Apple’s birth certificate and other official documents issued by the government of Thailand indicate that she is male. But from the time of her earliest memories growing up in central Thailand Apple has always known that she is female. Though her parents at first thought it was a phase and that Apple would identify as male as she got older, they eventually came to accept that Apple is female in her heart and soul; and they have worked hard to ensure that she was accepted for who she is by others in their extended family and by their local community.
Financial exclusion: My ID card still says “Mister,” but I’m a “Miss”
As a young adult, Apple underwent sex reassignment surgery and now her female body conforms with her gender identity as a woman. Apple is very happy about this, but says that this has not solved the many challenges she faces as she bravely engages with society around her. Those challenges really began with the bullying she experienced in secondary school, and the stigma and discrimination she experienced from her school’s administration and some teachers – challenges so great that Apple left high school before getting her diploma.
Nonetheless, Apple is clever and remains determined to succeed. But when asked to name the biggest challenge confronting her, she does not hesitate to name the inability under existing national law to change her gender on government-issued documents: “The main problem is my personal title. When I have to deal with bank officers, they usually have a problem with my ID card because it still says ‘Mister.’ The photo is an old one [taken before her surgery]. They usually feel suspicious and must investigate more.”
Exclusion is costly
When transgender people like Apple access bank services, their ID cards that show their gender-at-birth present a problem, and the services they seek are very often delayed or denied.
Such reduced access to banking services is an example of the economic exclusion and loss of economic opportunities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people. This kind of exclusion of LGBTI people carries costs to the individuals concerned, and almost certainly carries costs to a country’s economy and society as a whole.
Filling the LGBTI data gap
Understanding the ways in which LGBTI people are excluded from markets, services, and spaces will help governments, academics, and civil society organizations to develop feasible solutions to be more inclusive.
But, in many countries, no, or very limited, LGBTI-specific data exists.
We at the World Bank can play a key role in filling the gap. Through research, generation of data, and analysis, we are expanding the evidence base on the links between LGBTI exclusion and development as we work to build inclusive, resilient, and sustainable cities and communities for all.
In the last two years, two unprecedented data collection projects in Thailand and the Western Balkans surveyed over 5,500 LGBTI people.
In March 2018, the World Bank released a groundbreaking research report, Economic Inclusion of LGBTI Groups in Thailand, which documents for the first time the discrimination and exclusion that Thai LGBTI people experience in many aspects of life – education, employment, health and life insurance markets, housing markets, as well as financial markets – the first such study globally that is grounded in statistically significant evidence for both LGBTI and non-LGBTI groups.
The research found that there is widespread discrimination against LGBTI people in the labor markets. For instance, three-quarters of transgender people, half of gay males, and two-thirds of lesbian respondents said their job applications were refused because of their sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI).
A study focusing on the Western Balkans will be forthcoming soon.
Initiatives like these help Bank operational teams, client countries, civil society partners, and others understand what it takes to design effective solutions to the social inclusion challenges faced by LGBTI people worldwide, especially the poor and vulnerable.
The foundation for shared prosperity
As President Kim says in his IDAHOT 2018 message to staff and external partners, “No country, community, or economy can achieve its full potential – or meet the challenges of the 21st century – without the full and equal participation of all its people.”
His words, in fact, speak directly to Apple, and the many people like her all around the world – making sure the excluded people like Apple are at the center of the World Bank’s efforts to reach its twin goals of reducing poverty and increasing shared prosperity.