Struggle For Sustenance 

An Inquiry into The Economic Marginalization of The Transgender People



This qualitative paper aims to navigate the underlying reasons behind the curtailed livelihood of Transgender individuals revealing their connection with a complex array of sociocultural factors. It underscores how transgender individuals often become the forgotten ones amidst the fight for rights overshadowed by the cisgender population. The paper also upholds the potency of legal recognition as a means to safeguard Transgender individuals’ right to subsist with dignity. This research proclaims low education attainment induced by social stigma, gender-binary urban planning which in turn leads to restricted employment opportunities, stemming from a narrow range of choices influenced by cisnormative stereotypes, discriminative healthcare, and legal system leading to an absence of financial assets are the primary drivers for the economic marginalization of the transgender community. The study also presents promising developments on both international and local scales, offering glimpses of hope. In conclusion, the paper advocates for policy changes and structural adjustments through national and international development interventions, aiming to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for transgender individuals.


With the motto of “Leave no one behind” the Sustainable Development Goals, constructed in 2015 never explicitly mentioned the “Transgender” groups in any of its goals even the gender equality goals and targets ever. Rather, all the goals, targets and indicators were designed to achieve equal rights exclusively for women and girls. Likewise, in the case of any gender discussion, the Transgender community is mostly overlooked and the discussion revolves around the cisgenders. The practice of associating gender identity with the immediate sex declaration at birth is the root cause that lies behind this invisibility of the Transgender group because this association or I might say assumption is not necessarily always accurate. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, genetics and anatomy determine our sex whereas the sense of identity developed from biological traits, and cultural or environmental influences develops our Gender identity overtime which is inclusive of male, female, something intermediary, a blend of both or none of them (Rafferty et al., 2018). Hence, gender is clearly not a binary concept that most people suppose. In fact, there exist seven prominent, clearly distinctive genders to date among which a major one is Transgender. Often mistaken for a single identity, this term actually represents a big umbrella under which individuals such as trans men/women, genderqueer, intersex with sexual orientations like gay, straight, bisexual, etc. fall. Problem arises because at the very basic they are not acknowledged being a part of the term gender let alone considering their rights of having a stable livelihood as a gender group of society. In lieu of just some financial aid and rations supply, livelihood is an individual’s opportunity to be capable, acquiring resources to act upon and scope to actively participate in the society and economy. For example, Vietnamese people prefer dignified employment as a means of livelihood which helps them with social acceptance and recognition (Hoang and Oosterhoff, 2016). However, in reality, there is little to no scope for the transgender community to get a dignified job and hence, this situation compels them to choose occupations like begging and prostitution while risking their physical and mental health. Lack of knowledge and protocols, purposeful discrimination, exclusion from social and health protection, etc. makes it difficult for Transgender people to access basic and gender-specific healthcare resulting in poor physical and mental health (Pandya & Redcay, 2021). The aforementioned lack of livelihood opportunities greatly constrains the economic life of Transgender people.

Rather than just some monetary value, Livelihood means the right to dignified and sustainable labor force participation with the right to property while meeting basic needs. The research uses a qualitative measure to inquire about the livelihood of the transgender community. This paper sought to uncover the question of

  • If transgender people face economic marginalization due to their gender identity?
  • What are the connections between their economic marginalization with sociocultural and legal factors such as lack of access to education, healthcare, employment, public spaces, inheritance, and social stigmatization?

This paper will first review some literature then use the gender analysis method with assumptions, factors of influence, outcomes, and challenges, and complete with concluding remarks.  




This paper uses the qualitative approach and was written completely using secondary data collected from the internet. This intends to show the relevance of the paper topic with the course content. The timeline for collecting the data is 2000-2020. In order to strengthen the paper a quality number of relevant research papers, reports, journal articles, government documents, and policy briefs have been investigated. To ensure the level of accuracy, reliable channels such as Ayesha Abed Library and Athens have been used and relevant papers were retrieved from SAGE, ScienceDirect, and ECONSTOR. The paperwork is completed with proper citations and references.


Literature Review 

Grant et al. (2011) demonstrated in their largest survey that based on their gender identity 26 percent of transgender were terminated from their jobs, 78 percent faced harassment while 35 percent were harmed physically which led to school dropouts, unemployment, and self-harm cases. Labor market anomalies of transgender are well reflected United States Transgender Survey of 2015 where it was evident that impoverishment, unemployment, and poverty are extensively observed among the transgender compared to cisgender (Shannon, 2021). A large number of case studies by Lombardi et al. (2002) concluded that, owing to discrimination and prejudice, transgender people face violence catalyzing economic disparities in every arena of their life. The survey result of the Socio-Economic Panel and Bielefeld University found around 30 percent of LGBTQI member encounters discrimination at their workstations making it the most common place to face segregation (Vries et al., 2020). Bender (2011) drew the example of Diane Schroer, a retired U.S. Army Colonel who was laid off from her newly appointed position right after she came out as a transgender in spite of having outstanding abilities compared to her counterparts. 

Lower education attainment has been one of the major causes for transgender people to face economic exclusion suggested by Barik and Sharma (2020).  They argued most transgender drop out after class 10 attributed to the obstacles they face in schools for body transition during adolescence. Such lower education attainment constraints their employment opportunities and access to financial services. Khan et al. (2009) and Gayatri & Karthikeyan (2016) identifies transgender people as the utmost marginalized group facing deprivation in the social, economic, political and educational sphere with no place to live agilely. Marginalization creates minority stress leading to an antagonistic environment in the home, work and social sphere ensuing psychological issues (Meyer, 2003). Hoang and Oosterhoff (2016) claim prime obstacles to job attainment and promotion of transgender people are inequity and stigma. The inevitable stigmatization and violence transgender people face culminates in social exclusion argued by Ganju and Saggutri (2017) which is why they have limited access to both informal and formal employment. Studies in Los Angeles showed that it was their gender identity that made around 28 percent of transgender people lose jobs, 47 percent find it difficult to secure a job and 30 percent of them actually lost or denied accommodation (Reback et al., 2001). Research by Herman (2013) regarding the use of public restrooms estimates, 18 percent of transgender people were prohibited from using public restrooms accompanied by 68% facing verbal abuse and 9% facing physical abuse hence, 58% avoided visits to public spaces among the respondents. While the inheritance laws remain unchanged in many Western countries for using gender-neutral terms in lawmaking, countries such as India, Pakistan Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Nepal use a patrilineal and binary gender notion for inheritance laws, hence, transgender either have to let go of their civil rights of marriage, adoption, inheritance, etc. or must forcefully comply with their assigned gender to claim their inheritance (Gulati & Anand, 2021). Such incidents of inequity leave impacts on people driving them to poverty and poor health (Grant et al. 2011).


Gender Analysis

Transgender people are susceptible to violence and discrimination in their homes, school, workplace, or any public space. The major cause of Transgender people facing limited formal labor market access is their low literacy rate. Being vulnerable to bullying, Transgender people are less likely to have a normal student life in conventional schools. Burdened to deal with wearing uniforms that do not comply with their gender identity, social exclusion, and being the subject of hate, mockery, aggression, and sexual assaults, etc. transgender people struggle to fit into conventional schools with the hostile environment created by their peers and the authority. Their social exclusion prohibits them to live like a social individual and constrains their opportunities. Access barriers to public places such as restrooms, gyms, locker rooms, swimming pools, changing rooms, shelters, etc. forfend their free excursion of public spaces hence impedes their employment opportunities. For example, during long office hours using the washroom becomes necessary. This basic biological necessity becomes a concern for a transgender person since the architecture follows a gender binary design forcing trans women to use the men’s restroom while trans men to use the women’s restroom. For the most part, they are completely denied access and hence face health complications. All these are negatively correlated with their employment. Discriminative inheritance laws stuck to binary notions are significant drawbacks for transgender people to achieve economic independence through possessing assets. Such lack of assets restricts their access to loans, restraining their participation in the informal sector or business. All these socio-cultural, educational, health, and legal inequity contributes to the economic disparities of transgender people by contracting both their formal and informal livelihood opportunities. 


Recognizing transgender as a part of gender identity has a positive correlation with removing discrimination against transgender people since it gives them the liberty to address their gender-based discrimination and legally take action against it. Establishing their civil rights ensures their access to education, healthcare, employment opportunities, and politics resulting in higher education attainment, proper healthcare responsive to their gender needs, and encourages them to participate in public events by ensuring their access to public spaces.  Educating people about gender from an early age helps to build cognizance, sensitivity and tolerance toward different genders. This resolves the confusion between gender identity and sexual orientation and lends them a helping hand when they want to them to come out, pronounce and embrace their own gender identity. Legal recognition of transgender people is very crucial. For example, Pakistan, Nepal, India, and Bangladesh legally recognize them as third gender which helps them to enjoy equal human rights. Many European countries allow them to change their gender on national id cards with just a simple declaration of their acclaimed gender identity. Such initiatives open the paths for them to adopt, marry, get jobs, and have inheritance rights with reserving quotas in jobs or education. Proper representation of transgender in policy-making, democracy, architectural planning, healthcare facility, etc. is necessary for those to be gender-responsive. This will ensure the reformation of public restroom usage norms or make effective procedures to get legal recognition and rights. When such barriers to entry dissolve there will be more labor market participation opportunities.


Many countries consider the transformation of gender identity as a psychological disorder. Carroll & Gilroy (2002) reports that the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders still suggests “gender identity disorder” (GID) and “adult transsexualism” may be abnormal or psychological illness. A virtuous and sustainable development has to be gender inclusive but in sustainable development goals gender is always viewed as binary. Along with socioeconomic factors, religion also creates a significant barrier in the way of attaining equality for transgender people. It propagates exclusion, transphobia, hate-crimes, trans killing, etc. to a great extent resulting in 375 murders in the year 2021 (Wareham, 2021). Regressive scenarios can be observed in Hungary where they recently passed a law prohibiting transgender people to legally change their gender (Human Right Watch 2020). To date transgender people live at the margin, being excluded, and facing social stigmatization. In the research area, the lack of quantitative information and statistical data is a significant constraint to inquire about the real scenario.


Regardless of these drawbacks, the world is celebrating some positive scenarios where transgender people are advancing their ways into different spheres. Georgina Beyer became the world’s first transwoman mayor and member of parliament of New Zealand, while Jamie Wallis came out as a transgender and successfully maintained his position in the UK parliament. In Bangladesh, transgender people are holding respective occupations such as Nazrul Islam Ritu became a respected UP chairman with overwhelming votes. Tasnuva Shishir became a successful news representative and lives a life of dignity. Organizations such as BRAC, Foodpanda, etc. are creating employment opportunities especially for transgender people. Bangladesh exempts a 5% tax for corporate offices to hire transgender people (Aljazeera 2021). Establishing Islamic schools for the transgender community in Bangladesh helped their inclusion in the most hostile area of society’s cultural and religious sphere (Chowdhury, 2020). All these promising possibilities are paving the way for ensuring equity and equality for transgender people.



This paper took a qualitative approach to inquire about the livelihood issue of transgender people focusing on their economic marginalization resulting from labor market constraints. The main assumption was their lack of access to education, healthcare services, legal support, social security and public places generated from socio-cultural stigma and exclusion were the prime reasons for such economic disparities. A great number of studies complied with the main subject of the paper that there exists economic marginalization of transgender people because of their gender identity. It is very evident from the literatures that our built-in environment is designed based on a gender binary notion making it inevitable for the transgender to face exclusion and predicaments. Transgender people heavily face impediments in attaining education and basic healthcare services. The legal system is such that transgender people often have to comply with their assigned gender to get services. Rather than acknowledging it as a gender identity sometimes being transgender is thought to be a curse or psychological problem. All of these are fueled by social shaming and prejudice. In such situations, they have less opportunity for formal and informal employment. They sometimes get fired or face humiliation in the workplace when they pronounce themselves as transgender. All these contribute to economic marginalization.

This paper also welcomes the positive scenarios of transgender having equal rights to participate but is concerned that compared to the enormity of discrimination it is a very marginal response. Hence, there should be state-level and international-level intervention for transgender people to ensure their proper labor force participation with preserved dignity. Though inclusive policies are essential to end gender discrimination but it is crucial that such policies are bringing positive results without harming the dignity of these transgender people. For example, India’s The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill claims to protect transgender people against discrimination but this was heavily criticized by the transgender community for making begging a criminal act for transgender people, revoking the rights to self-proclamation of gender identity without surgery, also making punishment for violence against transgender less severe than that of cisgender (The Diplomat, 2020). Nevertheless, legal recognition and a strong legal stance is a prerequisite to end all kinds of discrimination against transgender people and ensure their rights along with social awareness and inclusiveness. Successful achievement of these two will broaden their world, ensuring equality and bringing more and more opportunities. Hence, they would be able to participate in the workforce and accrue assets eliminating their economic marginalization.







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