HomeLGBTQ"Up to Us" study sheds light on API transgender issues

“Up to Us” study sheds light on API transgender issues

Photo courtesy of APINEC

A startling study released in November focused specifically on the experiences and needs of trans and gender non-conforming (TGNC) Asian Pacific Islanders in the Bay Area,  according to The Bay Area Reporter

‘Up to Us’, the first study of its kind, revealed a disparity in various sectors of life ranging from housing to police relations to healthcare between Asian Pacific Islander (API) trans and gender non-conforming (TGNC) population and the general trans population, THEM reports. 

API Equality Northern California (APIENC) conducted the report out of the desire to raise visibility for the TGNC API community, The Bay Area Reporter reports. APIENC is a San-Francisco based advocacy group. 

“We know trans APIs face intense transphobia, constant isolation, and frequent violence,” said Yuan Wang, a community organizer with APIENC, THEM reports. “But in large national studies, research by top institutions, and briefs by trans and API organizations, our experiences as trans APIs are rarely recorded.”

This erasure can be attributed in part to the mechanisms of the Model Minority Myth, the system of stereotypes that ignore the diversity of the API community to conflate all Asians into a single, ideal immigrant: hard-working, obedient, intelligent, and passive. 

The negative effects of the Model Minority Myth also prevents an intersectional approach to API racial justice. According to The Bay Area News Reporter, TGNC APIs are assumed to have greater access to resources and support, explaining why the needs and suffering of the TGNC API community has largely been ignored by the larger trans movements. 

“There is a widespread belief that in the Bay Area, all queer and trans people are safe,” Wang said. “We know from our own lives these myths are false.”

“Up to Us” demonstrates the flaws of such lines of thought, THEM reports. The study compares responses from over 200 TGNC APIs in the San Francisco Bay Area with data from the 2019 Horizons Foundation SF Bay Area LGBTQ+ Needs and the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS). 

According to the study, TGNC APIs are twice as less likely to be homeowners than other TGNC people across the nation, and within the Bay Area, 22% of TGNC APIs reported having experiences with homelessness as compared to 17% of the general LGBTQ+ community. 

When seeking healthcare, 43% of respondents stated that they were not comfortable with their doctors due to a lack of trans competency. According to THEM, this is nearly double the national rate of trans people who are similarly uncomfortable with their doctors. 

This lack of faith in medical support becomes an even greater issue when considering the study’s findings with regards to violence against the TGNC API community. One in every six respondent has been physically attacked, and over half of the respondents reported sexual assault. Trust in law enforcement is also low: nearly 80% of the respondents stated that they were uncomfortable with police interactions, and over 50% of them stated that they were at times or never respected by police.

APIENC plans to use these findings to inform their approach to TGNC API support, The Bay Area News Reporter reports. APIENC aims to invest in community healing, train health providers, advocate for housing justice, create “concrete community strategies,” and nurture TGNC API creatives to lift this silenced community’s voice into the national dialogue. 

“The experiences in this report should not only matter to us, because ultimately, the systems that target us hurt everybody,” APIENC reports. “The findings in this report result from centuries of xenophobia, colonization, war, and attempts to erase transgender people from Pacific Islander and Asian histories.

View ‘Up to Us’ in its entirety here.

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