Domestic violence:
a transgender perspective
Defining Transgender
Gender is a fundamental part of who we are
We perceive ourselves and others through the lens of gender much of the
A transgender person can be broadly defined as any person whose self
identity falls outside of the heteronormative binary system of biologically
assigned sex.
Another simpler way to describe this concept is that a transgender identity is
one where an individual lives and behaves as a member of the opposite
gender to their birth sex
Dispelling the myths
Gender identity and sexuality/sexual orientation are not the same issue;
A transgender person is not a gay or lesbian individual who changes their gender
in an attempt to normalise their sexuality;
A transgender person is not a paedophile or sexually deviant;
Gender dysphoria is not a mental illness nor is it an issue that limits a persons
cognitive and academic abilities.
Violence and trans people
Violence in a transgender persons life is often the “norm” rather than an unusual and
shocking experience
Acts of hate violence such as verbal abuse, harrassment, are often supported by socially
sanctioned expressions of transphobia which are intended to send messages of exclusion.
This perpetual experience of violence in a transgender persons life often creates in the
feeling that unless a violent act leaves someone with extreme physical evidence of harm
then the incident is not one worthy of intervention.
Domestic violence
Domestic violence is a very real experience for transgender people
Sara's story:
“I had been dating my boyfriend for a while and we moved in together . He was the most amazing man, charming,
loving and kind. Then he started to tell me I couldn't go out without him and I couldn't talk to any other males. I
went out with friends one day, when I came home, he was so angry, he threw my belongings at me and screamed
abuse, he told me that if I left him he would hunt me down and kill me.
After this incident he started with constant verbal abuse, I was ugly, people knew I was a man, no one would want
me cos' I am a freak, I am not a woman. He repeatedly forced me to have sex with him, even though I did not want
to as he continued to threaten my life by either harming me himself or by exposing my status to people who would
not respond well to the knowledge and seek to hurt me.”
Some numbers to show the prevalence
of domestic violence:
In research titled “private lives” the statistics indicated that:
61.8 % trans men
36.4% trans women
Reported having been in a relationship where their partner had abused them
*Pitts M, Smith A, Mitchell A & Patel S (2006) Private lives: a report on the health and wellbeing of gay lesbian bisexual transgender and
intersex Australians: Latrobe university
Common experiences of
domestic violence
For Transgender men and women the research indicates that the types of
violence they experience is the same :
Type of violence
Trans men
Trans women
Regularly insulted
Isolated from
family & friends
checked up on
Physically injured
*Pitts M, Smith A, Mitchell A & Patel S (2006) Private lives: a report on the health and wellbeing of gay lesbian bisexual transgender and
intersex australians: Latrobe university
Common myths that need to be
Domestic violence does occur within relationships where one or both partners are
If one person in the relationship is male to female this person can still be assaulted by
their partner and the excuse that they are genetically male and can therefore defend
themselves is inaccurate. It is domestic violence
Trans people should just be happy to have a partner who accepts them and the associated
abuse is therefore reasonable and acceptable
Family Violence
Family violence is common theme emerging in anecdotal evidence regarding
violence and transgender people.
Young people in the family unit are often subjected to violence for a number of
reasons such as
to “combat” the behaviours exhibited by the transgender person…“to toughen him
up and stop being girly”.
Alternatively sibling violence is also reported as young people threaten to out or
expose their transgender sibling status to community and peers or even parents for
material gain or power and position within the family unit.
The challenges for families when
someone is transgender
When a family member or partner comes out as transgender there can be challenges
in the family.
Fear and blame are often the initial responses that people identify family members
reporting .
Shame and embarrassment often follow. The transgender person can at this time be
at significant risk of violence within the family, the provision of information (in
simple and straightforward language) can be a simple early intervention strategy to
prevent family or domestic violence.
Service responses to
domestic violence
In responding to transgender victims of domestic and family violence, services are fraught
with the potential of re-victimisation that is based in transphobia, religious prejudice, and
even an adherence to the traditional heteronormative binary system of biological sex
All survivors of violence regardless of their identity need help to negotiate the
manipulation tactics, harm and emotional trauma they have experienced at the hands of
their partner/ family member.
Service responses to
domestic violence
A transgender woman who seeks help because of domestic violence is not in
need of services and support from a service that supports male survivors of
domestic violence. They need to be able to access services that understand
and support female survivors.
Simple ways to respond to a
transgender survivor
Use pronouns and language appropriate to the identified gender of the client
Understand that a persons transgender identity is not their presenting issue when they
come to your service
Acknowledge and validate the persons discomfort at disclosing personal information,
particularly as the person is waiting for you to respond negatively to their disclosure of
gender diversity
if you use wrong pronouns and language do not over apologise or expect your client to
take responsibility for your feelings
Future directions
One of the key projects the community case work team is focussing on in
the next 12 months is the development of two new resources.
One for services to give families and people when they or a family member
are identified as experiencing gender identity issues
The second is a resource for services on the key issues for transgender people
who are survivors of violence to provide supports and services that meet the
specific needs of the transgender community
The Gender centre's
Transgender Anti violence program
The Gender Centre in conjunction with the City of Sydney and the NSW police
force are working on a campaign targeting violence experienced by transgender
people: a reporting and support initiative that allows a transgender person to report
the violence they have experienced either to the centre or to the police when further
action is identified as wanted by the victim. Data collection and victimology studies
form part of this program as well, to develop strategies in the future to respond
effectively to the needs of transgender survivors of violence

Domestic violence: a transgender perspective