Thursday, March 15, 2007

'Transgender' Category Needed For The 2010 US Census

When I graduated from high school in 1980 my first job was working during that hot Houston summer as an enumerator for the decennial US census.

It wasn't just any old summer job. They didn't have to tell me that in my training class. I knew how important it was. The population stats I was helping to gather would determine congressional seat allocations, how much federal funding was allocated to my hometown and determine the population of Houston, Harris County, Texas and the United States for the next ten years. I used 1910 Census data a decade later to cross check the accuracy of my genealogical research on the family tree I was compiling for my father's side of the family.

In 2000 the US Census for the first time allowed people to check multiple racial categories to more accurately count and document the people who have biracial status.

In 2010 I'm proposing another change to the US census: Adding a 'transgender' category to the options available to define yourself.

Over the last decade we've had a serious debate between the transgender community and the psychiatric one about the actual prevalence of transsexualism. Psychiatrists have long claimed that male-to-female transsexualism is extremely rare, occurring in only one in every 30,000 males and 1 in 100,000 females and that figure is often quoted. It's even quoted in the recent C-J article Angie Fenton wrote about me and Dawn.

However, Professor Lynn Conway of the University of Michigan challenges that figure by saying, "It’s way too small, perhaps by a factor of 100.”

Simple observation by transpeople tells us that something is amiss with those numbers. In my high school gifted and talented class of 70 people I have a transman in it. That's the one I actually know about. There may be others in my class I DON'T know about and the total number of graduates in my high school class was 700. If the 1 in 30,000 number were correct then that other transperson shouldn't exist.

By counting the number of surgeries performed over the years, Dr. Conway estimates there are as of 2005 at least 40,000 postoperative trans women in the U.S. These women have transitioned out of a population of roughly 100,000,000 adult males*. Simple division reveals that at least one in every 2500 people born as males here has undergone sex reassignment surgery (SRS): i.e., ~ 40,000/100,000,000 = 1/2500.

However, something on the order of 5 times as many people inherently experience transsexualism than those who have already undergone sex reassignment.

That has led Dr. Conway to conclude the inherent condition occurs in at least one in every 500 children born as males. Note that this figure of 1 in 500 is a "lower bound" on the prevalence of transsexualism (intense gender dysphoria), and the actual value could be higher. Her hypothesis was tested by researchers using her methods in Thailand, India, Great Britain and Malaysia who came up with roughly the same ratio.

“Those are still small numbers, but transsexualism is certainly not ‘extremely rare’”, Dr. Conway says.

After revealing that psychiatrists have vastly underestimated the prevalence of transsexualism for many decades, Conway asks: “Can’t psychiatrists count?

So since they can't count, let's settle the debate by adding transgender as a category on the upcoming United States Census in 2010.

It'll be an uphill battle to do so. Our right-wing opponents don't want us to have those hard numbers to point to so that they can continue to marginalize and demonize us. The psychiatric community wants to perpetuate the 1 in 30,000 myth as well. Even some transpeople would rather not see the more realistic numbers be proven as fact because in their eyes they won't be as 'special' any more.

Sorry peeps, this inquiring mind and others want to know exactly how many transpeeps are inside the borders of the United States. It's past time we ended the speculation and get those precise numbers.


Wolfgang said...

I agree. I think getting accurate statistics for us transpeople would do far more good than harm. The trouble is, the "transgender" catagory would cause problems. Many transsexuals refuse to include themselves under the generic label "transgender." Others, especially after getting genital surgery, isist on dropping the "trans" and simply calling themseves men or women, trying to erase their pasts altogether. There's an intense label war raging in the trans community, and unfortunately, it's dividing us.

The best way to count us in the census would be this:

1. Chromosomal Sex At Birth: XX, XY, Other_______

2. Declared Sex At Birth: Male, Female, Intersex

3. Gender Identity: Male, Female, Other________

4. Current Legal Sex: Male, Female

Mark Angelo Cummings said...

It is sad this division that I am seeing amongst my transsexual brothers and sisters. Labels are very damaging and create stigma. I only wish that people would be proud of who they are, and not try to run away from a fact. If you were born with a gender and sex misalignment then you are trans, whether the condition was fixed or not the T definetly fits. We should be proud of who we are, after all we have an awesome history one that I am very proud of. We were the pride of the tripe, known as teachers, healers, kin of God, possesing many favorable traits.

I agree with a census, transgender being the over all umbrella. Gender is fluid and has a spectrum. How far you are from the typical development would depend how you identify. Consider levels 1 -10, 10 being fully transsexual and 5 being a cross dresser. What this means that depending on the hormonal bathing and combination during gestation would depend on your manurism, feelings and identity.

We need to be proud and unite, until then our voice will not be heard and our thoughts not counted.
We are only feeding to societies peer pressure when we cave in to their so call normallcy. It would be boring world if we were all the same.

Mark Angelo Cummings

Monica Roberts said...

Thanks for your comment.

The reason we have the transgender label is to include as many peeps as possible no matter where you are in the gender continuum.
It's the most inclusive label that we have for the moment.

Not everyone knows their chromosomal configuration and the test to find that out can be rather expensive.

I think the KISS method is best. Simply add the transgender box for you to voluntarily check on the census form in addition to male or female.

Mark, welcome.
Looking forward to seeing more of your comments.