Racism is taking a major toll on the wellbeing of trans Canadians of colour, according to Canada’s first national report on the health and safety problems they face.
Months after releasing the largest health census on trans Canadians — which highlighted how harassment and fear of transphobia made people avoid seeking medical services —researchers from Trans Pulse Canada released an unprecedented report on the lives of racialized trans and non-binary people last week.
The survey’s creators define racialized as referring to “people and communities that experience racism.”
The majority of its respondents are Canadian-born Ontarians, mostly identifying as Black, Indigenous, and East Asian. Compared to white trans Canadians, they were more often children of immigrant parents and lived with a disability or chronic pain.
Drawing on data collected from more than 2,870 trans participants last year, the report’s biggest takeaway emphasized the results of similar studies in the U.S., which indicate that being Black, Indigenous, and/or a person of colour (BIPOC) made a trans person much more likely to be discriminated against.
Trans Canadians face more violence if BIPOC
In the last five years, nearly three in four respondents said they were verbally harassed and one in three trans Canadians of colour report being sexually assaulted. Almost one in four said they experienced physical violence.
These alarming numbers are higher than non-racialized trans communities, which are already higher than the the general Canadian population.
“These are, unfortunately, common occurrences for white trans and non-binary people, but are even more common among those who are racialized,” principal investigator Greta Bauer wrote in a statement to HuffPost Canada. Bauer added that further analysis of this disparity is planned by the Trans Pulse Canada team.
Police mistrust is much higher among Trans Canadians of colour
When compared to white trans people, the biggest differences were in perceptions of police: BIPOC trans people were 23 per cent more likely to than white trans Canadians to fear police or security personnel wound endanger them. Trans racialized respondents also avoided calling the cops or 911 for an ambulance at higher rates. These statistics have dire consequences, Bauer noted.
“The inability to move safely in society and access emergency services highlights how that risk of violence is amplified when it cannot be safely addressed,” she stated.
North American activists have long criticized police treatment of trans people, especially trans Black women: Toronto city councillors and community members have demanded accountability from Toronto police after the recent death of Coco, a Black trans woman in their custody.
Trans Pulse Canada’s survey is timely, as the months-long pandemic has underscored how lacking existing medical services are for people of colour. Structural barriers to access and a dearth of race-based data have been linked to worsened outcomes in general; in the context of COVID-19, there have been more hospitalizations and higher death rates.
The medical needs of trans communities, especially within Canada, are also sorely understudied. Trans Pulse Canada’s predecessor, an Ontario-exclusive project about trans experiences from a decade ago, was the most comprehensive snapshot until recently.
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