How Discrimination Hurts Transgender Americans

Lisa R. Miller, Eckerd College, Eric Anthony Grollman, University of Richmond

Seven out of every ten gender non-conforming persons in the United States experience discrimination – episodes leading to mental and physical health problems that are often compounded by inappropriate medical treatment.

Although America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have made notable legal and social gains, discrimination against transgender individuals is still pervasive. Research by SSN scholars Lisa R. Miller and Eric Anthony Grollman shows that visibly gender non-conforming transgender persons are more likely to face discrimination and harassment than peers who are more gender conforming - that is, those who are less likely to be “read” as transgender. In turn, frequent discrimination can cause health problems such as elevated blood pressure, suppressed immune functioning, and addiction to harmful substances used to cope with stress. Miller and Grollman’s new SSN brief suggests policy changes that could help – including steps to outlaw discrimination at the federal and state level and encourage private organizations to offer gender-neutral facilities. In addition, the process for changing gender designation on official government forms can be streamlined and leaders in all institutions can promote acceptance of transgender Americans.
Lisa R. Miller is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at Indiana University Bloomington, where she studies American attitudes about legal rights for lesbian and gay couples and the links between discrimination health deficits in the transgender population. In addition, she serves as an educational liaison for a domestic violence and sexual assault shelter in Bloomington, IN.
Eric Anthony Grollman is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Richmond, doing work in medical sociology and social psychology with particular attention to research methods and substantive questions about race and ethnicity, gender, social class, and sexualities. His current research examines the impact of prejudice and discrimination on the health, well-being, and worldviews of people in marginalized social groups.


January 2016