ICPSR Data Brunch Podcast Episode 4: Measuring Transgender Populations


Original Air Date: April 2, 2021




ANNALEE SHELTON: Oh wait, wait, sorry, Hang on. [laughter]




ANNALEE SHELTON: It’s so funny. It gives you a recording countdown. 




ANNALEE SHELTON: Uhm, but I didn't realize it would do that, I thought it would just start. Okay, Scott, we are recording now, and then we are ready to start our podcast, in three… two… one…


[Music playing]


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Welcome today to brunch with ICPSR. If you love data, this is going to be food for thought. I’m Dory. 




DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: We are recording these episodes live from our remote offices. Please excuse cameos canine colleagues, kids in class, and other unexpected moments. 


ANNALEE SHELTON: Dory I feel like we are the queens of unexpected moments. Every episode we have something!


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: I know. I have all of my alarms and school bells turned off so…




DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Fingers crossed.


ANNALEE SHELTON: I have a dog and you never know what might happen there so, so if you all hear Katie you’ll get to know my, my pup.


If you haven't heard it yet, our last episode was fascinating, all of that data that's living in caves, I can't believe it. Who knew.


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: I know, right. Thank goodness for the many people who work on preserving data while making it available to the masses for use in future research. 


ANNALEE SHELTON: Okay, so first up we're going to talk about some data and current events and we do this every episode.


So today we want to talk about how mass incarceration policies end up causing crime in disadvantaged communities of color. So, let me say that again. In disadvantaged communities of color, crime is caused by mass incarceration policies.




ANNALEE SHELTON: Yeah. This comes from an in-press Journal of Crime and Justice paper by Dr. Eileen M. Kirk, and it shows how heightened levels of prison cycling have influenced crime particularly in a Boston neighborhood. So this paper is called, “Community consequences of mass incarceration: sparking neighborhood social problems and violent crime” and it was published in 2021 so this is very new. And in it, Kirk used the Boston data from a multi-city study which is available from the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data here at ICPSR. And that study is called, “Predicting Crime through Incarceration: The Impact of Prison Cycling on Crime in Communities in Boston, Massachusetts, Newark, New Jersey, Trenton, New Jersey, and Rural New Jersey” from 2000 to 2010. And this study provided Kirk with neighborhood social environment data, as well as crime and prison cycling data. 


And I thought this was just fascinating. So among her findings, she says, quote, “prison cycling is one of the strongest predictors of neighborhood violent crime in Boston.”


I kind of can't believe it. I had to take a moment to see. 


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Yeah, I’m still, still processing that myself. Thank you for sharing that. 


ANNALEE SHELTON: Yeah, I said I just think it's fascinating how, how much of an impact data can have on, you know... I think that, to some extent, people may have already known this right? 




ANNALEE SHELTON: But to have it laid out clean in front of you with data, there's no arguing with that. This is, this is real facts and I think that's what's so amazing about what we do here is that, you know, we have… We have access to this data and you listener have access to this data, you can be finding this information too.


And if you are interested in reading this article or doing similar research with that same data, you can find it in our Bibliography of Data-related Literature. We’ll link to that in the show notes but it's all available on our website.


So of course we also have some new and updated data. I want to highlight today, the “Survey of Consumer Attitudes and Behavior” for both 2016, excuse me, June 2016 and May 2017. If you haven’t looked at these data before, they measure changes in consumer attitudes and expectations. And these surveys have been conducted since 1977 so this is a really interesting way to study consumer behavior over time.


I’m only going to stop there because we have an absolutely stellar interview coming up next and I don’t want to keep you from it! But just so you know, links to these data are available in our show notes. And if you’re a researcher you can archive your data for free at ICPSR! Just send us a note and we’ll get you set up. Or you can find it all on our website as well.


Ok, I’m really looking forward to this interview so Dory, all yours.


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Thanks so much Anna.


[Music plays]


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Hello everyone, welcome back. Today, we are really really really honored to invite two people from our ICPSR staff.


We have ICPSR Senior Data Project Manager David Thomas.


And we have ICPSR Data Curator Skylar Hawthorne. And they are here today to talk to us about some of our transgender data at ICPSR. Welcome David and Skylar.


SKYLAR HAWTHORNE: Thank you, thrilled to be here.


DAVID THOMAS: Yeah, thanks.


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: We talk about what makes the data stories that we tell great stories. And so that will be the first question that I ask... as we think about these two data sets, what makes them a great story to tell?


DAVID THOMAS: So, I think what makes these a great story is part of the uniqueness of these data. And you don’t want to call it rarity. But I guess, honestly, that would be an accurate description.


As we think about data, and Skylar and I have talked about this a few times too, like... We think about data, we think about how questions are asked, just like the demographic questions, and also what populations tend to be missed out in representation. 


And so these particular data serve as one form of representation for a population that we've always had, but we haven't always seen.


SKYLAR HAWTHORNE: Yeah, for really the first time, as historically transgender people have been left out of data. The amount of binary gender questions is appalling. And they exclude transgender people so it's been really hard to gather data on the transgender community, but these studies have paved the path for that.


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: What would you say make these data unique?


SKYLAR HAWTHORNE: These data are really taking back in 2008, the National Transgender Discrimination Survey was the largest study ever conducted on transgender Americans. They had 6450 respondents.


Its second iteration, the 2015 US Transgender Survey, shattered that record with 27,715 respondents. And okay, so that's big. But it's also important to note its novelty. Before these studies, there was hardly any data on transgender people. 


So these studies created the first 360 degree picture of discrimination against transgender and gender nonconforming people. It’s provided the data that policymakers and legal advocates need so that they can press the case for equity and justice.


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Have you seen some interesting publications so far? Either before the data came to ICPSR or afterward?


SKYLAR HAWTHORNE: Yeah, there have been many data related publications, 54 for the US Transgender survey to be exact, which David you know better than me but 54 that's a lot, isn't it?


DAVID THOMAS: That's a lot. I mean, also, if you take into account that... so for the Transgender Survey, the National Center for Transgender Equality, right, first put out these data. And they were distributing these data through their own systems. And so, you know, one of the things that's happened then is so,you have pre-ICPSR and post- ICPSR publications, but what you also have are... these data are basically the data. Right? 


So, not only will you see publications… have we seen interesting publications. We look forward to additional publications as well because, because of the structure of the data and how these data are disseminated, everything like that, right... you have to go through certain processes, because we put those in to protect a population being surveyed.


You know othering is such a strong thing and we've seen it in all sorts of different research, of the importance of comparing within, within population. To having within-population comparisons.


So you're not just comparing to a cis-population, and seeing, you know, a transgender population or individual as the “other.” Saying like, “Oh, this group of humans has diversity like this other group of humans, and like every group of humans.”


SKYLAR HAWTHORNE: And this is the population that oftentimes on most surveys has to select “other” to the gender question. And what's, what’s more “othering,” than having to answer “other” to that question.


There's so many binary gender questions that aren't inclusive of the transgender and gender nonconforming community.


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Amen to that. What were some surprises that you encountered along the way, either in acquiring or curating or disseminating these data?


SKYLAR HAWTHORNE: Well, the results were surprising. At least to most. We already knew that the reality for transgender people... it's, it's harsh. But this study elucidated the extent of that.


You might have heard the statistic that over 40% of transgender people have attempted suicide. This was the study that found that. 


It's the highest rate of suicide, amongst any population. The average rate is just 4.6%, a ninth the transgender rate.


Other surprising statistics to use just one adjective, are that 59% of transgender people actively avoid restaurants, 8% so to the extent of developing kidney or urinary tract problems.


Can you imagine holding it in, while there's a bathroom near you, because you're afraid of how people might treat you in that bathroom? And holding it into the extent that you develop health ramifications?


Nobody does that. Except, except for transgender people.


Or how about how one in 12 trans people get kicked out of their homes? Or how one in six have to leave their school due to severe mistreatment? Or how one in two, one in two! have been verbally harassed in the year prior to the survey, just for being transgender.


The most marginalized community in the country, transgender women of color… at the intersection of racism, mysogynia, and hate and transphobia, transgender woman of color experience compounding ramifications of discrimination, compared to the general population.


Black transgender people are three times more likely to experience police violence, four times more likely to be unemployed, five times more likely to be homeless, and nearly half attempt suicide.


But the worst statistic doesn't actually come from these data. It comes from police reports. Multiple black transgender women are violently murdered every month. That's multiple murders every month.


And that's why we have a Transgender Day of Remembrance. 


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Thank you. I just have to take some space to honor everything you just said and absorb those really really sad statistics.


What were some successes that you encountered along the way?


DAVID THOMAS: When you talk about lessons learned… One of the lessons learned and one of the, also one of the benefits was for me, it was very personal because it is a broadening of perspectives.


I've been doing this a while. And the way I was looking at disclosure risk and respondent protection has changed since being involved with these data. And ICPSR has had to make some adjustments too, broaden our thinking.


When you think about harm to, when you have to consider harm to a population, in addition to hard to respondent. 


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: So David, you already talked about disclosure risk or potential harm as one challenge, and Skylar you talked about just making sure that it was released, you know, in time, as another challenge. Are there any other challenges that you’d like to mention with these data.


SKYLAR HAWTHORNE: Yes. So for me, the disclosure risk review was also challenging, but in a different way.


So, we, we obviously value the safety and privacy of respondents. And in this process, we review every single open ended answer for potentially disclosive information and redact it accordingly.


Like, on person answered, “Privacy isn’t important to me, my name is ‘redacted.’” Well, not all responses are as easy or humorous to read through us that one. 


In these transgender data, there is an open ended question about discrimination. And the answers absolutely broke my heart. I just couldn't believe that these people have been through what transphobes had put these people through.


I'm transgender myself so I can relate with many of these responses like getting kicked out of a bathroom when you just need to pee like everyone else.


But for some of the responses were, were unfathomably abominable, they caused me to cry. There I was working on my computer, breaking down crying multiple times.


It's, it's one thing to see the statistics, like how one third of transgender people experienced discrimination from a healthcare provider. That's awful. 


But it's another thing to actually hear the story behind the statistic. Let me share one such story from this group:


“I was consistently misnamed and misgendered throughout my hospital stay. I passed a kidney stone during that visit. On the standard one to ten pain scale that's somewhere around a nine, but not having my identity respected, that hurt far more.”


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Thank you for sharing that Skylar. What would happen if these data are lost?


DAVID THOMAS: If these data were lost. I mean, we don't get that story, right? We don't get the story Skyler just shared, we don't get the feelings of... the negatives are hard to do. So, I'm going to flip that and say, additional values of these data.


By having these data, right... we're not only representing, you know, the transgender population. And those people in it. What we’re also doing is exposing the non-transgender populations, so the reality of, of people's... people whose experiences aren’t like ours.


Right? Of people who maybe... maybe an individual doesn't think they know a member of the transgender population. And so when you don't think you know someone or you don't see that every day, it can be a very different experience about thinking about their humanity. Right? 


But! When you have data and when people can point to things and say, oh, this, this happens, and this happens, how would you feel if you were in that situation?


Right? I mean… going to the bathroom is, is so important, because it's so every day.


Right? I mean, like… and yet an everyday experience was trying to be legislated. And people were people were, you know, like saying, you know, people were bringing up all these, you know notions of things that can happen. Not based on data. Not based on experience.


I don't know, based on fear? But even then, you know, I don't know. 


But it's much harder to deny… if you're going to deny someone's experience, and someone's reality, it gives other people…. So you're going to just be steadfast in that… These, these data allow other people to say, “Well, I saw these data, or I heard their support. That's not true.”


Right? And so it honestly, it's not… this is like for me this is a theory based on like almost any, you know, minority population by whatever demographic.


The role of the members of the transgender population, just in the same way of, you know people of color when it comes to racism... So when it comes to transphobia, I think the role of the transgender population is not necessarily to change minds but to survive and live the best lives they can.


It's the role of the cis population to just not be jerks.


At a minimum, right?


But then also to go out and and see the other... see the difference. And then, embrace it and not make it the “other.”


Instead of “what would happen if we don't have these data?” - which is an important question… all that can happen with these data. All the good that can happen, all the conversations that don't happen that are hurtful. All the ideas that don't get formed, because we already know those are incorrect.


You know, that kind of information, I think, is powerful as well.


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Are there any other transgender data sets that you want to highlight today.


SKYLAR HAWTHORNE: Yeah, TransPop, from Harvard, Columbia, UCLA and the Fenway Institute. The study is truly revolutionary. It’s the very first national probability sample of transgender people in the US.


So, for all the listeners who don't have a PhD, a probability sample selects participants at random. This way, everyone has a known and equal chance of getting selected. As a result, the sample is more representative of the general population.


So TransPop, being the first probability sample of transgender people, will provide a very accurate representation of the transgender population. And this will be crucial for designing evidence-based public health and policy interventions.


I'm really excited about this data, I'm currently working 40 hours a week on them, and hopefully they'll be available at ICPSR by the middle of May.


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: How can listeners find out more about any of the data sets that we talked about, or contact you?


SKYLAR HAWTHORNE: Oh, anyone listening is so welcome to contact me, I’m an extrovert so I really hope that people do. My email is skyd at umich dot edu


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Hey, last question about Scott might move us to the first question. What's your favorite thing to have for brunch?


SKYLAR HAWTHORNE: I love cooking eggs, especially with a whole bunch of spices. Let's see. Obviously, salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika, cumin, I think it's delicious, everyone I've ever cooked it for loves it as well. So yeah, I'll say heavily spiced eggs.


DAVID THOMAS: Like, you want some sort of thick sliced smoked bacon and a thick sliced french toast. If you can't get french toast, then a good waffle.


That same sort of powdered... I don't like syrup, so powdered sugar. You know some sort of fruit mixture.


And I really do like tea. Yeah. I...


SKYLAR HAWTHORNE: That was the best answer, and the most elaborate I could ever imagine.


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM:  I'm just sitting here like, okay, I can picture everything that he’s talking about.


ANNALEE SHELTON: Thanks Dory! And as always, if you are listening to this episode at a later date, you can always visit icpsr.umich.edu to see our current job listings and any upcoming events. All of that is on our homepage on the left side under events.


We want to give a special shout out for two nomination opportunities. First is for our Council, which is the executive committee for ICPSR’s member institutions. Our Council sets general policy for the Consortium. 


Which, If you're new to ICPSR, we are a consortium that is made up of hundreds of member institutions around the world. And so we're requesting suggestions of persons with the experience and ability and wisdom to serve on our Council. And more information and the nomination form for that can be found on our website.


And our second nomination request, as part of our mission to support the social and behavioral sciences, ICPSR presents awards every two years, to individuals who have distinguished themselves in their service to the social science community.


So please do send in nominations for anyone you work with or anyone you've been inspired by, who has made an impact in the social and behavioral sciences. And again you can find those nomination forms on our website.


And Dory, I was just thinking about the person who received our award for this in 2019.




ANNALEE SHELTON: Dr Raj Chetty gave just the most absolutely inspiring and moving presentation about economics and disadvantaged communities and how, you know, how economics sort of affects us all.




ANNALEE SHELTON: And that I think is also available on our YouTube isn't it?


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: It is, it's in our Biennial Meeting playlist.


ANNALEE SHELTON: Very cool. So maybe we'll include that in the show notes as well. Okay. So our listeners can get a sense of what those awardees have accomplished. It's so… I keep using the word inspiring because I am so inspired by these people! But it is really inspiring to see what can be done with data and how it can really change... it can change people's lives. 


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Yeah, that was a really good presentation by Raj Chetty. 


I just kinda remember some of his visualizations and how he talked about… basically where, you know, show the data behind where you start out in life, how that can affect where you end up. So, yup. 


ANNALEE SHELTON: Yeah, yeah. And isn't that interesting thinking about how.. thinking about how the, these connections... So Dr Chetty was talking about, you know, where you start out and where you end up in life. 


And then also Trent Alexander in one of our previous episodes was talking about, you know, generationally looking at census data, where families began and where they might have migrated to. 


So it is so interesting to see what stories can be told with these data. And all of these data are at ICPSR.


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Yeah, good. Thanks for reminding us of those really really good resources that we have. 


Okay. So that brings us to the end of today's episode. Thank you for being with us. 


ANNALEE SHELTON: For links to data and everything else that we talked about today, you can visit our show notes which are at icpsr.umich.edu. 


And they may also be in whatever app you're using to listen to us. Check that app, there may be show notes in there as well.


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: And if you aren't already, subscribe now on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.


ANNALEE SHELTON: And we want to say thank you as always to the ICPSR membership. This podcast would not be possible without the ICPSR members.


[Music playing]


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: That's right. And also, you can get in touch with us by visiting our website icpsr.umich.edu, or emailing us at icpsr-podcast@umich.edu. 




DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: And I'm Dory, and thanks for joining us and ICPSR’s Data Brunch.


Related links: ICPSR Data Brunch Podcast