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National Survey Highlights Transgender Discrimination, Inequality

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) has conducted the largest survey in history of the transgender community in order to highlight the disparities trans people face in every day life.

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People hold a giant transgender flag during a Trans Pride Parade. BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images

"This is going to help America better understand transgender people. We've made undeniable strides in visibility and acceptance, and our policy agenda has advanced at rocket speeds when it comes to access to healthcare or obtaining identification documents. However, the findings of this survey make it crystal clear that there's more work to do," Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said.

RELATED: U.S. Transgender People Harassed in Public Restrooms: Landmark Survey

Out of 27,715 respondents, the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that about a third of respondents reported they were living in poverty, compared to the 14 percent of the general population, according to Sandy James, one of the authors of the report. Trans people also have a 15 percent unemployment rate, compared to the current 4.6 percent of the general population, and 40 percent of trans people reported having attempted suicide at some point in their lives.

Sharron Cooks, a trans woman of color, joined a press call to offer her personal story and to put the findings into perspective.

"Due to the isolation and obstacles I faced in high school for being transgender, I left high school early, delaying my education for a decade. Finding employment became difficult, and I turned to sex work to support myself. While it provided an income, it came with physical and emotional hardships that I did not want to continue long-term."

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Sharron Cooks, founder of Making Our Lives Easier, on the final night of the Democratic National Convention, July 28, 2016. Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

Cooks eventually graduated from college with a degree in philosophy and became the founder and owner of Making Our Lives Easier, an organization that dedicates itself to providing resources and consulting that serves underrepresented communities.

"I wanted to show other members of the community that there are other options out there. My journey has helped me learn more about myself and has fueled the passion I have for community service."

Violence and discrimination against transgender people continue to be an unsettling and persistent issue. Forty-six percent of respondents reported they had experienced verbal harassment in the year prior to filling out the survey, 47 percent of respondents said that they had been sexually assaulted at some point in the past and 30 percent reported being fired from a job after revealing their gender identity.

The NCTE expressed the hope that the survey could be used as a tool to inform and educate so that policies and plans could be implemented to make sure that the positive strides the transgender community has made continue to grow.

RELATED: GOP Sweep Heightens Anxiety for Many Transgender Americans

"Our hope is that the survey will be used by the organization and all trans people, advocates, allies and media to educate America on who we are. The best thing to do is to tell our stories and educate our classmates, friends or family. Individual stories are important, and put into context the aggregate situation for trans people," Keisling said.

Keisling also said the NCTE will continue to push its advocacy and policy work into the forefront even if it faces pushback from the incoming Trump administration.

"We anticipate moving into the next administration just as assertively, whether they are friend or foe. People are going to hear about us."

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