In a recent study, UCLA researchers found transgender adults are more racially and ethnically diverse in comparison to the general United States population.
The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, which published the study in October, also found that transgender adults who identified with a certain race were significantly more likely to live in communities with a high proportion of individuals of the same race.
Taylor Brown, a co-author of the report and a policy analyst at the Williams Institute, said the study is the first to comprehensively assess racial trends in the U.S. transgender population.
“That this was the first study of its kind really speaks to how new this research is,” Brown said. “This sets the baseline for future research.”
Brown said previous studies used only limited samples to study racial diversity among transgender adults. The Williams Institute’s recent report used representative data from all 50 states and District of Columbia, which he said made it more likely to accurately describe trends in transgender diversity nationwide.
Brown said he and other researchers assessed trends by collecting data from the 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a nationwide telephone survey administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The survey gathers information about the transgender identity of respondents, among other health- and identity-related information.
He said he and his collaborators combined the results from the BRFSS and data from the U.S. Census to assess the race and ethnicity of transgender adults, as well as their location.
He added that the researchers do not know why transgender populations exhibit disproportionate racial and ethnic diversity.
“(These results) have led to questions we really don’t know how to answer at this point, but we’re happy to spark more conversation,” Brown said.
Adriana Navarro Rodriguez, a third-year astrophysics student, said she finds the report’s findings surprising because she herself had not observed a similar trend.
“I’ve never really had to think about (this trend) because it’s not something I’ve ever seen or noticed,” she said.
Rodriguez, who has a transgender brother, added she thinks it’s counterintuitive that there are more minorities that identify as transgender because she believes conservative minority families may be less likely to accept their transgender family members.
Raja Bhattar, director of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Campus Resource Center, said they think the report’s results point to a trend that has probably been longstanding in American society.
“People of color tend to know what it feels like to be marginalized, so they’re more accepting than other communities, even if it’s of a different kind of marginalization,” Bhattar said.
Bhattar added they think transgender adults tend to cluster in areas with a high proportion of people of their own race because they feel safer in communities they identify with.
“It’s not a surprising finding,” Bhattar said. “In my experience, transgender people feel deeper roots in communities they’ve grown up in.”
Brown said that he hopes future research can help uncover the factors behind the trends identified in the report. He added he hopes researchers will use the same model of demographics assessment to investigate other trends in the transgender population, including levels of education attained by transgender individuals.