Rego: Transgender survivors of sexual violence shouldn’t suffer in silence

Shay Rego

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in the following column are those of the writer only and do not necessarily represent the views of The Collegian or its editorial board. 

In Fifty Shades of Shay’s continuation of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I wanted to bring attention to a population we as a society do not acknowledge enough.

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When speaking on sexual violence, it seems society speaks generally in terms of biological genders and acknowledges more heterosexual violence. However, the transgender community is more deeply affected than we are educated on.

On a college campus where diversity is encouraged and welcomed, many of us may have friends or family in the LGBTQ+ community or be a part of it ourselves. These days, people are very ignorant to things they don’t understand. As individuals who came to college to further our education and shape tomorrow, it is our duty to try and understand the things we thought we could not.

In my experience and opinion, our society seems to portray its focus solely on heterosexual, cis-gender violence, specifically biological women, and fails to protect transgender people in society.

During Women’s History Month, we seem to forget to acknowledge trans-women and the violence committed against them. During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, it’s important to remember trans-women in the conversation and recognize all transgender people.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people in the LGBTQ+ community experience similar — if not higher — rates of sexual violence than heterosexual people. Within the community, transgender people experience the most alarming rates of sexual violence.

The 2015 United States Transgender Survey found that 47% of transgender people are sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.

In general, transgender individuals are more likely to be victims of sexual assault as well as other crimes. For many survivors, their identities and the discrimination they face against their identities make them hesitant to report their assault or seek help, so the numbers are vastly underrated. 

These statistics seem to float under the radar of the majority of society. The numbers show that overwhelmingly transgender people are more susceptible to sexual violence than heterosexual, cis-gender people.

I interviewed a member of the LGBTQ+ community who asked to be referred to as Alex.

Alex, who identifies as a transgender male, shared a little bit of their story and insights on how being transgender affects him with his interactions in society.

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If you or a loved one are suffering in silence, The Network La Red offers help services for LGBTQ+ and poly survivors of abuse and are bilingual. Their help hotline is 617-742-4911.

“I’ve heard a lot about people using corrective therapy against transgender people … because they want to turn them back to their ‘normal’ state,” Alex said.

Transgender sexual violence seems mostly overlooked because of dominant, hetero-normative thinking. Transgender people, in general, may be difficult for some people to understand. Some people outright reject the identity, so any and all conversations relating to transgender individuals is overwhelmingly underrepresented. 

The idea being that transgender individuals are oddities and undesirable in a sexual nature could be a root cause for their sexual violence being so unobserved. Sarah McBride, a trans rights advocate, expressed these thoughts and the importance of understanding trans sexual violence in USA Today.

Another angle to transgender inequality, which led to more sexual violence, is the blatant disregard of understanding what it means to be transgender. These strong personal biases lead to targeting transgender people in excessive hate crimes more than a heterosexual, cis-gender individual might.

 “I sometimes feel like walking down the street I am more likely to be assaulted,” Alex said. “I think people see (transgender) people as more of a target because they are not understood, and because a lot of times they just don’t agree with that, so they want to reinforce that they don’t agree with it.”

Transequality.org offers statistics on the many other hate crimes transgender individuals specifically are subjected to.

We need to acknowledge the higher risks transgender people are put under and be there to support them so they may stop suffering in silence. Their equality and safety should not come second class to cis-gender people.

Shay Rego can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter at @shay_rego.