Transgender community in Phoenix speaks out about finding support, discrimination

By DaJa Maxwell

Some people feel as though they were born the wrong gender and may struggle with their identity throughout their lives. It is not something that is openly talked about in many homes, and they may struggle to find support.

“When you are growing up, dealing with these emotions, sometimes you don’t know where to turn,” said Phoenix resident and Sharmaine Goodman, a transgender woman.

There are approximately 1.4 million people who identify as transgender in the United States according to a 2016 study by the Williams Institute.

What does transgender mean? A transgender individual is a “a person whose gender identity does not correspond to that person’s biological sex assigned at birth,” according to Dictionary.com.

In Arizona, members of the transgender community told the PIN Bureau there aren’t many obvious places to go for support. However, there are outreach organizations like Phoenix Pride, Trans Spectrum of Arizona and GLSEN (the gay, lesbian, straight education network), just to name a few.

The suicide-attempt rate in the transgender community is 41 percent, which exceeds the 4.6 percent suicide rate of the general U.S. population, according to the Williams Institute.

“I have felt very alone at times and have thought about suicide too many times to name,” Goodman said. “It’s sad to hear that fact (that suicide rates are higher in the transgender community), but I do believe it.”

Not only is it a struggle to find resources, but according to a study in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, there is also unfair treatment for transgender individuals who need medical treatment.

Goodman said she has received mistreatment by numerous doctors’ offices when going in for routine checkups.

Another transgender woman, Ann, said she has been mistreated by health care staff. “I have changed primary care providers because of the looks and stares and overall vibe that (I) received when taking a general visit to my doctor,” she said. “It’s not fair.”

According to the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, a 2016 study showed that transgender individuals perceived barriers to getting health care, including:

  • “Provider lack of knowledge concerning transgender identity issues and transgender health issues.”
  • “Transgender patients’ previous negative experiences with the health care system or anticipation of these experiences.”
  • “Health care provider refusal to provide health care services to transgender people.”

Another issue is mistreatment in the workplace. Many transgender individuals speak on discrimination in the workplace and discrimination during hiring.

Jessica Phillips, a transgender woman who lives in the Valley, said her gender identity has prevented her from getting a job. “When filling out a job application I chose ‘decline to respond’ when it asked what my sex was, then during the interview I was blatantly turned away because they said I would not fit.”

A 2011 report by the National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 26 percent of trans people lost a job due to bias and 50 percent were harassed on the job.

However, not all things are bad for the transgender community. There are groups and organizations for support. A local transgender community group on the social media app called “Meetup,” Arizona Transgender, arranges monthly gatherings for the transgender community and also welcomes anyone who would like to join the group.

The annual festival Phoenix Pride is held for support of the LGBTQ communities. There you can find more organizations who offer support, outreach and warm welcomes.

Ricky Hamlin, a transgender male, said that it was his first time attending the Phoenix Pride festival and found a lot of resources available to him.

He said he had never seen so many people come together to support the communities in this way, and the atmosphere was “amazing.”

Goodman said though the odds seem to be against her community, she wants to overcome the negative thoughts, ideas and feelings that some have toward the transgender community. She made a statement that tells a fact about herself, outside of the label of “transgender woman”:

Charmaine Goodman (left), 28, and Shelby Brooks, 21, from Phoenix hold up signs with messages sharing who they are.

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