a blog and resources for trans survivors and loved ones

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“It also started to feel like my inability to access resources for gender-based violence was more gender-based violence.”

-Quote from a survivor during one listening sessions to inform the Trans/Nonbinary Victims of Crime Toolkit

Trans people are frequently turned away from services, especially those for survivors of sexual and domestic violence that are often gender-segregated. Many survivors never seek services out of fear of being turned away, or not being able to find a group or community that is able to see their wholeness.

In listening sessions with trans survivors and service providers, we heard from survivors and providers alike that there often wasn’t a place for people of all gender identities and expressions in victim services. 

One support group facilitator shared that while they had a women’s and all-gender support group (mostly comprised of women and nonbinary people) for survivors of sexual violence, there “weren’t enough people” to have a separate men’s group. They expressed concerns that people with masculine appearances or “energy” might make other participants uncomfortable. 

This is unfortunately a common sentiment, even within LGBTQ communities. Not only does this mean that trans men and trans masculine people may be excluded; if they are included, they may have their gender identity invalidated. Trans women and transfeminine people also get excluded by these ideas – judged for their appearances, how much they “pass,” and for being “socialized as men.” 

(Note: while some trans women discuss how being raised as boys impacts them, many others discuss how they were in fact looking to girls for how to behave and were socialized as girls in that respect. Gender socialization is much more complicated than looking just at the gender people were assumed to be by others when they were children.)

We know that people of all genders experience sexual and domestic violence, and that services for men and masculine-presenting folks are often lacking. Trans women and transfeminine folks may also worry about how they’ll be perceived and whether gender-segregated spaces, including women’s support groups, will welcome them. 

When support groups are not welcoming, where do you go to connect with other survivors? What does this mean for trans survivors of violence? 

As some participants in listening sessions shared, being turned away from services was starting to feel like its own form of “gender-based violence.” This really stuck with me. 

Being turned away from services is traumatic. These organizational policies that might lead a provider to turn away a survivor because of a “masculine voice/appearance/energy” are an additional form of violence that trans survivors face while trying to access healing supports. As we acknowledge the many ways that anti-trans bias and hate contribute to the violence that trans folks face on a regular basis, we should also consider these policies as part of a cycle that further traumatizes survivors. And to prevent violence, we also have to dismantle these organizational barriers to care. 

Despite these barriers, trans people are resilient and often find ways to fill the gaps left by mainstream services. 

In listening sessions, trans survivors talked about looking to their own communities for support, though trans and LGBT organizations that may not be survivor or violence-specific, community leaders who have connections with various support networks, and close friends and chosen family. Additionally, they turned to personal coping strategies, like journaling, prayer, or music. 

The barriers that currently prevent trans survivors from accessing services, or that create environments of mistrust and unsafety, do not have to be an inherent part of the process. When we look at these gaps in service as forms of violence in themselves, we can also look for solutions to address them in our own communities. For more info, check out these resources for more information on gender-integrated support groups and shelters.