” when government agencies make decisions about the health, safety and public welfare of the population. But even as more agencies become more open to surveying transgender populations, experts and professionals are not yet of one mind as to what constitutes “best practices” for sampling methods that will accurately capture respondents’ gender identity/expression, and the diversity of transgender communities. In still other quarters, debates rage about the ethics of counting trans people in the first place.

We invite proposals for scholarly essays that tackle transgender inclusion and/or gender identity/expression measurement and sampling methods in population studies, demography, epidemiology, and other social sciences. We also invite submissions that critically engage with the project of categorizing and counting “trans” populations.

Potential topics might include:

  • best practices and strategies for transgender inclusion and sampling in quantitative research;
  • critical reflections on past, current, and future data collection efforts;
  • the potential effects of epidemiological research on health and other disparities in trans communities;
  • who counts/gets counted and who does not: occlusions of disability, race, ethnicity, class, gender in  quantitative research on trans communities;
  • the tension between the contextually specific meaning of transgender identities and the generality and fixity that data collection requires of its constructs and social categories;
  • implications of linguistic, geographical, and cultural diversity in definitions of transgender and the limits of its applicability;
  • critical engagements with of the biopolitics of enumerating the population.

Please send full length article submissions by December 31, 2013 to along with a brief bio including name, postal address, and any institutional affiliation. Illustrations, figures and tables should be included with the submission.

The guest editors for this issue are Jody Herman (Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law), Emilia Lombardi (Baldwin Wallace University), Sari L. Reisner (Harvard School of Public Health), Ben Singer (Vanderbilt University), and Hale Thompson (University of Illinois at Chicago). Any questions should be sent to the guest editors at

TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly is a new journal, edited by Paisley Currah and Susan Stryker to be published by Duke University Press. TSQ aims to be the journal of record for the interdisciplinary field of transgender studies and to promote the widest possible range of perspectives on transgender phenomena broadly defined. Every issue of TSQ will be a specially themed issue that also contains regularly recurring features such as reviews, interviews, and opinion pieces. To learn more about the journal and see calls for papers for future special issues, visit   For information about subscriptions, visit