KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Dyrk Hamilton has experienced firsthand the discrimination transgender people face. The military veteran was born female. However in 2013 he decided to make the transition to becoming a male. He even moved states away to complete the process. But no matter where he went, he faced some form of mistreatment.
“I have had someone go into my neighborhood and warn my neighbors to protect their children from my presence in the neighborhood,” said Hamilton during a press conference at OutFront Kalamazoo.
He was among the handful of community leaders with OutFront and Equality Michigan speaking at a presser about the results of a survey that examined the trials and challenges transgender people face. Almost 28,000 people participated, with 900 of them living in the state of Michigan.
“The U.S. transgender survey found that nearly one-third of Michigan respondents were living in poverty, compared to 14 percent of the U.S. population,” said OutFront Executive Director Jay Maddock. “A major contributing factor to this high-rate of poverty is likely that 19 percent of the respondents stated that they were unemployed.”
The study also stated that 26 percent of transgender people in the state have experienced housing discrimination, 40 percent have attempted suicide at one point in their life and 61 percent avoid using public restrooms out of fear of causing problems.
“Over a quarter of respondents experienced a problem in the past year with their health insurance related to being transgendered,” said Maddock. “Such as being denied coverage for care-related gender transition.”
Among those participating in the survey were young adults and teenagers. The survey stated that 79 percent of kids have experienced some form of mistreatment while in grade school or high school, 26 percent have been physically attacked and and 20 percent have faced such severe mistreatment that they left school. Its these numbers that community leaders are taking straight to Lansing and Washington D.C.
“It’s not a disease,” said Hamilton. “It’s not a demonic possessed scary thing. And if we can accept it as it is, then people such as myself won’t have to be afraid to seek out support and help like everybody else.”