Surveys are annoying. We agree. But give us a chance to make our case. Why does this study matter? Why should you care?
Think about how diverse the trans community really is. Trans men have different experiences, goals, and needs from trans women. Trans women of color have different experiences, goals, and needs from white trans women. Trans women living below the poverty line have different experiences, goals, and needs from upper middle class trans women. Many of the key informants we interviewed talked about how helpful it would be to have access to more data about transgender people and their experiences; not only data that lumps together anyone who identifies as transgender, but data broken into groups by race, class, employment, and access to housing, gender expression, sexual orientation. Perhaps the most important question we asked key informants was:
What types of information do you think it would be helpful to gather during a survey among trans women of color? What do we need to know to improve HIV prevention services for adolescents? Adults? What do we need to know to improve HIV are services for adolescents? Adult? What do we need to know to better engage trans women of color in these services?
We told people who serve transgender communities to share with us what they need and want to know, and we used their input to develop the BTC survey. One of our goals is to come back to them with some answers, answers they can work with. We also want to come back to the transgender community with data that tells stories they want to share, stories backed up by numbers that can be used to advocate for resources, programs, and policy change.
Research can also be helpful when it comes to funding. Service providers usually have to apply for grants so they can get money to plan events and programs. To get money, you are often asked to prove that a problem exists and to explain why it matters. Hopefully, this research can be used for that purpose. The survey even asked participants to estimate how large transgender populations in Baltimore are. Statistically, we can use these guesses to come up with an estimate population-size (statistical method called "wisdom of the crowd" and "service multiplier"). Sometimes it helps to be able to say how big a population is, especially when advocating for resources or trying to prove that certain issues matter.
If you remain unconvinced, keep reading. A few sentences more and we'll leave it up to you. One of the key informants we interviewed shared something really powerful and important. Of course, everyone had powerful words to offer, but this statement really stood out.
Because I am a trans woman of color leading my own movement, people have tried to downplay me. Tried to tell me that I wasn't qualified. And they did these things so they could hold on to the power. Because there's power in controlling a community that you're not part of... I've gotten a lot of resistance and people trying to sabotage me, withholding resources from me. But the thing is, I am the conversation. So no matter what you try to do, I AM the conversation and I'm going to be there.
Like she said, this is your conversation. Be the conversation. Control it and own it. We want to support you in that. You deserve to be visible. You deserve to be heard and listened to. Be honest and real about who you are and what you have survived through, accomplished, seen and done. Share it and let people learn from you. Because, as you probably know, there is a lot of learning that needs to happen. Convinced? We hope so.