Donald Trump speaks at the New York County Republican Committee Annual Lincoln Day Dinner on Feb. 12, 2014 in N.Y.
Photo by John Moore/Getty

Why the ‘tiny, tiny’ transgender population should matter to Donald Trump


Donald Trump criticized President Obama on Friday for issuing a sweeping directive that all public school districts allow transgender students to use the bathroom in accordance with their gender identities. In an interview with NBC’s “TODAY,” Trump said he believes the issue should be left up to the states, rather than the federal government. He also suggested the current uproar over North Carolina’s House Bill 2 – a measure requiring transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding with the sex listed on their birth certificates – might be overblown because the national transgender population is “tiny, tiny.”

That may be true. But it doesn’t mean that “tiny, tiny” population is any less in need of protection.

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The most frequently cited estimate for the number of transgender people in the U.S. comes from a 2011 paper published by the Williams Institute, which found that 700,000 adults – or 0.3 percent of the population – identify as transgender. However, several researchers have acknowledged that that number is likely undercounted, as many transgender people are reluctant to out themselves in conversations with survey takers or on government forms. In a 2011 study by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 71 percent of transgender people said they hid their gender or gender transition in an attempt to avoid discrimination.

But let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that the national transgender population is indeed “tiny, tiny.” That says nothing about the rates of trans suicide attempts, homelessness, poverty, incarceration, violence and employment discrimination – which studies have found to be disproportionately high given the “tiny, tiny” size of the trans population. This is arguably a group of people that needs a lot more from policy-makers in the way of social services and legal protections, not less because there are fewer of them.

Trump said in his “TODAY” interview that “everybody has to be protected,” but then undercut that argument by suggesting the transgender population is too small to require protection. By that logic, only the very big populations deserve it. Unless, of course, you’re talking about the very not “tiny, tiny” population of 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. – they, according to Trump, deserve nothing.