5 Struggles Trans Women Face Trying To Find and Keep a Job


So much of the national debate about North Carolina's HB2 bill — which includes a provision that requires state residents to use bathrooms that conform to their assigned gender rather than their gender identity — has been about bathrooms. But the right to use the bathroom is just one of many battles the transgender community faces.

Nationwide, refusing to hire someone — or firing them — because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is still not expressly illegal, even though Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has been interpreted by the Supreme Court, and lower federal courts, to include gender identity as a protected class. As Fusion explores in a video series on the subject this week, transgender and gender non-conforming people experience life-and-death struggles in becoming gainfully employed.

Here are five findings from the 2013 National Transgender Discriminatory Survey highlighting those struggles:

Nearly a quarter of transgender and gender non-conforming citizens make less than $10,000 in annual income.

That's staggeringly lower than the median U.S. household income of $53,657 in 2014, according to the Census Bureau.

Noah Berger/AP

Transgender and non-gender conforming people are twice as likely to be unemployed.

The national unemployment rate hovered above 7% in 2013, the year of the latest transgender discrimination survey. For transgender people of color, the jobless rate was 14% for white trans individuals, and 18% for trans people of color, according to the survey.


About 36% of transgender and gender non-conforming people were either not hired or fired because of who they are.

Unemployment is among the top causes for housing instability, or homelessness, food insecurity and health disparities. For a transitioning individual, lack of employer-provided health plans can be disruptive, or even life-threatening. Stopping a doctor-prescribed hormonal regimen can lead to adverse health effects for transgender individuals.

Jose Luis Magana/AP

More than half of transgender and gender non-conforming people reported workplace discrimination and harassment, including taunts and transphobic verbal attacks.

This includes what has been seen recently across the country around their use of workplace and public restrooms. However, there are an increasing number of companies that offer gender neutral facilities for employees.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sex work can become a reality for many, but not all, transgender women and gender non-conforming individuals.

In the transgender discrimination survey, 30% of respondents said they had resorted to work in the underground economy. That includes sex work and dealing drugs.