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Transgender visibility in Canadian LMI

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There are an estimated 100,815 transgender and non-binary individuals in Canada, but we have limited information about their labour market outcomes.  

March 31st is the International Transgender Day of Visibility, an annual event dedicated to celebrating transgender people, raising awareness about discrimination, and celebrating their contributions to society. 

This Transgender Day of Visibility, we’re exploring what official data can tell us about transgender and non-binary Canadians in the labour market.  

While Canada is the first country to provide census data on transgender and non-binary people, significant data gaps persist.  

Here’s what we know: 

Where’s the data about transgender people in the labour market?

While the transgender and non-binary community comprises millions around the world, there remains a notable scarcity of research addressing the labour market outcomes of individuals in this community.  

In the last two decades, a substantial body of literature documenting the disparities in labour market outcomes for individuals with non-heteronormative sexual orientations has been developing (Denier & Waite, 2017; Badgett et al., 2021).  

This is partly due to the absence of nationwide data regarding gender identity and expression across many countries. As Gould et al. (2024) note, only 14 OECD countries collect comprehensive data on sexual orientation or gender identity, namely the USA, Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and the UK (OECD, 2020).  

Moreover, many countries have only begun collecting data very recently, making data broadly unavailable. 

This is true of Canada: In 2021, Statistics Canada introduced changes to the Census that allowed individuals to indicate “sex at birth” so that cisgender, transgender and non-binary individuals could report their gender. However, as a very recent change, there is still only a limited examination of the labour market outcomes concerning transgender and non-binary individuals.

Transgender workers face discrimination, harassment, and higher unemployment

While there is not a significant amount of data available that reflects the specific experiences of transgender individuals, there is a considerable body of literature that reveals labour market outcomes in LGB populations. In the absence of specific data, we can extrapolate that transgender individuals may have similar experiences.  

In Canada, research shows that LGB individuals are more likely to earn lower incomes, experience discrimination on the job, and encounter barriers in finding and advancing their employment relative to their heterosexual counterparts.  

Here’s what we do know about the specific challenges of transgender individuals in Canada’s labour market (Shannon, 2022). When compared to their cisgender counterparts, transgender workers face: 

Heightened levels of workplace harassment and discrimination

Substantially lower average earnings

Elevated rates of poverty and unemployment

Consistent with findings from other jurisdictions, a small Ontario study conducted in 2015 highlighted widespread discrimination against transgender workers in the region:


13% reported being terminated explicitly due to their transgender identity, with an additional 15% facing dismissal while suspecting it might be related to their transgender status.


18% experienced job rejection solely based on their transgender identity, while an additional 32% suspected such bias in their job applications.


17% declined job offers they had received due to the absence of a trans-positive and safe work environment.

Beyond direct discriminatory experiences, structural barriers to employment for transgender individuals were evident, with 28% unable to obtain employment references reflecting their current name or pronoun and 58% facing challenges getting academic transcripts with accurate name or sex designation.

Transgender workers have lower incomes than all other sexual and gender minority groups

Despite the scarcity of population-based samples, observations from convenience samples suggest that transgender individuals in Canada consistently face lower incomes compared to all sexual and gender minority groups (Kinitet al., 2023).  

Notably, the study revealed that over 70% of participants reported annual incomes below $50,000, with 40% residing in low-income households. 

A subsequent 2019 study in Ontario surveyed approximately 2,000 transgender individuals and further underscored income disparities by revealing that 50% of transgender respondents reside in low-income neighbourhoods compared to 37% in the general population. 

In their examination of relevant literature, Kinitz et al. (2023) illustrate that transgender people face prolific transphobia and bias in the labour market, resulting in harassment, exclusion, and poverty.  

They highlight that a recent study involving nearly 3,000 transgender Canadians which yielded findings aligned with population-based data from the United States and other regions. The evidence underscores common challenges, including low income, elevated levels of poverty, and a substantial dependence on income support programs. 

Transgender individuals face significant barriers to employment

The available quantitative literature and findings underscore that the presence of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity poses a significant obstacle to employment and skill development for 2SLGBTQ+ individuals in Canada.  

While employment-related discrimination is a pervasive issue across the 2SLGBTQ+ spectrum, individuals who are transgender and gender-diverse often report significantly higher rates of employment discrimination, with gender-diverse employees being between 2.2 and 2.5 times more likely to experience discrimination and workplace harassment than their cisgender male coworkers (Waite, 2021).  

Structural barriers compound this issue in employment, such as the presence of a dead (former) name on credential documentation and challenges accessing references for work experience before their transition (Kinitz et al., 2023).

How can we ensure transgender workers are visible in labour market data?

An active and supported transgender and non-binary population that enjoys equal treatment in the labour market is essential for building an economically prosperous Canada. 

Despite the strides in public visibility, transgender and non-binary people in Canada still grapple with distinct challenges in employment, ranging from workplace discrimination to high rates of unemployment and underemployment 

Studying the labour market outcomes of transgender and non-binary populations is important for several reasons. Investigating the employment outcomes and experiences of transgender and non-binary individuals not only reveals the unique challenges and barriers encountered in the labour market, but also contributes to a deeper understanding of systemic issues, including widespread prejudice, discrimination, violence, and other forms of stigma.  

Identifying disparities in employment, earnings, and advancement opportunities also becomes instrumental for advocating and evaluating the efficacy of policies aimed at improving the labour market outcomes of transgender and non-binary individuals.   

Canada has been a trailblazer in providing employment protections based on sexual orientation and gender (Waiteet al., 2019). Despite this, a significant challenge for researchers persists – the scarcity of population-based surveys that incorporate gender identity and relevant employment characteristics.  

Addressing this gap is crucial, as the lack of representative data limits thorough analysis, and existing studies fall short of directly comparing labour market differences between transgender and non-transgender individuals. 

It is essential to bridge the information gap by initiating comprehensive data collection that can inform policies and practices, ensuring that legal protections translate into tangible advancements for transgender and non-binary individuals in the Canadian workforce. 

In 2017, the Canadian government amended the Canadian Human Rights Act to protect individuals from discrimination and hate crimes based on gender identity and expression, and in 2018 the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat launched its Policy Direction to Modernize the Government of Canada’s Sex and Gender Information Practices 

Statistics Canada’s initiative to fill gaps in gender diversity data in Canada is a foundational and important first step that resulted from these policy changes, and we expect more to come in subsequent years. In the interim, LMIC’s commitment to intersectionality means that we will continue to advocate for more inclusive and representative labour market information for all Canadians. 

Understanding gender identity: Key definitions

Cisgender refers to a person or people whose gender corresponds with their sex assigned at birth.

Dead name refers to a person’s former name or name given at birth that they no longer identify with.

Gender is a social construct that encompasses the roles, behaviours, and expectations associated with being male or female in a given society.

Gender expression refers to how people express their gender through characteristics, aesthetics, and social behaviours. It is not always reflective of their gender.

Gender identity refers to a person’s sense of themselves as a woman, man, both, neither, or something in between.

Gender modality may be used to describe the relationship between a person’s gender and their sex at birth.

Gender modality may be used to describe the relationship between a person’s gender and their sex at birth.

Non-binary refers to a person or people whose gender does not fit within the binary of male and female. They may identify as both, neither, a combination of genders, or a different gender entirely. For the purposes of official data collection in Canada, Statistics Canada classifies non-binary individuals as persons whose reported gender is not exclusively male or female. It includes persons whose reported gender is, for example, agender, pangender, genderqueer, genderfluid, gender-nonconforming, or Two-Spirit. It may also include those who reported, or were reported by proxy, as questioning or in the process of deciding.

Pronouns are words used in place of nouns to refer to people without using their name. A person’s pronouns could be he/him, she/her, or they/them, or variations on this.

Sex refers to physical characteristics, including chromosomes, reproductive organs, and secondary sex characteristics.

Sexual orientation refers to a person’s romantic or sexual attraction to others. Distinct from gender identity, a person’s sexual orientation is independent of their sex or gender.

Trans is often used interchangeably with ‘transgender.’ However, the term ‘trans,’ which is considered more inclusive, is becoming more commonly used. It is sometimes used as an umbrella term to refer to any person whose gender does not correspond to their sex at birth, including non-binary persons, although not all non-binary persons identify as such.

Transgender refers to a person or people whose gender identity differs from their assigned sex at birth. For the purposes of official data collection in Canada, Statistics Canada classifies transgender individuals as persons whose sex assigned at birth was reported as one gender, and whose current gender is reported differently.

Transgender identity refers to a transgender person’s identity under the transgender umbrella. The person may identify as a trans man, trans woman, or non-binary.

Transgender man refers to a person who was assigned the female sex at birth but whose gender identity is male.

Transgender woman refers to a person who was assigned the male sex at birth but whose gender identity is female.

Transition refers to a transgender person’s journey to change their outward appearance or aspects of their life to align with their gender identity. This sometimes includes medical treatment but can include any outward characteristics.

Transphobia refers to a prejudice and/or hate towards transgender people.

Trans-positive environment refers to an environment (work, school, etc.) that has attitudes or policies in place to support transgender people.


Dr. Suzanne Spiteri is a sociologist with several years of experience in both qualitative and mixed-methods data analysis. She leads labour-related projects that explore labour market tightness and the labour market outcomes of under-represented groups.


Badgett, M. L., Carpenter, C. S., & Sansone, D. (2021). LGBTQ economics. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 35(2), 141-170. 

Badgett, M. L. (1995). The wage effects of sexual orientation discrimination. ILR Review, 48(4), 726-739. 

Ciprikis, K., Cassells, D., & Berrill, J. (2020). Transgender labour market outcomes: Evidence from the United States. Gender, Work & Organization, 27(6), 1378-1401. 

Denier, N., & Waite, S. (2017). Sexual orientation wage gaps across local labour market contexts: Evidence from Canada. Relations industrielles, 72(4), 734-762. 

Gould, W. A., Kinitz, D. J., Shahidi, F. V., MacEachen, E., Mitchell, C., Venturi, D. C., & Ross, L. E. (2024). Improving LGBT Labor Market Outcomes Through Laws, Workplace Policies, and Support Programs: A Scoping Review. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 1-18. 

Kinitz, D., MacKinnon, K., Kia, H., MacEachen, E., Gesink, D., & Ross, L. (2022). Mapping low-wage and precarious employment among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries: A scoping review protocol. University of Toronto Journal of Public Health, 3(2). 

Kinitz, D. J., Gould, W. A., Shahidi, F. V., MacEachen, E., Mitchell, C., Craig-Venturi, D., Ross, L. E. (2023). Addressing knowledge gaps about skills of 2SLGBTQ+ people in Canada: A scoping review and qualitative inquiry. A report for Employment and Social Development Canada. Retrieved from: 

Shannon, M. (2022). The labour market outcomes of transgender individuals. Labour Economics, 77, 102006. 

Waite, S., Ecker, J., & Ross, L. E. (2019). A systematic review and thematic synthesis of Canada’s LGBTQ2S+ employment, labour market and earnings literature. PloS one, 14(10), e0223372. 

Waite, S. (2021). Should I stay or should I go? Employment discrimination and workplace harassment against transgender and other minority employees in Canada’s federal public service. Journal of homosexuality, 68(11), 1833-1859.

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