Transgender-related discrimination common in Massachusetts public spaces

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Nearly two-thirds of transgender Massachusetts residents have experienced discrimination in places open to the public such as hotels, restaurants, stores, parks, public transportation, theaters, health care centers, and bathrooms, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. And these discriminatory experiences are linked with adverse health outcomes.

The study was published online July 29 in The Milbank Quarterly.

Although since 2012 Massachusetts law has provided legal protections against discrimination on the basis of gender identity in employment, housing, public education, and business, those protections don’t extend to public spaces.

The researchers surveyed 452 adults in Massachusetts and found that, between 2012 and 2013, 65% had experienced discrimination in at least one public setting; that discrimination was associated with greater risk of adverse emotional and physical symptoms; and that, because of discrimination, about 24 percent of those surveyed postponed routine medical care.

“Passage and enforcement of transgender rights laws that include protections against discrimination in public settings, inclusive of health care, is a critical public health policy approach needed to move toward health equity,” lead author Sari Reisner, research fellow in the Department of Epidemiology, said in a press release from The Fenway Institute at Fenway Health, where he is a research scientist.