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Housing pressures, barriers to employment and healthcare: new research on life for trans Londoners

Housing TLP

Photo from a zine produced by Trans Learning Partnership about housing experiences as a trans person.

Housing TLP

Photo from a zine produced by Trans Learning Partnership about housing experiences as a trans person.

Author: Trans Learning Partnership

Our interactive census maps use data to tell us a lot about the different experiences of deprivation in London. But what does this look like day-to-day for real communities? We've asked some of the groups we fund that represent these communities to share their insight and experiences. Here Tash Oakes-Monger, programme manager at the Trans Learning Partnership, gives us an early look at some of the initial findings from a new community-focussed research project.

The Trans Learning Partnership (TLP) is a new trans and non-binary research and development programme hosted by Spectra. Supported by Trust for London and City Bridge Foundation, TLP is working to strengthen the evidence-base for trans-focussed service improvements and policy influence.

Community research

There's a real lack of data-driven insight into the lives and experiences of trans and non-binary communities. TLP is currently undertaking data analysis from community research, covering employment, housing and assets, bringing to light much about the relationship between being trans or non-binary and the experience of deprivation. The work has a participatory approach, integrating solution-building and sharing accessible information with the communities involved.

Data from London's Poverty Profile highlights the cost-of-living crisis and lingering effects of the pandemic. Analysis of the 2021 census has suggested a correlation between trans[1] Londoners and areas with higher levels of deprivation[2]. At the Trans Learning Partnership, we've been undertaking a series of research events to take a closer look at the lives of trans people.

“As a trans non-binary, educated, working-class person, I'm currently struggling to remain in London, which is where I feel safest because of my current supporting network, and considering the socio-political setting of my home country.”

TLP research participant


Our survey of 479 trans and non-binary individuals found that 72.4% of respondents aged 16 to 64 years were in some form of paid work compared to 76.1% of the UK population. While 76% of working age people who were employed in England, Wales and Scotland worked full time, only 56.9% of those in paid work in our sample were employed full time.

25% of those who reported their income were earning less than £10,000 annually. Even when accounting for the population in education, 20% were still earning less than £10,000 annually.

“I don't have any assets. My inability to transition has left me at the wage bracket that a teenager expects, at 40-years old.”

TLP research participant


For trans people, accessing healthcare can mean being faced with discrimination[3], [4] and waits for gender identity clinics are a particular issue. With waiting lists currently often over five years for a first appointment[5], where people can, they are resorting to private health care. This comes with a huge additional financial burden. 11% of our respondents were paying a monthly subscription fee for access to private hormone therapy and 36% of respondents paid to be privately assessed for gender dysphoria. 31% of the respondents provided data on surgery related costs. 95% of these had already spent, or expected to spend, over £5,000, 64% over £10,000 and 9% over £50,000.

“Income is the main reason I haven't been able to transition. I know I would need to do it privately and I'm barely able to make it to the end of the month, so it's not possible for me to save any money for transition-related care.”

TLP research participant

These additional healthcare costs place a huge burden on an already marginalised group. As a result, many individuals are unable to access care, resulting in poor mental health. Poor mental health means it’s more challenging to work and maintain an income. A cycle is created where people are unable to work due to poor health and wellbeing and therefore can’t save money to access the health care they need. Being out of work makes health care even more out of reach. Trans people also face the pressures of feeling afraid to take days off work for healthcare, as requesting leave can mean needing to disclose one’s trans identity. A lack of access to healthcare, or a need to take time off to access healthcare, can mean that an individual is forced to ‘out themself’. Disclosing of trans identity can result in increased discrimination.

“I'm currently signed off work to recover from transition related surgery that I borrowed money to access privately due to waiting times. My job is part-time so the sick pay I receive has been £60 a week and I'm not eligible for any benefits. I had complications during recovery, so recovery is so far 5 months rather than 10 weeks. I'm not able to tell my employer what my surgery was or why I am specifically taking long recovery time.”

TLP research participant


Trans people also reported that they have struggled with housing. Over 25% of the respondents had spent time without housing (of those 11% were for more than a year), compared with estimates from Shelter that just under 2% of London population are experiencing homelessness[5]. 7% of trans respondents had carried out work or labour (for example, sex work) for someone in order to be able to stay with them in their home for any amount of time.

“I would like not to have to worry about medical and legal aspects of transition and how that would affect my housing.”

TLP research participant

In the general population, housing costs and the Covid-19 pandemic have led to an increase in young people living with their families: 59% of 18–24-year-olds in the UK living with their parents[6]. However, in our survey of trans and non-binary people just 24% of 18–24-year-olds are living with family. Evidence from our qualitative research suggests that trans and non-binary people often don’t have safe family homes or support to fall back on in times of hardship. 31% of participants were worried about losing their housing or accommodation and 38% said that their housing costs had made it difficult for them to afford transition-related care. Not only did people struggle without the support of a family home or network to fall back on, they also had difficulties providing guarantors for renting housing.

“I worry about everything and am not trusting that good situations will stay… A feeling of foreboding about life and housing transience affects everything.”

TLP research participant

While many trans people spoke to the suffering associated with how they were treated by the world, those who had support networks often spoke of the importance of these and their queer families.

“I rerouted the course of my life to meet other trans people in person and that social group saved my life…it is unfailingly the trans people of the world who have been and are always there for me.”

TLP research participant

Full research findings will be published next year. Find out more about Trans Learning Partnership and the work here.