Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center

Trans Survivors: What Allies Should Know and How You Can Help

What’s the ‘T’ for, anyways?

The ‘T’ in LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) stands for transgender (or trans); anyone whose gender identity or expression does not match the gender assigned to them at birth or societal expectations of gender. Trans identities can include binary identities (man and woman), but can also include people who identify outside of the gender binary (genderqueer, gender-fluid, gender non-conforming, gender-variant), multiple genders, or no gender at all. (National Center for Transgender Equality, 2015)

Isn’t everyone equally at risk for sexual violence?

No— trans people are at a disproportionate risk for violence. In 42.5% of reported cases of transphobic violence, respondents reported their gender being the motivation for violence. Around 50% of trans people report having been sexually assaulted at least once. Of that 50%, 27% reported only reported being assaulted once, and the remainder (23%) reported being assaulted more than once.

What are barriers trans survivors face when seeking help?

Factor such as the survivor’s race, gender, sexual orientation, and income may prevent trans survivors from seeking help. In predominantly female spaces such as intimate partner violence shelters, trans women have historically not been included. Trans survivors may feel uncomfortable coming out to service providers or having to teach or explain their gender identity to providers. Trans people face additional barriers to medical care that may include lack of insurance coverage or doctors trained specifically on trans healthcare. They also may not want to use services with absences of racial, gender, and sexuality diversity. In addition, about 5% of violence against trans people is perpetrated by law enforcement.   (Forge Transgender Sexual Violence Project, 2015)  

How can we help?

One concrete step we can take is educating ourselves more on gender identity and trans identities through trans-knowledgeable sources so that trans survivors do not need to educate us. It is important to understand and respect trans survivors’ wishes through listening, believing, supporting, referring and connecting survivors to appropriate resources. In addition, coming out as trans looks different in every context and we must respect trans survivors’ right to confidentiality and autonomy of their bodies. We must work to make our survivor spaces and language more inclusive to trans survivors.  (Roundtable of trans U of M students hosted during Transgender Awareness Week, 2015)


Here at SAPAC we serve clients of all genders and are working to make our services and programs as inclusive as possible to everyone!