MARIAVILLE, Maine (NEWS CENTER) – A newly released national survey advocates are calling “groundbreaking” revealed transgender people in Maine experienced discrimination in recent years—data that previously went unreported.
The survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality in 2015 found that 182 trans people in Maine experienced discrimination including in health care, housing and education.
"I'm scared of what might happen and I feel like my chances for a better outcome are better if people don't know I'm queer,” Amber Megan Keeler said.
22-year-old Keeler, who identifies as a woman, lives in Mariaville. She said it is a place that is “isolated” from parts of the state that provide better resources she claims would help protect her from discrimination.
43% of respondents who saw a health care provider in the past year reported at least one incident of being refused treatment, verbally harassed, or physically or sexually assaulted, having to teach the provider about transgender people in order to get appropriate care, or having another negative experience related to being transgender.
28% of respondents experienced some form of housing discrimination in the past year, such as being evicted from their home or denied a home or apartment because of being transgender.
Keeler said she has struggled to find a home without being discriminated against--even changing her appearance before going to meet a prospective landlord.
"The peace, the quiet, it's just comfortable,” Keeler said as she fished in the lake behind her current home. For her, it is a place she can go to relax.
However, she said she has been confronted countless times in public where individuals have discriminated against her.
"These aren't problems for trans Mainers. These are problems for all Mainers that are experienced so disproportionately by trans people,” Maggie Campbell with Maine Health Equity Alliance said.
Campbell said the survey reveals challenges not exclusive to the transgender community and highlights challenges many people face given the state's rural make up and a lack of resources.
She said it is also due to those challenges, that instances of discrimination have previously gone unreported.
In the same year the survey was conducted, only one person filed a transgender discrimination claim with the Maine Human Rights Commission.
The Commission is the only legal entity in the state that can uphold the rights established by the 2014 court ruling that declared the state’s Human Rights Act protected transgender people from discrimination.
Keeler, who travels hours to access health care in Portland, said there are still day-to-day struggle regardless of that legal protection, and more needs to be done.
"I would rather feel comfortable at home than live somewhere just to get better support," Keeler said.
© 2017 WLBZ-TV