Transgender people earn less - survey

Sat, Apr 18, 2009, 01:00

TRANSGENDER PEOPLE, ie those whose gender identity differs from their birth gender, have high suicide rates, poor experience of healthcare systems and professionals, and disproportionately low earnings, a new European survey has found.

The Transgender EuroStudy was presented by its author, Stephen Whittle, professor of equalities law at Manchester Metropolitan University, at Ireland’s first transgender conference, Transforming Attitudes.

According to the survey, half of transgender people earn less than the average industrial wage despite being 3½ times more likely to have a third-level postgraduate qualification than the general population.

The survey found that 26 per cent of transgender people left school at 16, but 42 per cent had degrees or other third-level qualifications and 21 per cent had postgraduate degrees compared to 6 per cent of the general population. Yet despite these high levels of educational attainment, 49.4 per cent had salaries of less than €25,000.

The survey of more than 2,500 people found that 30 per cent of transgender people had attempted suicide and half of those had made more than one attempt.

Their healthcare experiences both in relation to gender reassignment treatments and general healthcare were described as “very poor”.

According to Prof Whittle, “trans”, or transgender, people “avoided accessing routine healthcare because they anticipated prejudicial treatment from healthcare professionals.

“The most consistent theme was that of improper or abusive treatment by healthcare professionals,” he said.

Transgender people were required to undergo years of psychiatric treatment before surgery and the condition was classed as a mental disorder, yet a psychiatrist must ensure the person is not mentally ill before sanctioning surgery.

“Linking ‘trans’ and mental illness is a strong factor in the mistreatment of trans people,” Prof Whittle said.

Former Equality Authority chief executive Niall Crowley told the conference that equality for transgender people would not be achieved without addressing the “equality crises”.

The absence of legislation recognising their status was a “significant stigma” for transgender people, Mr Crowley added.