Half of transgender and non-binary Kiwis victims of attempted rape - survey

Almost half of all transgender and non-binary New Zealanders have been the victims of attempted rape.

That's one of the alarming results of the country's first comprehensive report into the health and wellbeing of the gender diverse community.

'Counting Ourselves', released on Monday evening, was funded by the Health Research Council as well as the University of Waikato and LGBT nonprofit The Rule Foundation.

Between June and September of 2018, researchers surveyed 1178 people aged between 14 and 83 who identify as transgender or non-binary. Participants were asked questions about their family, education, work and health, as well as experiences of being discriminated against for their identity.

The report revealed gender diverse people in New Zealand suffer far higher rates of sexual violence than the general population. 

Some 32 percent of participants said they had experience sexual violence since the age of 13. This rate is two to three times higher than women in the general population, and seven to 12 times higher than men.

A shocking 47 percent of trans and non-binary people said someone had tried to have sex with them against their will. 

Another significant finding was rates of mental health problems, which are again much higher than among the general population. Transgender and non-binary people were nine times more likely to report high or very high psychological distress. 

In the last 12 months, more than half the participants (56 percent) said they'd seriously considered attempting suicide, and 12 percent had attempted it. 

Insufficient support from the healthcare system could be partially to blame for high levels of mental distress, with participants saying they were unable to access medically necessary treatment because of barriers such as cost, limited information, fear of bad treatment or lack of available DHB services.

Because nationwide surveys like the Census don't collect information about gender diverse New Zealanders, these statistics have never been officially collated before.

The results confirm that gender diverse Kiwis suffer similar levels of discrimination to their overseas counterparts. 

Disproportionate sexual violence against gender diverse people has been better documented in other countries. The 2015 US Transgender Survey found that 47 percent of transgender Americans are sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime, and the rate is even higher for transgender people of colour. 

Among the recommendations from the report are prioritising the wellbeing of gender diverse Kiwis, creating clear pathways for gender-affirming healthcare and protecting gender diverse people from violence. 

Co-investigator and human rights researcher Jack Byrne says the report shows support from whānau can be of significant benefit to mental wellbeing among gender diverse people.

"Our study suggests that when trans and non-binary people are supported by their families, teachers, classmates, workmates or community, it could save lives."