The mere act of counting can be incredibly subversive. Back in Ancient Rome, there were strict dress codes depending on your economic and/or social class. In Seneca’s “On Clemency,” we learn that

A proposal was once made in the Senate to distinguish slaves from free men by their dress: it was then discovered how dangerous it would be for our slaves to be able to count our numbers.

Something similar happened around sexual assault. Before 1970, “sparse” was a generous term for the amount of scientific literature on the topic. That year, second-wave feminists held a public “speak-out” to get a rough assessment of the scope and prevalence of the problem. That primitive headcount alerted them to a pervasive yet hidden problem, and quickly led to a flurry of sociology papers which snowballed into the greater understanding of sexual violence that we have today.[1]

The same story repeats when it comes to trans* people. We don’t know how many there are, for instance, and no government is trying to count. Our best data comes from a single large study.

We need more, so it’s great to see that largest study is getting a sequel.

The 2015 U.S. Trans Survey is the new name of the largest survey ever devoted to the lives and experiences of trans people. It’s the follow-up to the groundbreaking National Transgender Discrimination Survey, which was released in the 2011 report: Injustice At Every Turn.

Much of what we know about trans people in the U.S. has come from this study, and it has been an important source of information about who we are for advocates, policy makers, and the public.

The flip side is that if you’re the oppressor or merely want some people oppressed, an effective way is to prevent them from gathering data on themselves. Thanks to Oolon, I know some TERFs are already planning to toss monkey wrenches.


It’s one thing to decry poor methodology in a survey. It’s quite another to actively try to sabotage the thing, and shows just how little regard most TERFs have for trans* women.


[1] Rutherford, Alexandra. “Sexual Violence Against Women Putting Rape Research in Context.” Psychology of Women Quarterly 35.2 (2011): 342-347.