Public transportation is something that should be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of identity. Everyone using public transit should feel safe and supported, mentally and physically, for the entire duration of their trip. Unfortunately, feeling unsafe on public transportation is the reality in certain marginalized communities, especially LGBTQ+ folks. This limits a main form of transportation access to which in turn limits healthcare access.
Risks to public transportation access
LGBTQ+ folks disproportionately face economic and social hardships. “People who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) have higher rates of poverty compared to cisgender (cis) heterosexual people,” per Institute For Research on Poverty. This is important to note, because poverty leads to a higher dependence on public and other low-cost forms of transportation. This dependence on public transportation presents higher safety risks than using private transportation (ex: driving your own car). A 2019 University of Minnesota study found “gender minorities experience frequent harassment while engaging with the public transit system.” It also found that “the discrimination and violence experienced by transgender and gender-nonconforming riders restricts their mobility or freedom of movement.”
Safety, harassment, and the police
There are many reasons that LGBTQ+ folks might feel unsafe while using public transportation. One big reason, ironically, is the police/security presence around transit. A 2014 study by Lambda Legal of HIV patients in New York City revealed 73% had encounters with police. Of those encounters, 21% reported facing hostility, 14% verbal assault, 3% and 2% experienced sexual harassment and physical assault respectively. Similar sentiments were noted in the University of Minnesota study, noting that participants of color felt like the police presence on public transportation increased feelings of anxiety, rather than feelings of safety.
Harassment in society-at-large remains a persistent problem. The 2015 US Transgender Survey is the largest national survey of transgender persons in the United States; over 27,000 respondents. In it, 46% of respondents reported verbal harassment and 9% reported physical assault in connection to being transgender.
connecting transportation access to healthcare access
LGBTQ+ folks deserve to feel safe and supported in all aspects of their life. Needless to say, that should extend to public transportation. Without reasonable, equitable transportation access, there can be no equitable healthcare access.
Enjoy the collection of research, insights and directions for finding trasnsportation resources we have compiled for you.
I have been an advocate for a youth homeless shelter, a Community Outreach Intern for my local school district, a Community Programs Intern for an NBA team, and am currently a Social Media, Advocacy, and Outreach Community Manager for a small business. The thread that connects all of these positions is my love for community and giving back. I always told myself that whatever work I do, it has to be rewarding. I knew if I wasn’t making an impact that I would burn out quickly. Outside of work I have spent a lot of time volunteering with the United States Association of Blind Athletes, with my local goalball team. It is work like this that fills my cup. It is working to make sure everyone feels included and seen, and most importantly that everyone has access, that has been the most rewarding.