Tuesday, March 21, 2023

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Let’s Talk About Domestic Violence in the Trans Community

According to the data, one woman is assaulted or battered in the United States every nine seconds. One in four women worldwide have experienced physical, verbal, or sexual violence. Despite their usefulness in addressing the pervasiveness of violence against women, these statistics evoke stereotypical depictions of both victims and their abusers. Thus, we only have narrow perspectives on the issue of domestic abuse, which rarely take into account trans people.

In 2011, a survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) found that one in five trans people had experienced domestic violence because of their non-conforming gender identities; however, no national statistics were available for the relatively hidden trans community.

Half of the 6,500 respondents experienced workplace harassment, and a frightening 78% said they had been harassed by faculty or staff.

Trans people are not immune to experiencing domestic violence. We need to have a chat about this and how you can assist.

First, a note about terminology.

Policymakers and media frequently refer to victims of domestic abuse while discussing the issue. The power dynamics in domestic abuse are complicated, but we can better grasp them if we use the victim label.

However, those who provide direct services to victims of domestic abuse almost always refer to their clients as survivors.

If you’ve been through a traumatic experience, it can help to start thinking of yourself as a survivor so you can begin the healing process and stop playing the victim. For the remainder of this article, victims will be referred to as survivors.

Finally, a note on the sensitive topic of family violence.

The abuse that occurs within a home often goes beyond that of a physical nature. Abuse comes in many forms, including physical, sexual, verbal, psychological, and monetary.

Intimate partner violence is only one form of domestic abuse. Members of the victim’s own family or circle of acquaintances may be the perpetrators in cases of domestic violence.

With that out of the way, today we’d want to discuss the complexities of domestic violence in the trans community.

One common reason transgender survivors of domestic violence accept abuse is that they believe it is their only option.
Transgender people, who don’t comply to societal norms about gender, are disproportionately affected by a history of violence. These experiences may include physical assault as well as bullying, sexism, and other forms of discrimination at home, in the classroom, and on the job.

When abuse is the norm, people start to think it’s acceptable because it’s the way the world is.

Oftentimes, survivors of abuse have little choice but to bear it in order to protect themselves.

Survivors may come to accept abusive or shameful acts as normal if they form the basis of their relationship skills while growing up.

Abuse and violence in the home are never the victim’s fault but rather the responsibility of the abuser.

Here’s what you can do: stop spreading harmful trans* assumptions.

Do you ever consider the possibility that trans people’s uniqueness makes it hard for them to form and maintain connections with others? That trans* individuals are oddities and hence unlovable is a harmful stereotype.

Putting it into practice is easy.

Questions like, “Would you ever date a transman or transwoman? ” are meant to be lighthearted conversation starters. The question, though, is evocative of the “Would you rather?” games in which the options are always bad. In addition, the question infers a hierarchy in which “genuine” men and women exist apart from trans* men and women.

Sure, there’s some truth to what the stereotypes say about you. While the number of prospective dates for trans* persons may be less due to the hostility of certain cis people, limiting stereotypes persist and are exaggerated.

Negative transphobic stereotypes equate “gender authenticity” with loveability. These negative labels teach survivors that they are unworthy of positive attention and affection because of who they are.

Try to make your affirmations independent of how you look and whether or not you can pass.

You should commend a trans person on something other than their ability to pass as a man or a woman.

Overemphasizing external cues of a person’s gender (such as a lack of or abundance of breasts, a lack of facial hair, a more feminine or masculine voice, etc.) can lead to discrimination.

The emphasis on gender presentation sends the message that a trans person’s value is contingent on their gender presentation rather than on their helpfulness, resilience, thoughtfulness, bravery, and other admirable character attributes.

It’s important to note that trans people may experience domestic violence in a somewhat different way than other victims.
Abuse and violence in the home always involves more than just words and fists.

But there are a number of ways in which abusers can isolate trans survivors to strengthen their own control over them.

A person who is abusive against a transgender person may do it on purpose, and the abuser may be a friend, family member, or partner. When a transgender person is outed, their safety is compromised, and they are more likely to rely on their abuser.

Abusers may also use the claim that the trans person is not a “genuine man” or “real woman” as a weapon. Although seemingly innocuous, this microaggression implies that the trans person’s authentic gender identification is a lie.

Misusing pronouns or referring to a trans person as “it” shows a lack of understanding for the trans person’s gender identification and reduces the trans person to an object. People are more than the sum of their parts. More than that, we are!

One more way that abusers might exert control over trans people is by monitoring how they dress and act in accordance with their gender identity.

Binders, wigs, and hormones are common transition materials that abusers hide from their victims. When they are unable to cross, this can incite violence.

A trans person may find it difficult to escape an abusive situation when other people have control over their money and identifying documents.

What You Can Do Stop your friend from withdrawing into isolation.

In the early stages of a relationship, it’s normal for both partners to spend more time indoors as they get to know one another. However, if your companion has been spending less and less time away from the house, this could be an indication of domestic abuse.

Isolation from others often repeats itself. Being alone breeds being alone. Communicate your admiration and appreciation to your pal.

Keep in mind that it takes courage to walk away from an abusive partner. Always be there for your friend as a listening ear and encouraging presence, but refrain from giving advice.

It’s important to watch the terminology you and others use when referring to someone based on their gender. Recognizing that there is not one universal standard for male or female bodies or actions, we should avoid drawing broad generalizations about them.

There is no such thing as an ideal state of being.

You should defend your friend if you hear anyone else using inappropriate words. It’s not a pronoun or a joke; it’s much more than that. An individual’s sense of self.

Third, trans persons can be abusive partners because control and power are at the heart of domestic violence.
When one member of a household exerts control over another, it is called domestic abuse. A power abuser is someone who utilizes their position of authority to exert harmful control over others.

During the transition process, trans persons often develop emotions of mistrust toward cisgender people.

It’s common for transgender persons to assume that cisgender people won’t accept them, won’t want to date them, and will eventually give up on them.

For their own protection, some trans persons may dictate to their partners that they limit their social interactions with outsiders or even ban them from entering the home entirely.

Trans people have been known to exploit the “it’s challenging for me as a trans person, thus you need to help fund my transition” line to coerce financial support from their partners.

NCTE found that over 40% of trans persons have tried suicide. This may serve initially as a coping strategy, but later on it may become an instrument of control and power: “I’ll murder myself if you ever leave me.”

Trans persons have their own unique ways of being abusive.

As a general rule, there is no single stereotype that accurately describes abusers. Abuse at home often involves a struggle for dominance.

Domestic violence is a learned habit used to gain power and control, and many bullies report having been tormented as children.

Here’s what you can do: refuse to believe falsehoods about sexual assault and domestic abuse.

The concept of a “typical” survivor is a fallacy. Domestic abuse is not limited to males. Physical and emotional abuse at home often centers on an imbalance of power. Women can abuse, and men can be abused, too. Violence against LGBTQIA+ partners is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. One should not presume that a trans spouse has been the victim of domestic violence.

In a similar vein, acknowledge that the word and concept of “violence against women” are problematic. Do not spread stories or quotes that support the generalization that all violent acts are committed against women.

Violence against women is not the concern of women alone.

This absolves female perpetrators and eliminates any chance of male survivorship.

Transgender victims of domestic violence have a hard time finding support.
Generally speaking, trans communities are small and close-knit.

For the trans community, this has benefits and drawbacks. Most trans persons can count on having adequate assistance in a small town.

However, this close knit society can be harmful in situations of domestic violence and abuse.

Transgender survivors may be hesitant to share their stories in a small group where everyone knows each other for fear of alienating friends and family. The few trans people who exist may feel they have to pick a side.

Domestic violence can be misconstrued as “high drama” if family members have a hard time distinguishing between abuse and “normal” marital conflicts.

Some people in the transgender community may try to quiet the survivor because they are afraid of the “poor PR” it could bring to an already marginalized group.

Exiting an abusive relationship may not be without its own dangers.

Violence against the trans person may increase if the abuser does not stand by them. A trans person may be subjected to more harassment if they do not have access to appropriate identification. Threats to out trans people at work can also cause them to stay in an abusive relationship.

Also, there is typically only one or two service providers who can serve clients of either gender.

For instance, trans people may be rejected from domestic abuse shelters because of the gender segregation that exists there.

Having an ID that does not match their gender is another barrier trans survivors must overcome in order to access services like healthcare.

What You Should Do Instead is Get an Education!

Being knowledgeable is not required. Always find a way to help, and be there for others.

Read up on how to support a transgender survivor of intimate partner violence by using FORGE’s safety planning tool.

Each month, FORGE hosts training webinars for professionals who assist transgender victims of violence. Some are more advanced, such as “Working with Trans People Who Are Incarcerated or Have Disabilities,” while others are more introductory in nature. You may watch the recorded webinars for free right here.


It can be difficult to find one’s way around the gender binary.

Help your friend avoid awkward interactions by accompanying them when they contact service providers. If your friend is okay with it, you should phone beforehand to explain the issue and request that appropriate gender pronouns be used.

Ultimately, abuse at home is a matter of dominance.

Trans people who experience domestic violence often feel helpless since their trans identities defy traditional gender roles and expectations.

Having a voice in one’s own rehabilitation can be a very reassuring and liberating experience for those who have endured trauma. Moreover, you may aid in this procedure if you have the appropriate information and resources at your disposal.

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