The Black Futures Lab’s Black Census project, conducted in partnership with online and community-based organizations across the country, is the largest survey of Black people in the United States since Reconstruction. More than 30,000 Black people—including transgender and cisgender women and men, as well as gender non-conforming and nonbinary people—participated in the Black Census and shared insights into their experiences and political and social views. In this report we take a closer look at where and how gender affects the lives and perspectives of Black Census respondents. We build on previous reports from Black Futures Lab, Dēmos, Color of Change and Socioanalítica Research that introduced the findings of the Black Census and amplified the voices of LGB+ Black Census respondents.
The Black Census includes populations that are usually not represented or are underrepresented in conventional surveys, such as homeless people, incarcerated people, LGBTQ+ people, Black Republicans and conservatives, Black immigrants, and mixed-raced people with a Black parent, among others. The participation of 203 Black transgender men, 273 Black transgender women and 647 Black people who identify as gender non-conforming or describe their gender as different than male or female provides a particularly important lens on the views and experiences of these very marginalized communities. The Black Census is not a traditional probabilistic survey sample, which often fails to fully represent populations whose experiences are important to understanding the complexity of Black life.
The Black Census Project reveals important similarities and differences in the Black community across lines of gender. Comparing the responses of Black men and women—including transgender and cisgender people—as well as non-binary and gender non-conforming people, illuminates key ways that gender shapes the lived experience of Black people in the United States, informing political attitudes and participation. A better understanding of how Black Census respondents are united or split by gender can help bridge differences and form new coalitions to build power within Black communities.
Black Census respondents of every gender experience the ravages of anti-Black racism, contributing to economic insecurity and hardship, everyday discrimination, and mistreatment by the police. Yet important differences emerge as well: Cisgender Black women report greater economic insecurity than cisgender men, while cis- and transgender Black men report more negative interactions with the police. Transgender and gender non-conforming Black Census respondents live with the highest rates of poverty and extreme economic insecurity, and confront an extraordinary degree of threats, harassment and open violence. Out of these experiences comes a high degree of alignment among Black Census respondents around an active role for government to create a more equitable economy, raising the minimum wage, taxing the wealthy, and providing for critical needs like housing, health care, and child care. Policy differences are also revealing: Cisgender men were less likely than other Black Census respondents to see violence or harassment of women as major problem, or to support access to an affordable and safe abortion. Cisgender men and women were less likely to recognize violence against transgender women as a major problem despite a dramatic rise in killings of Black transgender women.
Exploring and striving to understand these broad similarities and differences in greater detail, this report concludes that building political power within Black communities will require a more inclusive approach. Cisgender Black women need to recognize that feminist coalitions will be stronger when the concerns of transgender women are included and prioritized. Cisgender Black men must understand that the path to greater political potency requires a broader understanding of the needs and interests of the entire Black community.
After all, cisgender Black women are the most likely to be registered to vote and to report voting in the 2016 election, while transgender and gender non-conforming Black Census respondents report the highest levels of civic participation, such as protesting or volunteering with a social justice organization. Fully engaging and including Black people of all genders will strengthen the political power of Black communities.