ArticlePDF Available

“I Don’t Know Where it is Safe”: Trans Women’s Experiences of Violence

Authors:

Abstract

Scholars are only beginning to take account of how trans people experience violence motivated by their gender identity and expression. Based on a series of focus groups and interviews across Canada, this article aims to further this area of inquiry. The fear of victimization, and thus hyper-vigilance, seems to be particularly acute among trans women. Many of them spoke of the multiple and complex layers through which they defined “safety” and lack thereof. We share their experiences and perceptions of the threat of hate motivated violence, and their subsequent reactions.
1 23




 !"#$ %

&!'!!()!$ !*% "!

 

1 23
Your article is protected by copyright and all
rights are held exclusively by Springer Science
+Business Media Dordrecht. This e-offprint
is for personal use only and shall not be self-
archived in electronic repositories. If you wish
to self-archive your article, please use the
accepted manuscript version for posting on
your own website. You may further deposit
the accepted manuscript version in any
repository, provided it is only made publicly
available 12 months after official publication
or later and provided acknowledgement is
given to the original source of publication
and a link is inserted to the published article
on Springer's website. The link must be
accompanied by the following text: "The final
publication is available at link.springer.com”.
‘I Don’t Know Where it is Safe’’: Trans Women’s
Experiences of Violence
Barbara Perry D. Ryan Dyck
!Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013
Abstract Scholars are only beginning to take account of how trans people experience
violence motivated by their gender identity and expression. Based on a series of focus
groups and interviews across Canada, this article aims to further this area of inquiry. The
fear of victimization, and thus hyper-vigilance, seems to be particularly acute among trans
women. Many of them spoke of the multiple and complex layers through which they
defined ‘‘safety’’ and lack thereof. We share their experiences and perceptions of the threat
of hate motivated violence, and their subsequent reactions.
Every year we watch as Statistics Canada releases updated data on police-reported hate
crimes in Canada; every year we see an increase in anti-gay and lesbian hate crime; and
every year we see that hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation are significantly more
violent than those motivated by any other factor. In fact, between 2008 and 2009, there was
an 18.2 % increase in hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation and 74 % of these
incidents were violent in nature—markedly higher than for any other community in
Canada (Dauvergne and Brennan 2011). However, what we don’t see reflected in the data
is the reality of hate crimes targeting gender variant, transgender or transsexual people.
This is because, in Canada, gender identity is not explicitly included as a protected ground
within hate crime legislation, and so hate crimes against trans people are not routinely
recorded as such by police officers or reported by Statistics Canada.
The little we do know comes largely from two studies, the first being Egale Canada’s
report (Taylor et al. 2011), which surveyed over 3,700 high school students across the
country. This report found that the vast majority of trans students feel both unsafe at
school, and have been verbally harassed because of their gender expression; large
B. Perry (&)
University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Oshawa, Canada
e-mail: Barbara.Perry@uoit.ca
D. R. Dyck
Egale Canada Human Rights Trust, Toronto, Canada
e-mail: rdyck@egale.ca
123
Crit Crim
DOI 10.1007/s10612-013-9225-0
Author's personal copy
proportions have also been victims of sexual and physical harassment. Additionally, an
Ontario study of 433 trans people found that 20 % of trans Ontarians have been the targets
of physical or sexual assaults because they are trans, and another 34 % have experienced
verbal harassment or threats (Scanlon et al. 2010, 1).
Based on these statistics, as well as our own anecdotal knowledge that trans people are
perhaps the most targeted hate crime victim group in Canada, we undertook, in part, to
address this knowledge gap in 2011 through an innovative program called Courage in the
Face of Hate (CFH), which has research as well as educational components. Between
November 2011 and July 2012, the CFH team travelled to 8 cities across Canada to
conduct interviews and focus groups. For the most part, the cities were selected based on
what appeared to be high concentrations of anti-LGBTQ violence, according to successive
Statistics Canada reports. A total of 78 people participated, ranging in age from 14 to 68,
with the majority being in their early to mid-20s. For the most part, the participants were
white; in addition, however, there were 4 Aboriginal, 7 black, 1 Latina, and 1 South Asian
participant. Five people identified as gender queer; 15 as trans; 2 as drag queens; 5 as two-
spirit; 7 as straight; 2 as bisexual; 24 as gay men; and 14 as lesbian. In total, we conducted
8 focus groups that lasted approximately 90 min, as well as 33 individual interviews. These
lasted anywhere from 45 min up to 3 h.
As this description of the participants’ demographics should make clear, the current
article derives its insights from a small sample of trans women (N =13). Thus, there is a
need for exploration with a larger group, and indeed, a more diverse group. Among our
participants, there was one Latina, but the rest were all white. Moreover, we did not delve
deeply into class differences among them. The intersectionalities within which trans
women live their lives undoubtedly shape their experiences differently. Shelley (2008: 57)
writes of the often complex dynamics of Othering, of ‘‘targeting those marginalized on
more than one level.’’ We concur. Two spirit people’s experiences are framed differently
than those of Afro-Caribbean trans women’s experiences, which are distinct from those of
Latinas. We have already received funding (Women’s Secretariat of Ontario) to develop
CFH 2, which will specifically focus on a large and hopefully more diverse group of trans
women. It is also not clear to what extent the experiences described here are shared by
trans men. Some of the dynamics may well be consistent, such as the question of language,
and safety generally. It is not clear, however, to what extent trans men may, for example,
fear visibility, or isolate themselves in the same way. This is not within the scope of this
particular article to address. Nor does our sample enable us to address this, given that we
had only two participants who explicitly identified as trans men. Thus, this, too, is an area
ripe for future exploration.
As expected, key findings from our focus groups and interviews revolved around the
prevalence of anti-trans hate incidents and the impacts these incidents have on trans
individuals and communities alike. In particular, this article will discuss the themes that
emerged from our conversations with trans women (n =11), including: the language
through which trans women are or are not recognized; their fears of victimization and
resultant hyper-vigilance; the multiple and complex layers through which they defined
‘safety’’; and their reactions to violence.
The Contexts of Anti-trans Hate Crime in Canada
In order to comprehend the nature and effects of transphobic hate crime, it is necessary to
first interrogate the question ‘‘How are trans women situated within the context of
B. Perry, D. R. Dyck
123
Author's personal copy
Canadian society?’’ Our approach to these questions, and to the following analysis, is
rooted in Judith Butler’s understanding of identity as both performative and relational, as
well as in Barbara Perry’s theoretical framing of hate crime as a means of ‘‘doing dif-
ference’’ (Perry 2001). As Perry states, ‘‘to understand hate crime, one must put it in its
socio-cultural context. In particular, hate crimemust be understood as one among an
array of mechanisms by which deeply ingrained sets of power relationships are main-
tained’’ (Perry 2001: 46). A combined reading of these two theoretical approaches enables
us to effectively contextualize and begin to understand the nature of a crime that is
intimately caught up within a complex interplay between, at minimum, three distinct but
invariably related socio-cultural hierarchies: gender, sex and sexuality. This initial analysis
is confined to these three categories, given the demographics of those who participated in
our interviews and focus groups. Additional studies, with resources for larger sample sizes,
are critically needed to better understand transphobic hate crime from an intersectional
perspective, accounting for race/ethnicity, ability, socioeconomic status, religion, and other
sociocultural factors.
Subjectivity and Recognition
Judith Butler posits a subject that is iteratively and performatively re-made. That is,
subjectivity is in part a form of doing, acting, re-enacting, performing—iteratively and
both with and for others—to the extent that these actions fabricate a self, which is
reflexively internalized as identity (Butler 1990, 185–186). She argues that power acts on
the subject, subordinating it and situating it within the discursive and social conditions that
pre-exist it.
Butler’s view of the subject is loosely derived from the Hegelian tradition, in which
desire is always the desire for recognition. However, she understands the terms of rec-
ognition to be ‘‘socially articulated and changeable’’ (Butler 2004: 2). As affects that are
implicated in power and social norms, desire and performance constitute markers of the
recognizably human. In effect, recognition confers upon the subject the ability to say ‘‘I’’,
to persist as a coherent subject. Through recognition, power operates to sanction certain
desires while proscribing others (Butler 1997,2004).
Socio-cultural norms, and particularly norms of gender and sexual desire, are produced
and reproduced, in part, in a similar manner to that of the subject: through ‘‘doing’’ within
what Butler calls ‘‘a scene of constraint’’ (Butler 2004, 1). This ‘‘scene of constraint’’ can
be viewed as comparable to Foucault’s conception of discursive or disciplinary powers,
which ‘‘characterize, classify, specialize; they distribute along a scale, around a norm,
hierarchize individuals in relation to one another and, if necessary, disqualify and inval-
idate’’ (Foucault 1977: 223). The norm of ‘‘gender,’’ for instance, enforces a hierarchy with
masculinity being the ideal and femininity inferior. Gender, of course, is invariably con-
nected to the binary norm of ‘‘sex,’’ understood to classify people as unambiguously—and
unchangeably—either male or female. Finally, sexual desire, as a norm that is contingent
on both sex and gender for its legibility, privileges heterosexuality and marginalizes those
who desire in other ways.
Butler also posits, however, that the power and agency of the subject need not be
constrained by or continuous with the power that brought it into being. ‘‘Agency exceeds
the power by which it is enabled’’ (Butler 1997: 15), which is not to say that it entirely
escapes that power. The conditions of power may be altered; agency, while constrained by
the enduring yet malleable conditions of power, lies in the individual and collective power
Trans Women’s Experiences of Violence
123
Author's personal copy
to act differently, to speak and deploy language differently, to fail to comply with the
regulation of identity.
Trans people are often those for whom the norms may be unlivable; who attempt to
‘do’’ the norms differently; or who reject the norms altogether. They challenge the
ontology of gender and sex as norms, and, in so doing, render the norms of sexual desire
unintelligible. After all, what meaning does the concept of heterosexuality have if sex and
gender are disrupted or eliminated as ‘‘natural,’’ inherent and unchangeable reference
points? To transgress norms of sex and gender is not only to challenge the privileges and
marginality that are maintained by these normative hierarchies; it is to fundamentally
unsettle the veracity of the bounded categories the norms themselves are understood to
hierarchize. Trans women challenge the privileged status of masculinity and male sex; in
the act of transition, they threaten the elimination of these norms entirely.
These norms are hierarchical in that they confer or deny privilege based on how suc-
cessfully one ‘‘does’’ the norm. They are co-constitutive of heterosexism and cissexism as
systems of oppression (cf. Herek 1992; Serano 2007), which tend toward the construction of
trans identities as deviant and pathological—as abject. The ‘‘I’’, the human, is always defined
in relation to the not-human, whose status as abject ensures the hegemonic force of legiti-
macy and fabricated ontology of the norm and its attendant hierarchies. In the case of hate
crime against trans women, it is trans women who are cast as the abject. As Perry writes,
‘[t]hat is what hate crime accomplishes. It constructs the relative identities of both offender
and victim by simultaneously asserting one and subordinating, if not annihilating another.’
Hate Crime and ‘‘Doing Difference’’
Hate crime is fundamentally tied to notions and performances of difference, to power and
to marginalization. It is never a ‘‘static, singular event’’; rather, it must ‘‘be conceived of as
socially situated, dynamic processes, involving context and actors, structure and agency. It
is intended to simultaneously recreate the hegemony of the perpetrator’s group, and the
subordination of the victim’s groupIt is, in short, constituted of and by difference’’
(Perry 2001: 46). Difference must be constantly reinforced, reproduced, reiterated, since
‘the task of differenceis to police the borders between categories. There is no room for
elision, since this would threaten the ‘natural’ order’’ (Perry 2001: 47).
Hate crime is complicit in the persistence of the conditions of power that enable, sustain
and are sustained by prevailing normative hierarchies. It is implicated in the performative
construction and reconstruction of norms and identities. In particular, hate crimes against
trans women serve to perpetuate a hegemonic form of masculinity around which norms of
gender, sex and sexual desire are organized and differentiated.
But is transphobic hate crime more than this? ‘‘Difference’ implies the recognition or
acknowledgement, though marginalization, of an identity or characteristic that can be
named ‘Other.’ Given the disproportionately high levels of violence and, indeed, murder
that characterize transphobic hate crimes, can we really infer that recognition has occurred,
or are we in fact looking at a phenomenon by which trans women are refused recognition,
refused even a place within the normative hierarchies? Butler has suggested that
on the level of discourse, certain lives are not considered lives at all, they cannot
be humanized; they fit no dominant frame for the human, and their dehumanization
occurs first, at this level. This level then gives rise to a physical violence that in some
sense delivers the message of dehumanization which is already at work in the culture
(Butler 2004: 25).
B. Perry, D. R. Dyck
123
Author's personal copy
The ambiguity of trans women’s status—recognized/unrecognized—may be indicative of the
fact that they are playing in the margins of an emerging crisis tendency. Perry refers to ‘‘crisis
tendencies,’’ stating that ‘‘it is in the process of ‘doing difference’ that the instability—the
crisis tendencies—[characterized by threats to the prevailing order]are played out’’ (Perry
2001: 53). If so, what does this mean for trans women? In what follows, we explore precisely
that, through the observations of the trans women with whom we spoke.
Trans Violence: Dynamics and Impacts
Language
Generally, we opened our conversations by asking participants to describe their personal
journeys, to render a narrative about how and when they began to identify sexually or in
terms of gender identity. It is important to note from the outset that, at that point in their
lives, the women with whom we talked were generally comfortable describing themselves
interchangeably as trans or as a trans woman. Nonetheless, indicative of their marginal
status, as their self-realization began to emerge when they were younger, many lamented
the fact that they didn’t have the language for what they were experiencing: ‘‘I started
noticing that there was something peculiar about myself between probably around 2 or
3 years old. I didn’t really know, have a word to kind of identify, I just knew something
was off, something out of the ordinary.’’ Trans women emerged in what seemed to them to
be a nameless and frameless vacuum.
To be without a self-referential lexicon is taxing. Language is a key means by which we
acquire our culture and hence our identities. Indeed, the very words we choose—or that are
available to us—shape our individual and collective realities. They suggest relationships,
place and status. In other words, ‘‘language is viewed as enabling a speaker to present their
own concept of their identity’’ (Jones 2011: 721). It follows, then, that a lack of available
language may very well be dis-abling. It prohibits people from truly identifying and
expressing their identities. In the case of trans individuals, the options seemed limited.
Ironically, the only frames of reference they had revolved around either the cisnormative
options of male/female, or around homosexuality, i.e., sexuality rather than gender:
We were just thought of, described as queer too, or at best, cross-dressers. None of
the labels we knew seemed to fit how I felt at 15 or 16. I didn’t think I was gay, but I
wasn’t really the ‘‘man’’ I was supposed to be either. What was I? Who was I?
Like this trans woman, many felt that they had to adapt their identities to fit readily
available descriptors, regardless of the acknowledged lack of fit with their own realities.
They were forced to ‘‘develop their own waythey must privately negotiate their path
through identity development and identity adoption’’ without proscribed markers to guide
them (Page and Peacock 2013: 639). This meant finding ‘‘their own way’’ without the
constitutive language with which to identify themselves. No wonder, then, that their
inability to unambiguously fit themselves within any of the pre-given categories often led
them to pathologize themselves, or to define themselves in deprecatory terms.
Growing up in a heteronormative and cisnormative culture, almost inevitably partici-
pants situated their self-identification in terms of being ‘‘different,’’ of something being
‘wrong’’ with them. Because they didn’t act/feel/think like others who shared their birth-
assigned gender, they must somehow be outside what was ‘‘normal.’
Trans Women’s Experiences of Violence
123
Author's personal copy
I’m sure that my story is not that different from anybody else’s, the details of course, but
the actual going through primary school, I was different, but I couldn’t put a word to it.
Even more problematic is the fact that this deviantized self was reaffirmed by those around
them, through the language that others find to describe trans women. In Butler’s terms,
there was no referential by which to recognize themselves or be recognized by others. At
one extreme are those who, like some trans people, don’t seem to ‘‘have the words’’ by
which to understand the community. This was expressed by several women. For example,
They couldn’t articulate how I was different. Probably some thought that I was a gay
man, others may have guessed that I was trans, but quite frankly this, this goes back
decades and at that time there was really very little understanding of trans people.
What comes to the fore here is the inability of others to distinguish between sexuality and
gender ‘‘And I think that’s, the other thing is, people, a lot of people don’t realize this is a
gender issue, and when they’re looking at it in hate or in just anything else, they are
looking at it as a sex issue.’’ Again, this raises the issue of spectre of non-recognition.
Gender conforming individuals seem only to be able to grasp identities through the lens of
sexuality. Gender identity remains invisible and unremarked.
More troubling are those who have no difficulty finding what are for them precisely the
‘right’’ words to describe trans people. There is a tendency toward pathologizing trans
people. One woman told us that ‘‘the words they used back then were, you know, ‘mentally
deficient’ and so they thought I was damaged in that way.’’ This is in line with the
observation of Gagne
´et al. (1997: 490) that common responses to trans people ‘‘effectively
communicate a sense of deviance.’’ There are those who are indeed at great pains to
communicate this in highly vituperative and threatening language—‘‘freak’’ and ‘‘IT’
being the most common monikers.
I’m not scared to show the people who I am, but in the same time it is risky because,
to some people, we are a freak, to some people we are sick, some people we have two
personalities, some people think we crazy, you know?
Observers see trans individuals as an affront to the carefully preserved gender binary. They
represent a distinct threat to our insistence upon essential males and females.
Violence
Hostile language is often a precursor to violence. The negative representations that
underlie the use of derogatory terms render trans individuals as invisible, deviant, or
inhuman and, thus, assailable. Moreover, the words that are hurled at victims leave them
wondering whether perpetrators will cross the line into violent acts. It is a very fine line
indeed, and trans women are fully aware of the possibility of escalation:
I’ve heard some of the angry, you know, ‘‘You f’in tranny’’ and those types of things,
right? Now, it’s already disconcerting that you hear that; you just get worried if that’s
how they’re talking—and it’s talking in a very hateful angry way. They’re angry
about something, it kind of, my perception is that if they let that anger carry over, it’s
going to get a lot worse on me.
Most of the trans women with whom we spoke had their own stories of life-long violence,
as well as stories they had accumulated from friends. The incidents ran the spectrum from
verbal harassment to extreme violence. Consider the following illustrative example that
B. Perry, D. R. Dyck
123
Author's personal copy
reflects this continuum: ‘‘Through my early teens I was the subject of daily violence and I
had teeth knocked out, broken ribs, scars, I’ve got scars here, I’ve been stabbed, you know,
it was, it was rough.’
The violence and threat of violence that permeates their lives is one of the key factors
that continues to remind trans women of their liminal status. So pervasive is this threat that
women come to see it as normative:
I’m aware of what’s going on around me but I don’t focus on it because if I did, I’d
probably be hanging from a rope. I mean it would just, like you said that constant
oppressions, discrimination, harassment. I can’t have that.
Violence is a constant risk for trans women, especially in public places. Indeed, it is a key
means by which to regulate public space, to maintain the distinction between ‘‘real’’ men
and women. ‘‘There are few places’’’ argues Shelley (2008: 63), ‘‘where transpeople,
especially those who do not ‘pass,’ can escape the panoptic gaze associated with
surveillance and condemnation.’’ Thus, policing these boundaries means that visibly trans
women are subject to punitive violence when they occupy public spaces, like streets,
schools, and especially public washrooms. And generally, women know from their
experience and those of others precisely which sites to avoid:
There are certain areas in Kitchener that you don’t want to be around them, like
downtown near Highland Road, the backstreets where a lot of churches are. There
are times, especially at night, you do not want to be stuck downtown. Ever. At least
not if you’re really clever enough to avoid it. And I know when I was first, I began
my real-life test, I was chased several blocks from Fairview Park Mall. Hoodlums
threatening my life, chased me with knifes, two, three blocks.
As an explicitly gendered space, public washrooms consistently pose the risk of controlling
violence, since they ‘‘foreclose in-between possibilities’’ (Shelley 2008: 71). There are few
other places where men and women are forced to choose to which gender they ‘‘belong.’
The danger arises when they are perceived to have made the ‘‘wrong’’ choice.
Going through high school, I didn’t even try to do the washroom thing. Because one
year, I went there for grade 9, I started getting death threats, I got my locker trashed,
I got beat up a couple of times, the administration didn’t seem to care all that much,
so I made some plans to escape.
Together, the language and locale of trans women’s violence makes it clear that it is the
perception of gender transgression that motivates the attack. It is when they are held to be
out of place that they are vulnerable. It is, then, the visibility of trans people that is often
key to the potential for victimization. It is ‘‘those who are publicly perceived as ‘not
women/not men’ who pose the greatest challenge to the binary system’’ and thus are at
greatest risk of violence (Gagne
´et al. 1997: 504).
The threat is particularly acute when trans women are ‘‘discovered’’ to be not ‘‘really’
female. Bettcher (2007) writes convincingly of the role that a perception of ‘‘deception’’
plays in precipitating or exacerbating violent attacks. In a culture where gender ambiguity
is so rigidly rejected, to be revealed as having attempted to cross this line is sanctionable.
Trans people are held accountable for their failure to ‘‘do’’ the appropriate gender
appropriately. According to Bettcher (2007: 52), ‘‘transpeople who ‘misalign’ gender
presentation and sexed body are construed as either deceivers or pretenders.’’ Having been
‘duped’’ into reading trans people as male or female, perpetrators may react violently to
their perceived inauthenticity. We heard several accounts of precisely this sort of dynamic:
Trans Women’s Experiences of Violence
123
Author's personal copy
They beat her to a pulp. Because they, you know, they attacked her and then they
found out she was a trans woman and then they beat her up even more.
I’m also kind of afraid that if I get to a situation like that I’m going to be killed,
because of the fact that what I have is not what a rapist would want, for example.
The intensity of the response in such cases is telling. It suggests the depth of the
perpetrator’s commitment to the gender binary, and the subsequent need to subjugate those
who reject or challenge it. It is as if they are punishing trans women for the ‘‘double sin of
both abandoning masculinity and choosing femininity’’ (Schilt and Westbrook 2009: 461).
The ‘‘sin’’ is made worse, in fact, by attempts to pass as feminine.
The difficulty for trans women is that it is challenging for them to find even non-public
spaces that are safe. They often do not have the luxury of returning to a safe home.
Neighbors or others visiting their area or building are often perpetrators. There are few
places where they feel secure. The ubiquity of violence is highlighted by this woman’s
perceptions:
Definitely I fear for my life every moment that I’m outside of my house; in my
house. I’ve overheard my neighbors at one point in a drunken rage yell that the freak
upstairs ought to be knifed. These were previous neighbors, but since that moment
and while they were there, I slept with my doors barricaded. I didn’t even feel safe in
my own home. I didn’t feel safe leaving my home; I didn’t feel safe in my home.
Sadly, it is not only strangers or neighbors who are to be feared. Trans women often find no
solace within their families.
I have been hurt a few many times, when I first came out especially. My, my step-
father decided to bruise my ribs. My mom blamed me and told me it was my fault. I
was not allowed to live as myself within the household. Even though I had lived
there for another year after that and it was consistent belittling and harassment.
Rather than providing a safe haven, families often constitute a serious threat to safety and
well-being. Interestingly, Shelley (2008) refers to parents and siblings as the first of many
‘gender police’’ that trans youth will confront. While much of the pressure to conform may
be subtle, perhaps even implicit, reactions like the one above also suggest that family
members are not above beating the non-conformity out of their trans children.
Exacerbating the risk of physical violence is the fact that trans women are caught up in
the broader web of structural violence. As one woman expressed it, ‘‘it’s not just geo-
graphical places that aren’t safe for trans women, it’s institutions.’’ Indeed, the gender
binary that shapes transphobia is institutionalized (Lombardi et al. 2001: 91). There tends
to a be a general consensus among the women we spoke with that ‘‘the law is not a friend
to trans women, no part of, no interaction with the law on any level can be considered safe,
it’s inherently dangerous.’’ Indeed, there is a lengthy history of law and its attendant
institutions—police, courts, prisons—being used against not just trans people but also gays
and lesbians. As Meyer argues elsewhere in this volume, neither law generally nor hate
crime laws are likely to protect trans people. They are more likely to ‘‘reinforce existing
power imbalances than to challenge them’’ (page number to be added).
There is considerable debate among the broader trans community, then, as to whether
there is any utility in relying upon the law to protect them. Nonetheless, many of the
participants in our study framed their critique in slightly different ways that did not
necessarily reject the validity of hate crime laws per se. Rather, they were critical of
exclusionary hate crime laws. They are rightfully critical of a legislative framework that
B. Perry, D. R. Dyck
123
Author's personal copy
does not explicitly recognize gender identity as a protected category in many jurisdictions.
Some spoke specifically of the implications of the absence of gender identity or gender
expression in hate crime legislation:
Trans people, trans women and trans men are not included in hate crime legislation
in Canada. So you can kill, beat up, fire, ostracize, abuse, shout at, marginalize a
trans person and it is not considered a hate crime, and that is a profound isolation, it
creates isolation from my, from everyone, from my, in this case Canada, my fellow
Canadians, right? I’m not a full citizen in my own Goddamn country.
Exclusionary legislation, or failure to enforce protective legislation, raises questions about
the particular group’s legitimacy and place in society; in some cases, they explicitly define
their ‘‘outsider’’ status. The implication that the trans community is ‘‘outside’’ the
boundaries of legal protection renders them assailable. The problem is exacerbated when
law enforcement authorities fail to intervene. There is still widespread distrust if not fear of
police among trans women, with good reason:
The consequences of being arrested even on a relatively minor charge are very grave
for trans women, and even if a minor issue, some police officers, regardless of the
training that they have received take delight in putting trans women who do not have
as yet proper paper work, in with male prisoners. That’s still the standard operating
procedure in this province and I think every province in Canada.
The difficulty arises when police fail to accept the lack of fit between ‘‘official’’ identities
and embodied identities. ‘‘Sex, like race, is a primary signifier of profiling that police use to
categorize people’’ (Shelley 2008: 97). When this signifier is read as conflicting with what
identification documents suggest, police are not above responding in wholly inappropriate
ways. For example, speaking of a pre-operative friend, one trans woman describes a
concrete example where ‘‘she fully presented as female, told the police officer, and he said
‘I don’t care. You’re male to me and it says so on your driver’s license.’’’ This sort of
‘gender profiling’’ subjects trans women to ridicule and harassment from what remains a
decidedly masculinist profession that demands ‘‘appropriate’’ performances of gender.
Officers quite literally ‘‘police’’ the boundaries of gender and sexuality.
Safety/Hyper-vigilance
We have seen how pervasive the risk of victimization is for trans women. There is, to their
mind, no safe space. It comes as no surprise, then, that so many women spoke of the
multiple and complex layers by which they defined ‘‘safety’’ and lack thereof. One Toronto
trans woman spoke at length about her perceptions of safety and what that entailed for her:
I think one of the real problems with safety, I don’t know where it is safe in Toronto,
when I started my transition people could easily identify that I was trans all the time
and I faced constant harassment and people staring at me, giving me dirty looks,
talking to each other ridiculing and mocking me. I had to adapt to the experiences of
nearly being physically assaulted and my feeling was that I was never safe anywhere
and that led to being very reclusive, isolating, which then tied in with severe
depression and suicide attempts. So there’s the practical issue of safety, but then
there’s the subjective experience of safety that is radically altered by those experi-
ences you have and without the involved balance, even just harassment, bullying,
ridiculing and mocking takes a tremendous toll on us.
Trans Women’s Experiences of Violence
123
Author's personal copy
This is an inevitable outcome of a vulnerability that is experienced as normative and
ubiquitous. Regardless of context, there is a constant fear of assault. As with other targeted
communities, trans women do not necessarily have to be victims themselves to fear for
their safety. Rather, ‘‘it only has to happen once or twice and that really effects, you know,
and I think it has affected the overall community, right?’’ Again, this speaks to the ripple
effects of hate crime (Noelle 2002,2009; Perry and Alvi 2011). It has the capacity to
render all members of the community wary of their surroundings.
Additionally, the very fact that bias-motivated violence can be unpredictable is also one
of the factors that makes it so frightening. It can happen anywhere, at any time, to any
member of a targeted group. Young men heading out for an evening of ‘‘tranny bashing’
are not very concerned about exactly which trans woman they assault. Any individual can
play the proxy for the group. Thus, because of the fear that is perpetuated by the looming
threat of homo/transphobic speech and action, many participants admitted that they were
always on the watch for cues that suggested the potential for harassment or violence. They
were, in short hyper-vigilant, so that they became ‘‘really more aware of my surroundings;
whereas walking, before I used to feel pretty well at ease and everything else, and even
now I kind of just look over my shoulder to see who’s around and scout the area a lot
more.’’ Many expressed a similar tendency to be nervous and more cognizant of what was
happening around them, and who was in the vicinity. It made them feel significantly less
free to appear publicly.
Isolation/Lack of Trust
Their hyper-vigilance also means that trans women made frequent reference to their lack of
trust. According to one trans woman, ‘‘I will say ‘I,’ but I mean, I think I can safely say, we
don’t trust anyone. We trust each other, as trans women trust each other, we don’t trust
anyone and that includes members of the queer community.’’ Excluded as they are by a
heternormative culture that insists on gender conformity, these women have learned that
there is risk in revealing themselves—literally and figuratively—to others. They know
from experience that their ‘‘transgression’’ can be used against them at any moment.
Exacerbating their inability to trust was the fact that it was not just ‘‘strangers’’ who
were risky. Trans women had also learned, often very early, that there was nowhere they
could turn for support and understanding. Many stated that they had been rejected by
virtually everyone in their life, from family, to friends, to therapists, to doctors. There
seemed to be no one who was willing or able to provide a secure and accepting envi-
ronment for them, no one whom they could trust with the most intimate dreams and fears.
Many expressed the cumulative impact of a biography of betrayal. More significantly,
there were some whose doubts were confirmed, when they were in fact rejected by family
and friends upon discovering their trans identities:
I taught house league girls; mainly because of my daughter, and got to know all the
community; in ten years got to over four hundred girls and parents, and all of a
sudden the phones stopped calling. No more going out, no more doing anything. My
best friend, literally fired me, but he told me right to my face, he simply said, I’m
sorry I can’t handle it.
The consequence, of course, is that these women become isolated. For some, this involved
a process by which they sought to protect themselves by self-segregating. The known risk
of violence limits trans women’s movements and their perceived options, resulting in
withdrawal:
B. Perry, D. R. Dyck
123
Author's personal copy
I would have been most likely very severely hurt and that’s one of several anecdotes
where it’s just so close and those things really left me afraid, even remembering them
now still leaves me afraid, I still isolate at times and it’s been over two and half years
since I last had an experience like that. These experiences don’t just disappear.
These violent reminders contribute to ongoing withdrawal and isolation. Some may choose
to remain in the relative safety of their neighbourhood or, even more narrowly, their home.
For others, the choice was not necessarily theirs. Rather, they felt forcibly excluded by
others: ‘‘I spent most of my school years ostracized after I was blackmailed and the
blackmail was let out. I was bullied when I wasn’t ostracized and then when I was, I was
left so alone 20 people could be around and I would feel not even myself was company.’
Here, trans women see themselves as having been expelled from ‘‘normal’’ society because
of their inability and unwillingness to conform. Ultimately, they see themselves as
singular, outcast, barred from (re)entry into a heternormative world that they have rejected.
They are left with no one to turn to but themselves:
Okay so, some of the after effects of the events, one would definitely be the isolation
caused by being ostracized for years, you learn to, you learn your only best friend is
yourself, same as your only worse enemy is yourself, but at the same time it can get
to the point where you can literally start arguing with yourself, and I mean like
literally.
Yet as this woman suggests, sometimes the self is not to be trusted either. The lack of trust
in others can also carry over into lack of comfort, confidence, indeed, love for oneself. Too
often, trans women internalize the hatred and the violence. What emerges for those who
have adopted this stance is antagonism and hostility directed toward oneself and one’s
community:
The effects of knowing that I and my community are reviled and hated by the
majority of society, the majority of societal institutions and just the majority of
people, it’s very difficult not to internalize that and once it’s internalized it’s very
difficult for me not to hate myself and to take things out on myself, to cut myself, to
attempt suicide, abuse myself in other ways, so I do not actually have the experience
of trusting myself, I’m the person I’m the very I’m most afraid of in a continuous
basis.
So pervasive are the violent reminders of their stigmatization that participants come to see
themselves through that same lens. Thus, they often related their stories of how the
constant emphasis on their trans identity—and hence their presumed deviance—whittled
away at their self image. Trans women, then, come to deflect the pain inward in ways that
are self-destructive. In some cases, this meant coping through diverse risk-taking
behaviours:
It’s awful how people can’t understand why we hurt ourselves, why we have that
pain because the pain we have is not the same pain you think it is, because any pill,
any drugs – I did pills, I did drugs, I did alcohol, I did whatever I can to take that pain
out of me, because I feel like I no belong in anywhere, you know, I feel like I’m not
much with anybody, I don’t belong to any community.
It is especially disturbing that so many talked about suicidal thoughts or even about having
attempted suicide:
Trans Women’s Experiences of Violence
123
Author's personal copy
The number one killer of trans women is trans women; we take our own lives
because we can’t endure living in, you know, in such profound isolation, but I’m
convinced that these kind of actions are finishing off the job that somebody else has
done that suicide is, is an expression of, you know, the accumulated hate crimes over
years and years and years. I see suicide as a wound death at the hands of others, and
then consequently we finish it off ourselves.
This trans woman makes an important point: the rate of suicide ideation and attempts is
staggering for trans women (Clements-Nolle et al. 2006). But what also comes out of this
last quote and many of those preceding it is the undeniable link between social expulsion
and self-harm. The sense of being alone, of not belonging is palpable in these statements.
There was, however, one participant who shared a slightly more optimistic reaction to
her emerging consideration of suicide as a way out:
I tried to do things the normal way and, and couldn’t do it and relatively late in life I
finally said, you know if, if I’m going to, I was suicidal like many of us, I was
depressed to the point of self-destruction and I said ‘‘If I’m going to destroy myself, I
want to die as a woman’’ and then so, ironically when I finally kind of came to terms
with the fact that I was going to kill myself is when I actually started to do the things
to transition, because the idea of being buried forever as, as with a, you know, with a
boy’s name on a tombstone didn’t strike me as a very good thing.
It is ironic how moving toward a full realization of her identity was what ultimately
protected this woman. Managing her identity on her own terms was literally what saved her
life.
Managing Identities
Others also spoke about managing their identities as a means of shielding themselves. As a
consequence of the anxiety caused by homo/transphobia, many of those with whom we
spoke talked about how they felt the need to carefully manage their identities, attempting to
look ‘‘less gay’’ or ‘‘more/less feminine’’ or ‘‘more/less masculine’’ depending on how they
read social expectations of behaviour. This began at a very young age for most, as in this
case:
When I was in Junior Kindergarten it was clear to me that I was a girl and I hadn’t
quite put together the fact that others didn’t recognize that, but as in the class the
boys were being separated from the girls, going to different play areas, I naturally
just followed the girls and the teacher guided me and corrected me and brought me
over to the boys I understood that meant that I was perceived as a different gender
and a sex that I really was. So, I, I basically accorded my behaviours with that,
playing that rule as long as I could.
In this case—and in several others—the trans youth tried very hard to play by the rules that
she was being forced to learn. She had to play little boy games with other little boys. She is
just one of many who struggled to repress their gender identities in an attempt to conform.
Participants like these expressed the necessity to alter their performance of gender in
accordance with what they recognized as the socially established rules for doing gender.
They reported changing activities, habits, and ways of being in the world. In this respect,
the potential for trans violence serves its intended purpose of enforcing appropriate public
performances at the very least.
B. Perry, D. R. Dyck
123
Author's personal copy
Yet there are also those who choose a different route, which is to ‘‘live stealth’
which is a word we use in the trans community to live under the radar, then as far as
anybody’s concerned you’re just a tall, tall girl or, or whatever, just, just a regular
person. So, safety comes from becoming invisible. The, the most dangerous time for
us is when we are out or because of some physical issues, as somebody else has said,
when I was first transitioning I was read as being male, and as a result, males reacted
to me as a male wearing a dress, which is not good.
Ironically, then, trans women seek to reaffirm rather than challenge the gender binary.
They, do, in fact ‘‘pick one’’ in that they don’t generally play with the gender continuum,
but opt for the female end of the continuum. They present themselves according to what
they understand to be the demands placed on them by the broader patterns and structures of
heteronormativity and cisnormativity.
Concluding Thoughts
As noted at the outset, there is more to be learned about the ways in which trans women,
and trans men, for that matter, experience everyday violence. Ours is one of a small
handful of projects that has engaged with this community to better understand their risk,
their fears, and their responses (Shelley 2008; Scanlon et al. 2010; Taylor et al. 2011).
What we have learned so far is that visibility, for the trans women featured here, is a
double edged sword. While it can provoke negative reactions like those discussed
throughout, it can also be empowering (Brightenti 2007: 340). This is key to resisting the
subjugation described above—to neutralize the ‘‘normalizing gaze’’ by controlling it,
rather than letting it control trans people. Indeed, many trans women with whom we spoke
insisted on embracing visibility:
It’s nice more people are coming out as trans identified; then the issues are being
addressed and people are being heard and actually rights and human rights are being
fought for. I mean, create that visibility and creating safe spaces and creating that,
you know, the language in newspapers and things to make sure that the community
knows that there is a trans community, a very healthy trans community.
This is a powerful reminder that persistent hostility can be directly challenged through
equally persistent affirmative expressions of trans identities. Visibility becomes a show of
strength that reflects the wielding of power by its very subjects. It exploits the crisis
tendencies noted above, and reimagines ‘‘the performance of visible differences as the
locus of political agency because of its potential to deconstruct foundational categories of
identity’’ (Walker 1993: 868). It is, in essence, a demand for recognition and
acknowledgement of their identities as valued rather than subjugated or abject.
In addition to this sort of self-conscious political action, another point of intervention is
in the arena of public education around gender identity and expression. Recall the dis-
cussion earlier about the apparent inability—or unwillingness—of the gender conforming
community to grasp trans identities. This must be confronted with educative tools intended
to enhance understanding of the distinction between sexuality and gender identity, and of
the pains of the hostility directed toward those who transgress gender boundaries. Given
the challenges of integrating conversations about sexuality into the public school curric-
ulum, it is certain that even greater resistance will meet efforts to include gender
expression. Thus, the work of community based organizations like Egale and PFLAG will
Trans Women’s Experiences of Violence
123
Author's personal copy
be especially important. Already, PFLAG chapters across Canada include discussions of
trans identities and transphobia into their training sessions with schools, social service
agencies, and other service providers. Similarly, Egale’s programs for educators and law
enforcement highlight trans issues.
Finally, we would recommend continued lobbying for legislative reform that recognizes
and protects gender identity and expression. In Canada, various government human rights
commissions have stated that trans people are protected under the auspices of ‘‘sex,’
‘disability,’’ or, in the case of the Criminal Code hate crime sentencing provisions, the
phrase ‘‘or any other similar factor.’’ Many have since argued that such measures are
sufficient and therefore explicit protections are unnecessary. However, this has clearly not
translated into tangible protections for trans people in Canada. In fact, to date, there has
never been a case in which the hate crime sentencing provisions of the Criminal Code have
been applied to hate or bias motivated crimes against trans people. It is clear from the
voices of trans women cited above that the physical, emotional and social impacts of this
reality are severe. Explicit protections are necessary so that never again may we hear the
symbolic yet palpable phrase, ‘‘I’m not a full citizen in my own Goddamn country.’
References
Bettcher, T. (2007). Evil deceivers and make-believers: On transphobic violence and the politics of illusion.
Hypatia, 22(3), 43–65.
Brightenti, A. (2007). Visibility: A category for the social sciences. Current Sociology, 55(3), 323–342.
Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble. New York: Routledge.
Butler, J. (1997). The psychic life of power: Theories in subjection. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Butler, J. (2004). Undoing gender. New York: Routledge.
Clements-Nolle, K., Marx, R., & Katz, M. (2006). Attempted suicide among transgender persons: The
influence of gender-based discrimination and victimization. Journal of Homosexuality, 51(3), 53–69.
Dauvergne, M., & Brennan, S. (2011). Police-reported hate crime in Canada, 2009. Juristat.
Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison (A. Sheridan, Trans.) (2nd ed.). New
York: Vintage Books.
Gagne
´, P., Tewksbury, R., & And Mcgaughey, D. (1997). Coming out and crossing over identity formation
and proclamation in a transgender community. Gender and Society, 11(4), 478–508.
Herek, G. (1992). The social context of hate crimes: Notes on cultural heterosexism. In G. Herek & K.
Berrill (Eds.), Hate crimes: Confronting violence against lesbians and gay men (pp. 89–104). Newbury
Park, CA: Sage.
Jones, L. (2011). ‘‘The only dykey one’’: Constructions of (in) authenticity in a lesbian community of
practice. Journal of Homosexuality, 58, 719–741.
Lombardi, E. L., Wilchins, R. A., Priesing, D., & Malof, D. (2001). Gender violence: Transgender expe-
riences with violence and discrimination. Journal of Homosexuality, 42(1), 89–101.
Meyer, D. (this volume). Resisting hate crime discourse: Queer and intersectional challenges to neoliberal
hate crime laws.
Noelle, M. (2002). The ripple of effect of the Matthew Shepard murder: Impact on the assumptive worlds of
members of the targeted group. American Behavioral Scientist, 46(1), 27–50.
Noelle, M. (2009). The psychological and social effects of anti-bisexual, anti-gay, and anti-lesbian violence
and harassment. In P. Iganski (Ed.), Hate crimes: The consequences of hate crime (pp. 73–106).
Westport, CT: Praeger.
Page, A., & Peacock, J. (2013). Negotiating identities in a heteronormative context. Journal of Homosex-
uality, 60, 639–654.
Perry, B. (2001). In the name of hate: Understanding hate crime. New York, NY: Routledge.
Perry, B., & Alvi, S. (2011). ‘‘We are all vulnerable:’’ The in terrorem effects of hate crime. International
Review of Victimology, 18(1), 57–72.
Scanlon, K., Travers, R., Coleman, T., Bauer, G., & Boyce, M. (2010). Ontario’s trans communities and
suicide: Transphobia is bad for our health. Trans Pulse E-Bulletin,1(2). http://www.transpulseproject.
ca/public_downloads.html.
B. Perry, D. R. Dyck
123
Author's personal copy
Schilt, K., & Westbrook, L. (2009). Doing gender, doing heteronormativity: ‘‘Gender normals,’’ transgender
people, and the social maintenance of heterosexuality. Gender and Society, 23(4), 440–464.
Serano, J. (2007). Whipping girl: A transsexual woman on sexism and the scapegoating of femininity (1st
ed.). Emeryville, CA: Seal Press.
Shelley, C. (2008). Transpeople: Repudiation, trauma, healing. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Taylor, C., Peter, T., McMinn, T. L., Elliott, T., Beldom, S., Ferry, A., et al. (2011). Every class in every
school: The first national climate survey on homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in Canadian
schools. Final report. Toronto, ON: Egale Canada Human Rights Trust.
Transgender Europe. (2013). Transgender Europe press release. Berlin: Transgender Europe.
Walker, L. (1993). How to recognize a lesbian: The cultural politics of looking like what you are. Signs,
18(4), 866–890.
Trans Women’s Experiences of Violence
123
Author's personal copy
... Transgender individuals, like sexual minorities, contrast with heteronormative gender norms, which revolve around a gender binary. As a result, transgender individuals are viewed as deviant, "immoral," and unworthy of additional rights and legal protection by those who believe in such gender roles (Bettcher, 2007;Perry & Dyck, 2014). Few states include gender identity as a protected class in their hate crime legislation, despite the documented disproportionate victimization rate among transgender individuals (Griner et al., 2020;Walters et al., 2020) and the lack of choice individuals have when it comes to their gender identity. ...
Article
Hate-motivated crime remains problematic in the United States. California passed the first hate crime law in 1978; Congress followed in 1990. States continue to amend their hate crime legislation, producing an amalgam of statutory provisions. This article creates a conceptual framework from which to classify hate crime legislation across the 50 states and Washington, DC. Laws were identified through Westlaw. Analyses compared the types of crimes covered, discrete and insular minorities protected, prosecutorial alternatives, mandates for law enforcement agencies, and additional rights provided to victims among states’ legislation. Considerable variation in scope and content of hate crime legislation exists among states, leaving several vulnerable groups unprotected, law enforcement underprepared, and victim rights and resources sparse. Future directions for hate crime policy and legislation are discussed.
... Recognising everyday acts of hostility is vitally important, speaking as they do to the existence of a continuum of criminalised and noncriminalised hate incidents, both of which contribute to the exclusion of marginalised communities. Perry and Dyck (2014)observe that when people use transphobic language against trans people, for example, the victim is left wondering whether perpetrators will cross the line into violent acts: 'a very fine line indeed' (Nadal et al., 2011, 234-259). Further, given the relationship between the commission of hate incidents and hate crimes, ACPO observes, hate incidents should be recorded, not only to acknowledge their impact, but also to prevent an escalation of hate incidents into hate crimes. ...
Article
Full-text available
A relatively nascent discipline, the field of hate studies has been explored and theorised from a multiplicity of disciplinary contexts. However, the field is ill-defined, and the relationship between hate crime and other related concepts unexplored. Here, we consider the range of phenomena which might fall within or without the field of hate studies, initiating a discussion of the boundaries of the field. We signal both the continuities and discontinuities among and between an array of strategies intended to sort and maintain hierarchical relationships, with the purpose of provoking scholars in the field of hate studies to reflect on its scope.
... Studies found that transitioning children who lacked familial support had compromised mental health, including high rates of anxiety (Olson et al., 2016), depression and suicidality (Austin et al., 2020;Meyer, 2003). The home environments were very intolerant towards gender-diverse children and as per a few retrospective studies, transgender persons felt insecure and unsafe at their own homes (Perry & Dyck, 2014). ...
Article
Full-text available
Discrimination and stigma that is shown towards gender-diverse children by society are matters of serious concern for social scientists in India. Lack of awareness about the gender diversity is the key to society’s intolerance towards children who identify as gender diverse. Unfortunately, parents and teachers are also acting as the torchbearers of the gender binary and maltreat the children, who are growing up at homes and schools. Thus, early identification of the gender preferences of children becomes cumbersome and leads to denial of their right to personal security. The present study attempted to understand the parents’ and teachers’ attitudes towards early identification of gender-diverse behaviour as perceived by the grown-up children aged between 18 and 42. This study was conducted among adult trans-persons of Puducherry, India, and data was obtained by using a semi-structured questionnaire, an in-depth interview, case study, and focus group discussions. Responses of the subjects revealed that they perceived a distinct lack of support from parents and teachers during the process of gender identification. Social stigma and poor knowledge about the issue that cause abuse, violence, marginalisation, and oppression from family and school were perceived by the subjects. The need for the sensitisation of parents and teachers in supporting children, who require special attention, is enormous. Practitioners, researchers and NGOs should take proactive measures to address these issues through evidence-based intervention strategies adaptable to the Indian cultural milieu. Ignorance of the issues and challenges of trans-persons at an early age by the parents, teachers, policymakers and larger society would be an unhelpful gesture towards this community.
Article
Violence experienced by cisgender (cis) and gender minority women living with HIV is known to be high. More work is needed to better understand how to support women living with HIV who have experienced violence. The objectives of this study are therefore to identify the prevalence and correlates of violence by any perpetrator among women living with HIV in a Canadian setting. Data were drawn from 9 years (January, 2010 to February, 2019) of a longitudinal community-based open cohort study of 350+ cis and trans women living with HIV who were living and/or accessed care in Metro Vancouver, Canada (Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS: Women's Longitudinal Needs Assessment "SHAWNA"). Participants completed baseline and biannual follow-up interviews. Bivariate and multivariable logistic regression with generalized estimating equations (GEE) were performed to identify correlates of recent (last 6 months) violence (physical and/or sexual) by any perpetrator. Adjusted odds ratios (AOR) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) are presented. At baseline, prevalence of violence was high: 95.5% (recent = 19.4%) of participants reported lifetime physical and/or sexual violence, 94.8% (recent = 17.9%) reported lifetime physical violence, and 84.5% (recent = 5.7%) reported lifetime sexual violence. In multivariable logistic regression with GEE, the following variables were associated with higher odds of recent physical/sexual violence: youth (<30 years) (AOR: 1.60, 95% CI [1.15, 2.22]), recent unstable housing/homelessness (AOR: 1.96, 95% CI [1.30, 2.97]), recent food insecurity (AOR: 1.57, 95% CI [1.13, 2.17]), recent incarceration (AOR: 1.85, 95% CI [1.18, 2.91]), recent opioid use (AOR: 1.38, 95% CI [1.04, 1.82]), recent stimulant use (AOR: 2.48, 95% CI [1.72, 3.56]), and lifetime HIV status disclosure without consent (AOR: 1.59, 95% CI [1.13, 2.24]). Trauma- and violence-informed (TVI) policies that include a focus on confidentiality and safe disclosure practices should be integrated into existing housing, incarceration, and harm reduction programs, and HIV care and practice for women living with HIV. Programs and policies that address high levels of violence remain critical.
Article
Full-text available
Trans and gender diverse (TGD) people are disproportionately criminalised and face unique vulnerabilities when interacting with the criminal legal system. However, very little is known about TGD people’s experiences of criminalisation in Australia or the strategies TGD people and their advocates use to navigate the criminal legal system. Based on survey responses from TGD people with lived experience of criminalisation and lawyers with experience representing TGD clients, this article identifies several critical issues with the criminal legal system’s treatment of TGD people and outlines the strategies TGD people and their representatives suggest to address these issues. On this basis, we argue that criminologists and criminal legal practitioners urgently need to interrogate and work towards ameliorating the criminal legal system’s treatment of gender diversity. These insights will be crucial in informing future advocacy efforts and reform agendas, given that knowledge in this area is severely lacking.
Chapter
Focusing on substantive representation, this chapter examines “acting for” discourses of LGBTQ representation through two questions. First, how do LGBQ MLAs and MPs constitute LGBTQ people and communities? The analysis reveals that they frame them through three figures: the figure of stigma, the figure of resilience, and the figure of cultural citizenship. Second, how do LGBQ legislators constitute the state in its relationship with LGBTQ people and communities? They deploy four “acting for” discourses of LGBTQ representation to express these exchanges: the discourses of human rights, homoprotectionism, homofederalism, and homonationalism.
Article
This qualitative study sheds light on an issue very little research has been conducted on so far, the discrimination trans people in Greece are subjected to every day. The findings presented in this paper are part of a larger study focusing on trans persons’ life experiences in contemporary Greece. Eleven participants identified various discrimination areas, employment, education, family, romantic relationships and daily life; participants also pointed out specific measures that would contribute to the improvement of their life. Findings are discussed in relation to measures toward eliminating discrimination against trans persons such as the improvement of gender recognition legislation, an increase in general education regarding gender identity issues and the need for transgender-focused research.
Article
In an era when reported hate crimes are increasing dramatically, it is troubling that there appears to be, at best, an uneven response to the problem from law enforcement in Canada. Our pilot study of policing hate crime in Ontario is the first attempt to understand whether and how law enforcement think about and act on hate crime. Interviews with officers in eight police forces across eastern and southern Ontario ( N = 38) uncovered three clusters of factors that appear to shape how they manage hate crime: environmental, organizational, and individual. What we offer in this paper is a series of related recommendations for enhancing police responses to hate crime along each of the three dimensions.
Article
Full-text available
Objective Transgender and non-binary individuals frequently engage with healthcare services to obtain gender-affirming care. Little data exist on the experiences of young people accessing gender care. This systematic review and meta-ethnography aimed to identify and synthesise data on youths’ experiences accessing gender-affirming healthcare. Method A systematic review and meta-ethnography focusing on qualitative research on the experiences of transgender and non-binary youth accessing gender care was completed between April-December 2020. The following databases were used: PsychINFO, MEDLINE, EMBASE, and CINAHL. The protocol was registered on PROSPERO, international prospective register of Systematic Reviews (CRD42020139908). Results Ten studies were included in the final review. The sample included participants with diverse gender identities and included the perspective of parents/caregivers. Five dimensions (third-order constructs) were identified and contextualized into the following themes: 1.) Disclosure of gender identity. 2.) The pursuit of care. 3.) The cost of care. 4.) Complex family/caregiver dynamics. 5.) Patient-provider relationships. Each dimension details a complicated set of factors that can impact healthcare navigation and are explained through a new conceptual model titled “The Rainbow Brick Road”. Conclusion This synthesis expands understanding into the experience of transgender and non-binary youth accessing gender-affirming healthcare. Ryvicker’s behavioural-ecological model of healthcare navigation is discussed in relation to the findings and compared to the authors’ conceptual model. This detailed analysis reveals unique insights on healthcare navigation challenges and the traits, resources, and infrastructure needed to overcome these. Importantly, this paper reveals the critical need for more research with non-binary youth and research which includes the population in the design.
Chapter
The victimization of transgender individuals is not always present in reported crime statistics. The victimizations experienced by this population are often invisible and suffered in isolation. There are many reasons why transgender people do not report their victimization, either to family members and friends or to the various institutions of society such as the police, the physical and/or mental health community, or to other social services providers. The authors explore what is currently known about the extent and nature of the victimization of transgender individuals. They explore the research associated with the role race/ethnicity plays in transgender victimizations, the nuances of victimizations that occur within intimate relationships, the response of the criminal justice system, and the impact of victimization on the transgender community. Possible solutions to the problems identified in the chapter are addressed, not the least of which is to dispel many of the myths associated with transgender individuals.
Article
Full-text available
This article brings together two case studies that examine how nontransgender people, “gender normals,” interact with transgender people to highlight the connections between doing gender and heteronormativity. By contrasting public and private interactions that range from nonsexual to sexualized to sexual, the authors show how gender and sexuality are inextricably tied together. The authors demonstrate that the criteria for membership in a gender category are significantly different in social versus (hetero)sexual circumstances. While gender is presumed to reflect biological sex in all social interactions, the importance of doing gender in a way that represents the shape of one's genitals is heightened in sexual and sexualized situations. Responses to perceived failures to fulfill gender criteria in sexual and sexualized relationships are themselves gendered; men and women select different targets for and utilize gendered tactics to accomplish the policing of supposedly natural gender boundaries and to repair breaches to heteronormativity.
Article
Full-text available
Ironically, while scholars and policy-makers have long referred to hate crime as a ‘message crime’, the assumption that those beyond the immediate victim are likewise intimidated by the violence has gone untested. Grounded in a recent study of the community impacts of hate crime, we offer some insights into these in terrorem effects of hate crime. We present here some of our qualitative findings. Interestingly, our findings suggest that, in many ways, awareness of violence directed toward another within an identifiable target group yields strikingly similar patterns of emotional and behavioural responses among vicarious victims. They, too, note a complex syndrome of reactions, including shock, anger, fear/vulnerability, inferiority, and a sense of the normativity of violence. And, like the proximal victim, the distal victims often engage in subsequent behavioural shifts, such as changing patterns of social interaction. On a positive note, there is also some evidence that these reactions can culminate not in withdrawal, but in the potential for community mobilization.
Book
Transgendered people face an array of interpersonal repudiations in their everyday lives, emanating from the political right through to the left, from social conservatives, various leading psychiatrists, radical feminists, as well as many lesbians and gays. In Transpeople, Christopher Shelley examines why so many transpeople are treated with such prejudice from a broad range of the socio-political spectrum, and how society can-and must-improve its understanding of transpeople and trans-related issues. Shelley's study of discrimination and acceptance uses an interdisciplinary approach that includes in-depth interviews with ten male-to-female and ten female-to-male transpeople, along with psychological, feminist, and political theory. He studies both the inadvertent challenges that transpeople make to traditional sex and gender definitions, and the reactions of resistance, defensiveness, and phobias of non-trans people when sex and gender norms are challenged. A vitally important work of gender and sex theory, Transpeople provides innumerable insights into both the experiences of transpeople, and the root causes of gender-and sex-related discrimination.
Article
Hate crime laws have reinforced neoliberalism by expanding police and prosecutorial power, adding to the rapid expansion of incarcerated populations. Further, hate crime discourse associates anti-queer violence with notions of “stranger danger,” and thereby reproduces problematic race and social class politics in which an innocent, implicitly middle-class, person is suddenly and randomly attacked by a hateful, implicitly low-income, person. Thus, the author argues that queer and intersectional resistance should reject hate crime discourse and, instead, focus on the experiences of marginalized lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. By doing so, scholarship and activism concerned with reducing anti-queer violence can benefit a wide range of LGBT people without reinforcing inequalities based on race and social class.
Article
This research investigated the psychological impact of the Shepard murder, a widely publicized antigay hate crime in 1998, on nonvictims who were members of the targeted group, through the lens of assumptive world theory. Nine people with minority sexual identities who indicated that they were deeply affected by this murder participated in semistructured interviews of 60 to 90 minutes, and verbatim transcripts were coded and analyzed using qualitative data analysis software. Participants were five men and four women ranging in age from 17 to 51. Results illustrate a vicarious traumatization effect; that is, this event challenged participant fundamental assumptions of benevolence and meaningfulness of the world and worthiness of self. Findings also reflect positive aftereffects. Strengths and limitations of the study, as well as future research possibilities, are discussed.
Article
Drawing on data from interviews with 65 masculine-to-feminine transgenderists, the authors examine the coming-out experiences of transgendered individuals. Drawing on the literature that shows gender to be an inherent component of the social infrastructure that at an individual level is accomplished in interaction with others, they demonstrate that interactional challenges to gender are insufficient to challenge the system of gender. Whereas many transgenderists believe that their actions and identities are radical challenges to the binary system of gender, in fact, the majority of such individuals reinforce and reify the system they hope to change.