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In our “Be an Ally 101” we discuss how common trans people are, what their lives are like, how to support a trans person you know, how to support trans rights, and where to find out more.
This post is available in article, video, and booklet format. See the link in the footer for sharing permissions.
Trans people make up at least 1% of the population. The population of NZ is around 4.917 million, so at 1% the number of trans people in NZ is around 50,000. That means at least one trans person for every 100 patients, students, workers, or people in a community.
The Youth12 study (NZ) showed that 1.2% of school students identified as transgender.
The Youth19 study (of 7,721 adolescents) showed 1% identified as trans. 73% of these said they identified as transgender before age 14.
A recent GLAAD (USA) study also showed 1% of people identified as transgender.
The GLAAD study also showed that 16% of non-trans (cis) people knew a trans person in real life.
Trans people experience extremely high levels of stigma and discrimination across all areas of public life including in education, employment, housing, accessing healthcare, goods and services, justice, sports and recreation, policy and legislative input, and other areas. This results in high levels of material hardship.
13% asked inappropriate questions during a health visit in the last year.
1 in 5 are homeless at some point. This figure is 1 in 4 for non-Europeans.
46% of homeless trans people were discriminated against by landlords.
Only 14% participate in sports, vs 26% of the general population.
20% were disrespected or mistreated by a doctor in the last year.
Sex education does not include trans people’s existence.
55% of students are unable to access health care when they need it, vs 19% of cisgender students.
17% have experienced “conversion therapy” in a health setting.
1 in 3 avoid seeing a doctor when they need one, to avoid being disrespected.
23% of trans students are bullied at least weekly, vs 5% of cis students.
The median income is half the median income for the general population.
71% of homeless trans people moved at least once every 6 months on average in the last 5 years.
67% experience discrimination. 44% experienced this in the last year, vs 17% for the general population.
Trans people experience very high levels of stigma, exclusion, social isolation, and violence in their personal lives.
59% of homeless trans people don’t contact their family to help find housing.
Two thirds of trans students “come out” while at school, but of those who do, only a third feel safe to come out to parents.
64% of trans students say at least one parent cares about them “a lot”, vs 94% cis students.
72% of homeless trans people first experienced homelessness as a teenager.
36% of trans people have been forced to have sex against their will – this is 3x the rate of women in the general population (11%). This is more common for non-binary people and adults. For disabled trans people, this figure is 7x the rate of the general population*
82% of homeless trans people say transphobia from housemates was a factor.
Only 32% of trans students feel safe in their neighbourhood vs 58% cis students
* Sexual violence figures are estimated to be severely under-reported for all groups
The pervasive stigma, discrimination, and violence which trans populations experience not only impacts on their physical and material well being, but also on their psychological, emotional, and spiritual well being.
Trans people experience high levels of distress, anxiety, depression, self harm, substance use, and suicidal ideation.
57% of trans students people report significant depressive symptoms, vs 22% of cis students.
71% live with high levels of psychological distress, vs 8% of the general population.
Trans people use cannabis at 3x the rate of the general population.
26% of trans students attempted suicide in the past year, vs 6% of cis students.
57% of trans students have self harmed in the past year, vs 22% of cis students.
For trans people, substance abuse is linked to mental health and neurodiversity more often than disability or chronic pain.
79% of homeless trans people have a mental health condition, and 66% are neurodiverse.
Trans people are highly motivated, hard working, and care a lot about community and family. They are very likely to be involved in supporting others, volunteering, and community work. “Chosen family” are the main source of support for many trans people. Family, whānau, and friends are also important.
62% agree they are proud to be trans, while only 14% disagree.
Connection to culture is a strong protective factor against suicide.
85% of disabled trans people socialise with other trans people online. Overall 74% of trans people do this..
Feeling connected to trans community is linked to better health outcomes.
Māori are more likely than most trans people to feel connected to their culture, to receive support from whānau after having experienced sexual violence, and to want to have a child or more children.
58% provide a lot of support for other trans people, and 56% feel connected to other trans people.
90% of trans people with housing instability contact friends to help them find housing.
62% of trans students are involved in volunteering, vs 54% of cis students.
Disabled trans people are more likely to be involved in political activism.
Strength of informal networks is a critical protective factor.
Safety is paramount to trans people, including when it comes to housing.
Those who are supported by their family/whānau have better mental health.
How to give the right support depends on your relationship to the trans person. You can find in depth resources at genderminorities.com
Everyone: don’t “out them” as trans without their permission, don’t ask invasive questions. Do respect their pronouns and name, do listen to them.
Friends: be there for them, listen to them about what they need and how you can support them.
Health teams: provide accurate information, follow the National Guidelines for Gender Affirming Healthcare, use Informed Consent, and let the patient decide what they need.
Landlords: rent to them.
Partners: respect and care for them.
Families: let them know you love and support them no matter what. Fight for them when they need you.
School and work: provide a safe learning/work environment, deal with bullying appropriately.
Supporting trans rights means taking whatever space you have influence in and making it safe for trans people. You can find in depth resources at genderminorities.com [see links below, the main menu, and our blog page].
Amplify trans voices: read/listen to trans people and share their perspectives, link to their content.
At school or work: ask if your school or employer meets the minimum legal requirements for a safe school/work environment.
Political advocacy: being a good ally means walking beside; not over or in front of. Take your lead from trans-led orgs, which are experts on trans issues.
In your community: talk to others about trans rights, share why you think it’s important. Consider trans people in everyday life.
Feminists and women’s rights groups: include trans women in making decisions, and discuss the facts – eg. talk about the trans pay gap, and bodily autonomy for trans people.
Scrap biological essentialism..
Examine your biases.
Talk to friends and family about trans rights.
Stand up against transphobia when you see it.
Remember intent =/= impact.
Learn about recognising transphobia, being a supportive family, healthy relationships, and more, at genderminorities.com
Gender Minorities Aotearoa (3,000 contacts a year across NZ)
Counting Ourselves (2019).
Where Do You Sleep at Night? Transgender Experiences of Housing Instability and Homelessness (2020).
Good communication can support a healthy relationship, be it with partners, family, or friends. Active Listening is a specific kind of communication, which many people find useful for enhancing understanding.
This article is part of our series “Sex and Sexuality for Trans People”.
Active listening is a form of therapeutic or empathetic listening, which focuses on understanding the speaker’s perspective, and encouraging them to explore their thoughts and emotions. Like most skills, active listening takes time, effort, and practice to learn. Other types of listening include critical listening (listening to evaluate the information or message), and informational listening (listening to learn). Active listening is neither of these: it’s purpose is help you listen thoroughly and understand the speaker’s point of view. Often active listening is used when supporting someone, building trust, and discussing difficult experiences. It can help the listener focus on what is being said, rather than their thoughts about it.
Show you’re listening and make it easier for the speaker to continue by giving feedback. This may include facing the speaker, making eye contact, leaning toward them, nodding, or saying ”yes” or ”mm hmm”. Assure them with verbal or non-verbal cues that you want to hear what they have to say.
Defer judgement while you listen. Remain open, rather than quickly forming an opinion. If you find yourself disagreeing, try to see the situation from their perspective – it doesn’t mean you have you have to agree. Remember that the point is to understand their experience.
Allow for pauses, give the speaker time to reflect and explore their thoughts. Avoid rushing toward problem solving.
Reflect back what was said with questions, such as ”so what you’re saying is…”. Mirroring means using the same words as the speaker, and shows that you are listening. Paraphrasing is putting it into your own words, and shows that you are trying to understand.
Listen for the message, as well as intent and emotions. Listen for what is being said, and what is being left unsaid. Watch and listen for non-verbal cues. Tone, facial expressions, and body language can help you understand the emotions and the strength of the emotions, as well inconsistencies between what is said and non-verbal cues being expressed.
Name the emotions without making a judgement on the accuracy of the facts, for example ”it sounds like that was really frustrating for you”. You can validate the speakers emotions without having to agree with their reasons. For example, ”if you thought x it’s totally understandable why you felt y”.
Ask questions to encourage the speaker. Relevant questions help build or clarify the speaker’s thoughts. Open ended questions invite them to elaborate. Ask what they’ve tried or or what solutions they see rather than offering advice. If you don’t follow, ask for clarification – ”what did you mean when you said…?”
Don’t interrupt the speaker with your thoughts or actions, and try to stay focused on what they’re saying rather than thinking about your opinions or something else. Never interrupt or finish a sentence for the speaker. Changing the subject (even subtly) can make the speaker think that you are uninterested or have not been listening.
Summarise the speaker’s main points at the end of the conversation, so that you both know whether you have understood them correctly. Be concise, and be prepared to be corrected. After the conversation, the speaker and listener should have the same understanding of what was said.
Other useful articles on this topic:
Gender Minorities Aotearoa has recently updated our information on changing the sex marker on your birth certificate.
Please see our new page on this by clicking the button below.
Counting Ourselves, a national report on transgender health, has just been released.
The survey had 1,178 participants, from all regions of Aotearoa, ranging from 14 to 83 years old.
The research, funded by the Health Research Council and with support from University of Waikato and Rule Foundation, found that trans people experience discrimination at more than double the rate of the general population, almost half of trans people had someone attempt to have sex with them against their will since age 13, and almost a third reported someone did have sex with them against their will since age 13. Participants reported high or very high levels of psychological distress at a rate nine times that of the general population. In the last 12 months, more than half had seriously considered suicide, and 12% had attempted suicide.
In the last 12 months, 13% of participants were asked unnecessary or invasive questions during a health visit
17% reported they had experienced reparative therapy (a professional had tried to stop them from being trans) [note: sometimes called “conversion therapy”]
36% avoided seeing a doctor to avoid being disrespected
67% had experienced discrimination at some point
44% had experienced discrimination in the last 12 months – this was more than double the rate for the general population (17%)
21% were bullied at school at least once a week, much higher than the general population (5%)
83% did not have the correct gender marker on their New Zealand birth certificate
32% reported someone had had sex with them against their will since they were 13
47% reported someone had attempted to have sex with them against their will since they were 13
Compared to the general population, participants were almost three times more likely to have put up with feeling cold (64%) and gone without fresh fruit or vegetables (51%) in order to reduce costs.
71% reported high or very high psychological distress, compared with only 8% of the general population in Aotearoa New Zealand
56% had seriously thought about attempting suicide in the last 12 months
37% had attempted suicide at some point
12% had made a suicide attempt in the last 12 months
Participants who reported that someone had had sex with them against their will were twice as likely to have attempted suicide in the past year (18%) than participants who did not report this (9%)
Participants who had experienced discrimination for being trans or non-binary were twice as likely to have attempted suicide in the past year (16%) than participants who did not report this discrimination (8%)
Participants’ rate of cannabis use in the last year (38%) was more than three times higher than the general population (12%)
57% reported that most or all of their family supported them. Respondents supported by at least half of their family were almost half as likely to attempt suicide (9%).
62% were proud to be trans, 58% provided support to other trans people, and 56% felt connected with trans community.
Trans and Non-Binary Health and Wellbeing Report Reveals Severe Inequities
Kiwi Transgender and Non-binary People at Higher Risk of Suicide – Survey
Transgender and Non-binary People Suffer High Levels of Mental Health and Discrimination Issues, Report Finds
New Zealand Finds Nearly a Third of Transgender People Raped But Few Seek Help
How Our Health System Has Severely Failed Trans and Non-binary New Zealanders
Survey Shines a Light on Trans and Non-binary New Zealanders
Parliamentary Rainbow Network Welcomes Groundbreaking Report