Equality NC Guest Blog Post: NCGA Should Act to Address Conditions Leading to Sexual Assault against Trans Women

Apr 28, 2017

Equality NC Guest Blog Post: NCGA Should Act to Address Conditions Leading to Sexual Assault against Trans Women

Ames Simmons, Director of Transgender Policy, Equality NC

As we observe national Sexual Assault Awareness Month this April, it is important to highlight the epidemic of violence and assault toward transgender people in our state and across our country. This weekend the death from violence of the ninth transgender woman of color in our country in 2017 came to light. Chavis “Chay” Reed was a Job Corps participant in Miami and a transgender woman of color shot and killed while running across the street. Mic.com’s Unerased campaign reports that from 2010 to 2016, 72% of trans people who were killed were black transgender women or transfemme people.

Right here in North Carolina, the data from a 2015 survey of almost 700 transgender North Carolinians portrays similarly stark realities for our community. The National Center for Transgender Equality reported in the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey North Carolina State Report that:

  • Respondents who had a job in the prior year reported being physically attacked (1%) or sexually assaulted (1%) at work because of their gender identity or expression.
  • Of respondents who were out or perceived as transgender at some point between kindergarten and grade 12, almost one-fifth (19%) were physically attacked and 11% were sexually assaulted in K-12 because of being transgender. 23% were verbally, physically or sexually assaulted in college or vocational school for being transgender.
  • Respondents reported physical and sexual assault while seeing healthcare providers.
  • Respondents experienced high levels of mistreatment and harassment during interaction with law enforcement who knew or believed them to be transgender. Respondents who interacted with police or other law enforcement during the previous year reported physical attacks and sexual assault, including being forced by officers to engage in sexual conduct in order to avoid arrest.
  • 62% of respondents avoided using public restrooms out of fear of confrontation or other problems. 32% limited the amount they ate or drank so as to be able to avoid public restrooms.

Although junk science has been offered in support of legislation restricting transgender people’s ability to use restrooms that accord with our gender identity, any argument that transgender people are restroom predators is belied by reports such as RTI’s new report on Understanding Violence & LGBTQ+ Communities, which found that “[LGBTQ] people are at high risk for being victims of physical and sexual assault, harassment, bullying, and hate crimes.” The study’s lead author stated that “Our research indicates that LGBTQ+ people face significant danger in their daily lives – and that their victimization affects their education, safety, and health.”

Public policy in our state needs to be refocused away from legislation solving problems that do not exist in restrooms and should be focused instead on mitigating risks of physical and sexual assault against those communities most at risk, especially transgender women of color. Bills such as The Anti-Discrimination Act of 2017 (HB99), which prohibits law enforcement from profiling against many protected bases, including sexual orientation and gender identity, and Hate Crime/Increase Scope & Penalty (HB152),  which supplements existing hate crimes law in North Carolina in several important ways including adding sexual orientation and gender identity, should be supported and passed through the North Carolina General Assembly. We must begin to address the environment and conditions that lead to sexual assault and violence against women by enacting public policy that improves the lives of women, people of color and transgender North Carolinians.