Hannah Lundquist-

Stout students Coltan Shoenike and Markell Jurek have done a lot to be proud of in the last year. Their research project studying the connection between transgender discrimination and poverty experienced by transgender people was recently published in the fall issue of the NCFR journal and the Family Focus magazine, and was eventually taken to a national conference in Denver over the summer.

The project was first conceived in Coltan and Markell’s Human Development and Family Studies class, Family Resource Management.

The class itself looks at the family unit and how decisions are made within the family, especially families who are in poverty. The focus is on poverty-stricken families, since they are usually the people who seek out help from those who make a career out of this major.

It started as a five-member group project, including Coltan and Markell. When their professor, Dr. Barnett, approached the group asking if they would like to pursue it further by taking it to the conference for Marriage and Family, only Coltan and Markell were interested.

As a whole, the class was working on a project about solutions to poverty with a focus on discrimination. Two groups in the class looked at veterans and discrimination. A third group studied the relationship between mental health and poverty, and a fourth researched food banks discrimination and poverty.

Coltan said their research found that transgender people are four times more likely than their cisgender peers to make less than $10,000 a year. Transgender people also experience a 41 percent rate of suicide as opposed to the general population, who experience a 1-4 percent rate of suicide. Because Coltan identifies as trans, there was a personal connection to the issue. Therefore, it was easier for the group to start the research process and immerse themselves in the project.

The ultimate goal of the research was to start making a change at a high level in the government. Coltan and Markell discussed the need for non-discriminatory laws at the federal level to try and help transgender people out of poverty and bad situations.

Coltan said that the entire process has been an amazing opportunity for the two of them to expand their knowledge on the research topic and bolster their resumes. Both students said that after school is done, they are leaning towards a career working with transgender people, and that this project has helped solidify their choice in career.

More than a year has passed since the two started the project, and they cannot believe it is still getting recognition and being talked about. It is not an easy time for transgender people, but many people do not realize how truly bad it is. Coltan hopes that showing their research will help more people understand.

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