Report

Race and Ethnicity of Adults Who Identify as Transgender in the United States

October 2016

Using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, this report estimates the adult transgender population by race and ethnicity in the U.S. and in each of the 50 states and D.C.

Highlights
Adults who identify as transgender are more racially and ethnically diverse than the U.S. population overall.
Adults who identify as black, Latino or Hispanic, or of another race or ethnicity are more likely than white adults to identify as transgender.
Broader racial and ethnic demographic patterns of U.S. residents are similar to the demographic patterns of adults who identify as transgender.
Data Points
0.8%
of African-American or Black adults identify as transgender
0.8%
of Latino/a or Hispanic adults identify as transgender
0.5%
of White adults identify as transgender
0.6%
of adults of another race or ethnicity identify as transgender
Report

Introduction and Summary

Data sources that describe the race and ethnicity of adults who identify as transgender in the United States are limited. National population-based surveys, like the American Community Survey, are the best sources to provide generalizable findings on the demographics of U.S. residents. Yet, these surveys have rarely included measures of gender identity that would allow researchers to identify transgender respondents. Therefore, there is limited information on the demographics of this population. However, some representative, state-level surveys do collect this information. In this report, we utilize data from state-level, population-based surveys to estimate the racial and ethnic composition of adults who identify as transgender in the United States. This report is part of a series of Williams Institute reports in which we provide new estimates about the size and basic demographic characteristics of the population of adults who identify as transgender in the U.S. and all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia.1

Existing research that has utilized non-representative samples, such as from clinical or convenience samples, have varying findings about the racial and ethnic identities of transgender individuals. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey, for example, which surveyed the largest sample of transgender individuals in the U.S., prior to the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey, found that 83% of respondents identified as White, a much larger percentage than in the U.S. general population.2 Other non-representative samples have found that transgender respondents were more likely to identify as people of color than the U.S. general population.34 One of the few studies to have drawn on representative, state-level data, found that in Massachusetts adults who identify as transgender are significantly less likely to identify as White and more likely to identify as Latino or Hispanic than the non-transgender adult population.5

In this report, we utilize data from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a national, state-administered survey, which collected data on transgender identity among adults in 19 states for the first time in 2014.6 With these data, we previously estimated that 0.6% of the U.S. adult population identifies as transgender or 1.4 million adults.7 In this report, we find that the population of adults who identify as transgender is more racially and ethnically diverse than the U.S. general population. We estimate that, among adults who identify as transgender nationally, 55% identify as White, 16% identify as African-American or Black, 21% identify as Latino or Hispanic, and 8% identify as another race or ethnicity.8 We find that adults who are African-American or Black (0.8%), Latino or Hispanic (0.8%), and of another race or ethnicity (0.6%) are more likely than White adults (0.5%) to identify as transgender. The estimates are based on a modeling strategy and are comparable to weighted and unadjusted estimates.

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Race and Ethnicity of Adults Who Identify as Transgender in the United States

Flores, A. R., Herman, J. L., Gates, G. J., & Brown, T. N. T. (2016). How Many Adults Identify as Transgender in the United States? Los Angeles, CA: The Williams Institute.

Grant, J. M., Mottet, L. A., Tanis, J., Harrison, J., Herman, J. L., & Keisling, M. (2011). Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Reback, C. J. & Lombardi, E. L. (2001). HIV Risk Behaviors of Male-to-Female Transgenders in a Community-based Harm Reduction Program. In W. Bockting, & S. Kirk (Eds.), Transgender and HIV: Risks, Prevention and Care (pp. 59–68). Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press, Inc.

Nuttbrock, L., Bockting, W., Mason, M., Hwahng, S., Rosenblum, A., Macri, M., & Becker, J. (2011). A Further Assessment
of Blanchard’s Typology of Homosexual Versus Non-homosexual or Autogynephilic Gender Dysphoria. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(2), 247-257.

Conron, K. J., Scott, G., Stowell, G. S., & Landers, S. J. (2012). Transgender Health in Massachusetts: Results from a Household Probability Sample of Adults. American Journal of Public Health, 102(1), 118-122.

A detailed description of the methodology for this report is included in the Appendix.

Flores, A. R., Herman, J. L., Gates, G. J., & Brown, T. N. T. (2016). How Many Adults Identify as Transgender in the United States? Los Angeles, CA: The Williams Institute.

Due to sample size limitations, several groups are combined in the “Other Race or Ethnicity, non-Hispanic” category, including people who are Asian or Pacific Islander, American Indian or Alaska Native, biracial or multiracial, and other racial or ethnic groups.