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2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS) (ICPSR 37229)

Version Date: May 22, 2019 View help for published

Principal Investigator(s): View help for Principal Investigator(s)
Sandy E. James, National Center for Transgender Equality (U.S.); Jody Herman, National Center for Transgender Equality (U.S.); Mara Keisling, National Center for Transgender Equality (U.S.); Lisa Mottet, National Center for Transgender Equality (U.S.); Ma'ayan Anafi, National Center for Transgender Equality (U.S.)

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The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS) was conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) to examine the experiences of transgender adults in the United States. The USTS questionnaire was administered online and data were collected over a 34-day period in the summer of 2015, between August 19 and September 21. The final sample included respondents from all fifty states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and U.S. military bases overseas. The USTS Public Use Dataset (PUDS) features survey results from 27,715 respondents and details the experiences of transgender people across a wide range of areas, such as education, employment, family life, health, housing, and interactions with police and prisons.

The survey instrument had thirty-two sections that covered a broad array of topics, including questions related to the following topics (in alphabetical order): accessing restrooms; airport security; civic participation; counseling; family and peer support; health and health insurance; HIV; housing and homelessness; identity documents; immigration; intimate partner violence; military service; police and incarceration; policy priorities; public accommodations; sex work; sexual assault; substance use; suicidal thoughts and behaviors; unequal treatment, harassment, and physical attack; and voting.

Demographic information includes age, racial and ethnic identity, sex assigned at birth, gender and preferred pronouns, sexual orientation, language(s) spoken at home, education, employment, income, religion/spirituality, and marital status.

There are no publicly available data files for this study. The naming conventions were maintained from the original pre-ICPSR release and the PUDS file is restricted use along with the qualitative data (MS Excel) file.

Before applying for access to these data please refer to the Approved Requests for USTS Data. These abstracts describe work currently in progress, and we provide them to help reduce the risk of duplication of research efforts.

James, Sandy E., Herman, Jody, Keisling, Mara, Mottet, Lisa, and Anafi, Ma’ayan. 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS). Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2019-05-22.

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This data collection may not be used for any purpose other than statistical reporting and analysis. Use of these data to learn the identity of any person or establishment is prohibited. To protect respondent privacy, all data files in this collection are restricted from general dissemination. To obtain these restricted files, researchers must agree to the terms and conditions of a Restricted Data Use Agreement.

All the data in this study are restricted despite the naming conventions. The naming conventions were maintained from the original pre-ICPSR release.

The qualitative file contains full answers from variables in the PUDS data file that have truncated values as well as the zip codes.

Please review the list of approved abstracts before applying for access to this study. These abstracts describe work currently in progress, and we provide them to help reduce the risk of duplication of research efforts.

Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research

2015-08-19 -- 2015-09-21
  1. Please note that the USTS Public Use Dataset (PUDS) is currently restricted from public download and is available only to researchers who have completed and agreed to the terms and conditions of a Restricted Data Use Agreement.

  2. For additional information on the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS), please visit the U.S. Transgender Survey web site and the National Center for Transgender Equality web site.


The purpose of the 2015 USTS was to gather information on the lives and experiences of transgender people in the United States and to serve as a resource for researchers, policymakers, and advocates seeking to better understand the disparities faced by transgender people. The 2015 USTS serves as a follow-up to the 2008-09 National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS), and supplements the NTDS with more current and comprehensive data. USTS investigators plan to conduct the USTS every five years to allow researchers to measure changes in the experiences of transgender people over time.

The USTS questionnaire was developed by a team of researchers and advocates and administered online to transgender adults residing in the United States. The survey instrument was designed to gather information about disparities that often exist between transgender people and non-transgender people in the U.S. To achieve this, many questions in the USTS were modeled after questions used in federal surveys to allow comparisons between the USTS sample and the U.S. population as a whole. Questions were selected to best match those previously asked in federal government or other national surveys on a number of measures, such as measures related to income and health.

The survey was distributed through extensive, community-based outreach and was made accessible via any web-enabled device (e.g., computer, tablet, netbook, smart phone), accessible for respondents with disabilities (e.g., through screen readers), and made available in English and Spanish. Rankin and Associates Consulting hosted the survey on several secure servers. The survey was accessed exclusively through a website created specifically for the promotion and distribution of the survey (

For additional information on the study design, including detailed information on recruitment activities and survey-taking events, please see the Questionnaire Design and Data Collection Methods sections of the Methodology Report.

The USTS sample was a purposive sample that was created using direct outreach, modified venue-based sampling, and "snowball" sampling. As a non-probability sample, generalizability is limited and the USTS sample may not be representative of the broader transgender population in the U.S.

The main recruitment objective was to provide broad and equal opportunity to participate in the survey for as many transgender individuals as possible across the U.S. and its territories. Additionally, outreach efforts focused on reaching people who may have had limited access to the online platform and who were at increased risk of being underrepresented in this study. This included, but was not limited to, people of color, seniors, people residing in rural areas, and low-income individuals. The recruitment strategy was a multi-pronged approach to reach transgender people through various connections and "points-of-access," including transgender- or LGBTQ-specific organizations, support groups, health centers, and online communities.

An initial phase of outreach involved developing lists of active transgender, LGBTQ, and allied organizations who served transgender people. These organizations would eventually be asked to support the survey by spreading the word through multiple communication platforms and in some cases providing direct access to the survey at their offices or facilities. Establishing this network of "supporting organizations" was an essential component of reaching a wide, diverse sample of transgender people. Over 800 organizations were contacted by email, phone, and social media, and they were asked if they would support the survey by sharing information about it with their members and contacts.

Communications for the survey required a multifaceted approach and a coordinated effort with the recruitment strategy to most effectively reach a wide range of transgender people and ensure a robust sample size.

The goals of survey communications were to:

  1. Inform people that NCTE would be conducting a survey to further the understanding of the experiences of transgender people in the U.S initially gleaned through the National Transgender Discrimination Survey
  2. Communicate when the survey would be available to complete and how it could be accessed, and
  3. Find creative ways of reaching diverse populations of potential respondents. This involved raising awareness of the survey through several communication methods, including email, social media, and print media, as well as through additional unique campaigns. Many survey promotional materials were produced in English and Spanish to increase the accessibility of the survey.

In an effort to increase accessibility of the survey, the outreach team worked with organizations across the country to organize events or venues where people could complete the survey. Survey-Taking Events, or "survey events," were spaces in which organizations offered their resources to provide access to the survey, such as computers or other web-enabled devices.

Please see the Data Collection Methods section of the Methodology Report for detailed information on recruiting activities and survey-taking events. Additionally, the Weights section of the Methodology Report features an explanation of individual weight variables created by the research team to adjust the USTS sample to better represent actual population characteristics of transgender people within the U.S.


Individuals self-identified as transgender, trans, genderqueer, non-binary, or other identities on the transgender identity spectrum aged 18 and older residing in the fifty U.S. states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and U.S. military bases overseas.



2019-05-22 ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

The USTS Public Use Dataset (PUDS) contains nine weight variables (EDWEIGHTYA, EDWEIGHTADULT, EDWEIGHTTOTAL, RACEWEIGHT, AGEWEIGHT, EDRACEAGEWEIGHT, WEIGHT18YR, SURVEYWEIGHT, and SURVEYFULLWEIGHT). When conducting analyses with this dataset, researchers should determine which, if any, weights should be applied based on what adjustments they deem appropriate. For additional information on the application of weights, please see the Weights section of the Methodology Report.



  • Curation and dissemination of this study is provided by the institutional members of ICPSR, and data is available only to users at ICPSR member institutions. To determine if you are at a member institution, check the list of ICPSR member institutions, or learn more about becoming a member.

  • One or more files in this data collection have special restrictions. Restricted data files are not available for direct download from the website; click on the Restricted Data button to learn more.