Have you been a victim of gender-based violence?
Many, if not most, trans and nonbinary individuals would say yes. Our lives are filled with prejudice, discrimination, and violence based on our variance from “traditional” unchangeable binary gender: of course we’ve experienced gender-based violence!
Unfortunately, that definition of “gender-based violence” is not the one many advocates and service providers are promoting. Increasingly “violence against women” – itself a term meant to refer to the much longer set of crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, and trafficking – is being replaced by the term “gender-based violence.” Although the new term corrects the categorical exclusion of male victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, and trafficking, it’s no step forward for trans people. The new term not only does not acknowledge the myriad of ways in which trans people are subject to gender-based bias, but it also makes it harder for everyone to recognize and respond appropriately when trans people have been victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or trafficking. While gender-based bias does motivate some of these attacks – for example, a stranger who sexually assaults a woman he perceives is trans – most trans sexual assault survivors say their gender identity either had nothing to do with their assault, or they weren’t sure. And while an intimate partner abuser may well use transphobic tactics, she may actually be focused solely on trying to control her partner; the transphobia is just one of many tools she could use to cause pain.
Do the terms matter? Yes. We need to keep pushing our allies to fully understand our complex lives and not create even more confusion about what we live with. Gender-based stereotypes – including the very term gender-based violence – can make it hard for trans and nonbinary victims to understand what happens to us and what we can do about it.
We need to keep pushing our allies to do better.