According to the report, three out of four transgender women who took part in this investigative research project experienced “adverse, differential treatment” in the “quality, quantity or content of services provided” by retail stores in the Mid-Atlantic region.
The researchers report the trans women had “negative interactions” such as verbal harassment, disrespectful or rude service, inappropriate comments, and the tester being ignored, followed or watched by security or store employees.
“In one test the tester was felt pressed for information about her gender identity, while in another test an employee told the tester that her ‘body build’ did not work for the dress she was trying on.”
These tests involved 60 people, matched to be alike in every way except one — one was trans and the other cisgender (meaning, not transgender). The tests were conducted at stores in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Researchers say one Maryland store where a trans woman was murdered was not included in the test, as she was known to some of those taking part.
The report, titled Room for Change, comes from the Equal Rights Center, a Washington-based non-profit advocacy group dedicated to civil rights, and was funded by the Arcus Foundation.
In addition to the findings related to trans women who were not people of color, the ERC noted a significant racial difference in how customers were treated.
The report supports this finding with statistical data:
“The African American tester faced significantly higher rates of negative interaction at a rate of 50% of all tests compared to 30% of all tests completed by the white transgender tester. These findings support prior research that illustrates the increased discrimination people of color face due to the coupling of transphobic bias with systemic racism.”
Another finding was the difference in how testers were treated based on where they shopped. In 50% of the tests conducted in Virginia, which does not have any laws providing nondiscrimination protections to transgender people, the trans tester experienced some form of negative interaction with an employee, security, or a customer. But the trans testers in Maryland and D.C. experienced a lower rate, 31% of negative interactions while shopping in those areas, which have enacted discrimination protections.
According to the ERC, only 18 states along with D.C. have gender identity protections in public accommodation settings right now. The goal of the organization is to use research such as this to increase acceptance and press for more laws to protect against discrimination. “From our findings, we hope to continue researching and advocating new methods that can make public accommodation spaces more safe,”said Melvina C. Ford, Executive Director of the ERC, “and equitable for all.”
Read the full report by clicking here.