After an afternoon spent trying on the test make-up at big brand make-up stores like Sephora and Mac in Time Square, Brielle, 25, returned home to a room she rented for $200 a month, in an overheated two-bedroom apartment on Tinton Avenue, in the South Bronx. She lives there with three other transgender women of color, Tara, 22, Mikayla, 19, and Valerie, 22. Like most twenty- something’s, Brielle, Mikayla, Tara and Valerie are in a state of flux as they try to build a stable foundation and financial security for their adult lives. Yet their problems tend to be more acute than the average millennial.
These women are just a sample of New York’s 23,800 transgender people, who tend to experience acute levels of discrimination and economic insecurity that has devastating effects, particularly on transgender people of color, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality’s discrimination survey. All four women have had to abruptly leave their family homes to fully express their gender identity. All four of them have yet to complete higher education, all four are unemployed and all are dependent on sex work to make ends meet.
Although the reasons they found themselves in this position vary, certain realities bind them together. The 2011 survey describes a landscape of systemic discrimination that results in many minority transgender women of color living in extreme poverty and lacking access to quality employment, housing, healthcare and pathways to social mobilization.