a blog and resources for trans survivors and loved ones

  • Empowering.
  • Healing.
  • Connecting.

Imagine a house that’s falling apart. There’s a crack in the foundation, holes in the roof, mold on the walls, faulty electrical wiring, and general gross stuff everywhere. There is no one action that will make the house safe to live in. In fact, some of the problems are so significant that perhaps the best choice is to take the house apart and start over. For example, cleaning the mold is important, and makes a huge immediate difference. But the mold will come back, because of the holes in the roof. 

Let’s imagine now that you are working with a group of people to fix the house. It’s possible you’ll each have different priorities. One person is worried about the wiring; another knows the bathrooms need major updates; and a third is focused on the yard. None of them are wrong. They’re all identifying problems based on their perspectives, experiences, and skills. Working together, all the repairs could get done. 

When I think about preventing violence, I think about that house. There are so many strategies to prevent sexual and domestic violence. If we only engage in one of those, we won’t prevent all violence. Instead we need approaches that address the many different things that contribute to violence happening in the first place – we need to fix or replace the whole house, not just the roof. 

This can feel overwhelming. There’s so much to do; how do we do it all? No one person does it all. We each do what we can. We work together and it gets done. 

In 2024, the theme of Sexual Assault Awareness Month from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center is Building Connected Communities. Community connectedness is a protective factor against sexual violence – meaning that the more community connectedness there is, the lower the likelihood of sexual violence. But what is community connectedness?

Community connectedness is about how people come together as a community and how the community supports everyone to have equitable access to what they need to thrive. While this includes relationships between people (like knowing your neighbors, for example), it’s also about the policies and practices of a community. Are there parks, libraries, and other shared spaces to gather for free? Do sidewalks get repaired? Is the infrastructure functional? Do organizations work together and help people get connected to resources? Do the laws or rules of community serve everyone?

Check out these Building Community Connections resources to learn more!

How does this help reduce sexual violence, though?

On the individual level – connected communities teach people to care for each other, to respect and value each other. To do that, people could learn consent, conflict resolution, communication, and compassion. Each of these things makes it less likely that any one person will commit assault. 

Connected communities also have high levels of nurturing and support, meaning that people have other people (and organizations) to turn to if they need help, and that it would be okay to ask for help. This means that people who experience sexual assault may get support sooner. It also means that people may share information and connect with others before harm happens – when they are identifying warning signs. Or, this may help people to avoid higher risk situations. For example, being able to get a safe ride home from a bar at night may make it easier for someone to avoid being alone with a date who makes them uncomfortable. 

Connected communities would also have fair and equitable access to resources. People would make a living wage. Housing would be safe and accessible. Rules would be enforced equitably.

What do connected communities look like for trans/nonbinary people? Here are some things that I imagine:

  • Trans/nonbinary people have access to supportive people, who affirm their gender, and create space to discuss it as much as each person wants. There is space for curiosity, doubts, certainty, and change.
  • Trans/nonbinary people do not experience discrimination when looking for jobs, housing, or healthcare.
  • Public spaces always have gender neutral bathrooms that are as easily accessible as gendered bathrooms. 
  • Gender diversity is valued. Play and creativity with gender is a normal part of life. Dress codes are not gendered. 
  • Trans/nonbinary people have full access to public life – including safety, IDs that match who they are, voting rights, and more.

What else do you imagine in connected communities? What roles do you see yourself playing? 

Just as we imagined the house earlier, it’s important to remember that there’s space for all of us. Sometimes what we do is notice the problems. Sometimes what we do is make repairs. Sometimes what we do is knock down the old house or write the blueprints for a new one. And sometimes what we do is bring lemonade to the people working and remind them to take breaks. All of us matter in this work and in the communities that we imagine.