Since 1999, advocates have gathered to commemorate transgender victims of violence on November 20, the Transgender Day of Remembrance. As of November, 2021 was the deadliest year yet of anti-transgender violence in the United States, exceeding the record 44 transgender people whose deaths were recorded the year before.
Violence and harassment against transgender people are widespread in the United States; as one transgender advocate told Human Rights Watch, virtually every transgender person can recount instances when they have felt fearful for their safety and security in public.
Recent debates over transgender rights have increased the visibility of transgender rights, but have increased hostility toward transgender people as well, with lawmakers and media personalities unfairly demonizing transgender individuals as “mentally ill,” predatory, or dangerous. Reports suggest that bias-motivated crimes targeting transgender individuals are increasing, and incidents when transgender people narrowly escape violence, where transgender people are reluctant to report violence to police for fear of revictimization, or where law enforcement officers fail to document and respond to violence mean that estimates almost certainly undercount the scope and prevalence of these crimes.
The topic of anti-transgender violence frequently appears in news coverage when fatal violence has occurred, and the number of people killed each year is often used as a rough proxy for bias-motivated violence against transgender people more generally. But transgender people are frequently subjected to other forms of violence, including harassment and violence from strangers, family violence, intimate partner violence, and police violence, which may be even less visible to lawmakers and the public.
Particularly in the wake of killings, the violence aimed at transgender people in the United States has often prompted calls for stronger hate crimes legislation and prosecution. While accountability for harm is important, a singular focus on punitive responses ignores the structural conditions that put transgender people—and particularly those who experience multiple forms of marginalization—at heightened risk of experiencing violence and reinforces a carceral approach that has disproportionately harmed transgender and other marginalized people.
The violence and discrimination that transgender people experience is deeply intersectional, with different forms of vulnerability shaped by race, gender, class, ability, and nationality, among other factors. In 2020, more than three-quarters of the transgender and non-binary people killed in the United States were people of color, with Black transgender women at particular risk of violence. From 2016 to 2021, at least 88 percent of the transgender people killed in Florida, 91 percent of the transgender people killed in Ohio, and 90 percent of the transgender people killed in Texas were people of color.
Data suggest that the compounding effects of discrimination significantly limit transgender people’s opportunities and ability to keep themselves safe. When transgender people face family rejection or are kicked out of their homes at a young age, are unable to get an education or find employment, find work in informal and unregulated economies where violence is rampant, grapple with homelessness and housing insecurity, are unable to obtain gender-affirming health care or accurate identification, rely on public transportation and facilities where they are scrutinized by others, and are turned away from antiviolence resources and emergency services, they may be repeatedly exposed to violence with little ability to escape it, often running from one form of violence to find themselves faced with another.
Governments have an obligation to respond to foreseeable threats to the life and bodily integrity of people, including by addressing patterns of violence against specific groups of people. As this report illustrates, the United States is falling short of its international obligations to remedy the structural conditions that give rise to anti-transgender violence and to provide assistance and deliver justice to individuals when violence occurs.
To meet its human rights obligations, the United States should adopt anti-discrimination protections to address the structural discrimination that transgender people face, ensure that services are available and competent to serve transgender survivors, and end practices that minimize and diminish the real effects of anti-transgender violence when it occurs.
To the US Congress
- Enact the Equality Act or other legislation that would expressly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in credit, education, employment, housing, federal funding, jury selection, and public accommodations and facilities.
- Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act, or other legislation to fund and support services for survivors of intimate partner violence and family violence, including transgender survivors, and develop approaches, including restorative approaches, that are responsive to the needs of survivors.
- Improve data collection so it more accurately documents the scope and causes of anti-transgender violence in the United States and ensure training is carried out accordingly.
To State Governments
- Enact legislation expressly prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to ensure access to health care for low-income people including adults living in poverty with no dependents, and to reduce poverty in the state.
- Ensure that state Medicaid policies include gender-affirming coverage and care.
- Ensure that transgender people can update their name and gender marker on birth certificates and identification documents without burdensome, costly, or invasive requirements.
- Repeal discriminatory laws and regulations that exclude transgender people from using public facilities, participating in athletic competition, or accessing healthcare services.
- Repeal laws that create a sweeping license to discriminate against transgender people in healthcare and social services based on a provider’s assertion of religious belief.
- Decriminalize consensual, adult sex work.
- Repeal HIV-specific criminalization laws.
- Enact legislation prohibiting the gay and trans panic defense.
- Amend laws that bar people from updating their names on identification documents after periods of incarceration to ensure that transgender individuals are able to obtain identification that accurately reflects their gender identity and expression.
- Ensure that transgender people are able to access justice and obtain redress when they experience discrimination and violence. This may include creating and publicizing reporting mechanisms, providing trained advocates to assist survivors, and developing a range of options for survivors who may be reluctant to turn to law enforcement agencies.
To Local Governments
- Enact local ordinances prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Review city services and programs to ensure that they are accessible and inclusive for transgender people, including employment and transportation programs, shelters and supportive housing, and antiviolence services. Ensure consideration of race, disability, and other characteristics when creating and implementing accessible and inclusive services and programs.
- Ensure that police departments adopt model policies, such as those crafted by the National Center for Transgender Equality, to ensure that transgender people are not targeted by police, are treated respectfully, and have access to recourse when mistreatment occurs.
Human Rights Watch conducted the research for this report between May 2019 and October 2021. To identify interviewees, a researcher conducted outreach through state and local lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) groups, service providers, and advocates who shared information about the project with transgender individuals who may have experienced violence.
The outreach for the report primarily focused on Florida, Ohio, and Texas, three states where there have been multiple, recent incidents of fatal violence against transgender people and local advocates have organized in response to the issue. A researcher conducted a total of 61 interviews, including 24 with transgender individuals and 37 with service providers and advocates working with affected communities.
In 2019, most interviews were conducted in person on research trips to Florida and Ohio, with additional interviews conducted by telephone. In 2020 and 2021, interviews were conducted by phone or videoconference due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
No compensation was paid to interviewees.
The researcher obtained verbal informed consent from interviewees and notified them why Human Rights Watch was conducting the research and how it would use their testimony, that they did not need to answer any questions, and that they could stop the interview at any time.
Interviewees were given the option of using pseudonyms in published materials for the project; where pseudonyms are used in this report it is reflected in the footnote citation.
The report regularly references the 2015 US Transgender Survey, commissioned by the National Center for Transgender Equality, which surveyed more than 28,000 transgender individuals about their lives and experiences. The survey remains the largest and most comprehensive look at transgender lives in the United States; although a subsequent edition was planned for 2020, production of that survey has been delayed and the 2015 edition remains the most recent data available. The findings of the survey are supported by smaller studies and individual testimony from interviews, referenced below.
Anti-transgender violence has received heightened attention in recent years as advocates have worked to ensure that cases are publicly documented and police and media are held accountable by the public for misgendering victims of violent crime.
The Williams Institute estimates that approximately 0.6 percent of the US adult population, or 1.4 million adults, are transgender. Each year, dozens of transgender people are killed in the United States and many more experience harassment, threats, physical and sexual assault, family violence and intimate partner violence, mistreatment at the hands of law enforcement and corrections officers, and other forms of violence that frequently go unreported.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) collects data on hate crimes through the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, through which, in 2019, 15,588 of the nation’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies contributed data on crimes they have recorded. However, problems with this data, including non-reporting agencies, differences in hate crime definitions and methodologies, and underreporting of incidents are well documented. Participating agencies have great discretion in what is reported and how it is documented, which renders the statistics less descriptive of reality and more of a reflection of agency reporting. For example, in 2019, examining the three states documented in this report, Ohio state agencies reported 4 hate crime incidents per 100,000 people covered by participating agencies compared to 1.6 incidents per 100,000 people in Texas and only 0.5 incidents per 100,000 in Florida. These differences are more likely due to reporting procedures and practices than true distinctions in the number of hate crimes.
Even if reporting procedures and practices were standardized across all 18,000 law enforcement agencies, FBI data would still likely not reflect the full extent of anti-transgender violence in the United States. Individual victims of bias-motivated violence may not report them to authorities for fear of outing themselves as transgender, because of concern they will be blamed or harassed by police, or because of suspicion about the efficacy or outcomes of seeking criminal prosecution.
When individuals do report violence, they may have difficulty demonstrating the motive for that violence, and it may not be recorded or prosecuted by law enforcement as a bias-motivated crime. As this report illustrates, many transgender people are at heightened risk of violence because of life experiences related to their transgender status, whether or not the perpetrator of a particular act of violence is motivated by anti-transgender bias. For these reasons, federal hate crimes data provides only a partial snapshot of the routine violence that transgender people experience across the United States.
Incidents of fatal violence offer one example. FBI hate crime data reflect only one murder motivated by gender identity in 2019, and only three murders motivated by gender identity since 2014. By contrast, transgender advocates have documented killings of more than 200 transgender and gender non-conforming people in the United States since 2013, with transgender women of color making up roughly 4 of 5 anti-transgender homicides.
Non-fatal violence is likely under-reported as well. A Williams Institute analysis of data from the National Crime Victimization Survey found that transgender people “are over four times more likely than cisgender people to experience violent victimization, including rape, sexual assault, and aggravated or simple assault.” Misty Eyez, director of Women's Services, Transgender Services, and Training/Education Services at SunServe, an LGBT social services agency in Wilton Manors, Florida, told Human Rights Watch: “Most of these acts of hate are unreported or undocumented. People will tell me stories that happened to them, from being raped at a bus stop to [unnecessary genital inspections at hospitals]. Violence is extremely common, and it’s under-reported.”
The three states examined in this report—Florida, Ohio, and Texas—have all had multiple incidents of fatal violence against transgender people in recent years, with many of these incidents prosecuted as homicides.
In Florida, advocates have documented at least 18 fatal incidents between 2016 and 2021:
- Royal Poetical Starz, a 26-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed in Miami Gardens on October 2, 2021. Police initially misgendered Starz in their attempt to find her killer.
- Keri Washington, a 49-year-old Black transgender woman, was killed in Clearwater on May 1, 2021. Her domestic partner was later charged with killing her in a dispute.
- Alexus Braxton, a 45-year-old Black transgender woman, was killed in Miami in what police called a “violent and vicious” attack on February 4, 2021.
- Yunieski Carey Herrera, a 39-year-old Latina transgender woman, was stabbed and killed in Miami on November 17, 2020. Her partner called 911 to report that he had killed her after an argument and was later charged with second degree murder.
- Skylar Heath, a 20-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed in Miami on November 4, 2020.
- Bree Black, a 27-year-old Black transgender woman, was killed on a crowded street in Pompano Beach on July 3, 2020.
- Tony McDade, a 38-year-old Black transgender man, was shot and killed by police in Tallahassee on May 27, 2020. A grand jury later opted not to indict the officers involved, finding the use of force justified.
- Bee Love Slater, a 23-year-old Black transgender woman, was killed and found dead in a burning car in Clewiston on September 4, 2019.
- Kiki Fantroy, a 21-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed in Miami on July 31, 2019, after being propositioned for sex and declining.
- Ellie Marie Washtock, a 38-year-old gender non-conforming person, was shot and killed in St. Augustine on January 31, 2019.
- Londonn Moore, a 20-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot to death in North Port on September 8, 2018.
- Sasha Garden, a 27-year-old Black transgender woman, was found dead with signs of trauma in Orlando on July 19, 2018. Investigators described her death as a homicide.
- Cathalina Christina James, a 24-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed in a hotel in Jacksonville on June 24, 2018.
- Antash’a English, a 38-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed in Jacksonville on June 1, 2018. She was initially misgendered in police reports.
- Celine Walker, a 36-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed in a hotel in Jacksonville on February 4, 2018. A man who had previously had a relationship with Walker was later charged in her murder.
- Rhiannon Layendecker, a 51-year-old transgender woman, was shot and killed by her wife in Englewood on December 16, 2017.
- Chay Reed, a 28-year-old transgender woman of color, was shot and killed in Miami on April 21, 2017. She was initially misgendered in media reports.
- Mercedes Successful, a 32-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed in Haines City on May 15, 2016. In 2019, a man who was believed to have had a romantic relationship with Successful was convicted of her murder.
In Ohio, advocates have documented at least 12 fatal incidents between 2016 and 2021:
- Tierramarie Lewis, a 36-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed in Cleveland on June 12, 2021. She was initially misgendered in media reports.
- Diamond Kyree Sanders, a 23-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed in Cincinnati on March 3, 2021. Police later arrested three people in connection with her death.
- Lea Rayshon Daye, a 28-year-old Black transgender woman, died in Cuyahoga County Jail in Cleveland on August 30, 2020. She was misgendered by the prison in an announcement of her death.
- Brian “Egypt” Powers, a 43-year-old Black transgender person, was shot and killed in Akron on June 13, 2020.
- Riah Milton, a 25-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed in Liberty Township on June 9, 2020. According to local law enforcement, Milton was lured to a robbery by three people and was shot twice. She was initially misgendered in police reports.
- Jordan Cofer, a 22-year-old white transgender man, was shot and killed in a mass shooting in Dayton on August 4, 2019.
- Claire Legato, a 21-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot in the head and killed in Cleveland on April 15, 2019. She was reportedly killed after intervening in a dispute between her mother and the man who shot her.
- Keisha Wells, a 54-year-old transgender woman of color, was shot and killed in Cleveland on June 24, 2018.
- Phylicia Mitchell, a 45-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed in Cleveland on February 23, 2018. In 2019, a man who shot her during an argument was acquitted of murder charges but convicted of involuntary manslaughter in her death.
- JoJo Striker, a 23-year-old Black transgender woman, was found dead of a gunshot wound in Toledo on February 8, 2017. She was initially misgendered in media reports.
- Brandi Bledsoe, a 32-year-old Black transgender woman, was found dead with a gunshot wound in Cleveland on October 9, 2016. Two people were later arrested in connection with the murder.
- Rae’Lynn Thomas, a 28-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed in Columbus on August 10, 2016. A man who lived with her family and reportedly disapproved of her gender identity was charged with her murder but was found incompetent to stand trial.
In Texas, advocates have documented at least 22 fatal incidents between 2016 and 2021:
- Kiér Laprí Kartier, a 21-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed in Arlington on September 30, 2021. She was initially misgendered in police and media reports.
- Miss CoCo, a 44-year-old transgender woman of color, was shot and killed in a homeless encampment in Dallas on August 7, 2021.
- Tiffany Thomas, a 38-year-old Black transgender woman, was found dead of a gunshot wound at a car wash in Dallas on April 24, 2021.
- Iris Santos, a 22-year-old Latina transgender woman, was shot and killed at a fast-food restaurant in Houston on April 23, 2021.
- Aidelen Evans, a 24-year-old Black transgender woman, was found dead in Port Arthur in March 2021, and her death is being investigated as a homicide.
- Asia Jynae Foster, a 22-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed in Houston on November 20, 2020, after telling friends she was going on a date.
- Merci Mack, a 22-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed in Dallas on June 30, 2020, after a reported altercation over a video she intended to post on social media.
- Helle Jae O’Regan, a white 20-year-old transgender woman, was stabbed and killed in an attack on a barbershop in San Antonio on May 6, 2020. Police subsequently charged a man with her murder.
- Itali Marlowe, a 29-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed in Houston on September 20, 2019. A man who was living with Marlowe was subsequently charged with her murder.
- Tracy Single, a 22-year-old Black transgender woman, was killed in Houston on July 30, 2019. A man who had been in a relationship with Single was subsequently charged with her murder.
- Chynal Lindsey, a 26-year-old Black transgender woman, was found dead in a lake in Dallas on June 1, 2019. A man was later arrested and charged with murder in connection to her death.
- Johana “Joa” Medina, a 25-year-old Latina transgender woman, died days after being released from six weeks of ICE custody in El Paso on June 1, 2019. She had been seeking asylum in the United States and became ill while in custody, complaining of chest pains.
- Muhlaysia Booker, a 23-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed in Dallas on May 18, 2019. Weeks prior, a crowd had assaulted her in a parking lot in an unrelated incident that circulated in a viral video and made national news. A man was subsequently charged with her murder.
- Nikki Enriquez, a 28-year-old Latina transgender woman, was killed in Laredo on September 15, 2018. A border patrol agent subsequently confessed to killing her and three other women, and he is believed to have targeted sex workers.
- Karla Patricia Flores-Pavón, a 26-year-old transgender woman of color, was found strangled to death in Dallas on May 9, 2018. Police later arrested a man in connection with her murder.
- Brandi Seals, a 26-year-old Black transgender woman, was found dead of a gunshot wound in Houston on December 13, 2017. She was initially misgendered by law enforcement officials.
- Elizabeth Stephanie Montez, a 47-year-old Latinx transgender woman, was found with multiple gunshot wounds near Robstown on October 21, 2017, and later died in the hospital. Three people were subsequently convicted of luring her to a barn where she was shot; a fourth accepted a plea deal.
- Gwynevere River Song, a white 26-year-old transgender person, was shot and killed by her father in Waxahachie on August 12, 2017. A grand jury subsequently declined to indict her father in connection with her death.
- Kenne McFadden, a 27-year-old Black transgender woman, was pushed into the San Antonio River and drowned on April 9, 2017. The man who pushed her told the court that the two had kissed, and that when McFadden made a sexual advance he pushed her into the river.
- Shante Thompson, a 34-year-old Black transgender woman, was beaten, shot, and killed in Houston on April 11, 2016. A man was subsequently sentenced to 12 years in prison for her murder.
- Monica Loera, a 43-year-old Latina transgender woman, was shot and killed in North Austin on January 22, 2016. A man was subsequently sentenced to 20 years in prison for her murder.
- Erykah Tijerina, a 36-year-old Latinx transgender woman, was stabbed and killed in El Paso on August 8, 2016. A man who reportedly had been sexually involved with Tijerina was subsequently sentenced to 35 years in prison for her murder.
The violence and discrimination that transgender people experience is deeply intersectional, with different forms of vulnerability shaped by race, gender, class, ability, and nationality, among other factors.
In 2020, for example, more than three-quarters of the transgender and non-binary people known to have been murdered in the United States were people of color. In the incidents listed above, at least 88 percent of the transgender people killed in Florida, 91 percent of the transgender people killed in Ohio, and 90 percent of the transgender people killed in Texas were people of color. As the cases above illustrate, Black transgender women have been disproportionately affected by fatal violence. Black transgender women comprised 66 percent of the 202 cases of fatal violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people that the Human Rights Campaign documented across the United States from 2013 to 2020. As Naomi Green, a transgender advocate in Texas, told Human Rights Watch:
One of the reasons Black trans women die the most is the intersectionality of being first, Black, and then a woman, and then trans. When you think about the fact that people are still existing in the world who are racist and don’t like Black people, there are still men who view women as less than and treat women as less than, and there are a number of people in the world who do not like or hate trans people, and you mix all of those together, it’s a very dangerous combination.
As this report illustrates, the discrimination that transgender people face—and their ability to access stable employment, safe transportation, secure housing, and public and private resources—intersects with other forms of discrimination that limit opportunities and put people at risk of violence.
Discrimination and a lack of access to basic social and economic goods leave transgender people vulnerable to violence in the United States.
Nell Gaither, president of the Trans Pride Initiative in Dallas, Texas, told Human Rights Watch that “Black trans people face more discrimination and violence because they have less access to education, employment, housing, and health care and services.”
Similarly, Zakia McKensey, executive director of the Nationz Foundation, noted:
If there were protections in place for housing, employment, some of these things wouldn’t be happening, or not happening at such great levels. And these ladies wouldn’t have to put themselves out on the street engaging in survival sex work because they could keep a job and get safe housing.
Persistent marginalization and a lack of opportunity function in tandem to keep transgender people, particularly those who are multiply marginalized, in circumstances where they are more at risk of harassment and violence.
While many federal civil rights laws do not expressly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, courts and administrative agencies have indicated that prohibitions on sex discrimination encompass gender identity discrimination.
In 2020, the US Supreme Court affirmed this understanding in its decision in Bostock v. Clayton County. The Bostock court held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on “sex,” also prohibits discrimination based on gender identity.
The administration of US President Joe Biden has applied the logic of the decision to other civil rights laws as well, interpreting sex discrimination provisions in education, housing, health care, and other domains to protect transgender people from discrimination based on gender identity. The Equality Act, a bill that would make these protections explicit in federal law and expand them to other domains, has passed the US House of Representatives but has not yet been enacted by the Senate, where supporters have struggled to assemble a filibuster-proof majority despite broad popular support for LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination protections.
Protections at the state level are not uniform across states or contexts, including employment, housing, and public accommodations. All told, only 49 percent of LGBT people live in states where there are protections in all three contexts.
As of July 2021, 22 states expressly prohibited discrimination based on gender identity in employment, and in another 9 states, including Florida and Texas, courts or administrative agencies have interpreted existing prohibitions on sex discrimination to cover gender identity. In the remaining 19 states, including Ohio, employment discrimination laws are not understood to cover gender identity.
Similarly, 22 states expressly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity in housing, while only 7 states, including Florida, interpret existing prohibitions on sex discrimination to cover gender identity, and the remaining 21 states, including Ohio and Texas, do not offer any protection.
In public accommodations, such as stores, restaurants, hotels, and other spaces that are generally open to the public, only 21 states expressly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, 6 states, including Florida, interpret existing prohibitions on sex discrimination to cover gender identity, and 23 states, including Ohio and Texas, offer no clear protection.
Even after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock, these state protections are critically important. State employment discrimination laws can be more expansive than federal law, covering a wider range of employers and offering more robust remedies to those who experience discrimination. Rather than interpreting “sex” to include sexual orientation and gender identity, state laws can spell those protections out explicitly, making it clearer to employers and employees that people are protected on those bases. Moreover, because federal law does not expressly prohibit sex discrimination in public accommodations and services, Bostock does not protect LGBT people in places like restaurants, hotels, or transportation services, making inclusive state antidiscrimination laws particularly important.
Stronger antidiscrimination laws are needed. A survey of 1,528 LGBTQ adults commissioned by the Center for American Progress in 2020 found that 62 percent of transgender respondents had experienced discrimination in the year preceding the survey. Approximately half of transgender respondents reported that they had experienced discrimination in public spaces and more than a quarter reported discrimination in the workplace in the previous year. More than a third said that discrimination had “a moderate or significant impact” on their ability to rent or buy housing, and more than half of transgender respondents said it would be impossible or very difficult to find an alternative if they were denied access to a homeless shelter. Nearly a quarter had experienced recent discrimination by law enforcement.
This discrimination had material consequences; 54 percent of transgender respondents said that discrimination had “moderately or significantly affected their financial well-being.” About half of transgender respondents also said that discrimination affected their ability to secure or retain employment.
Instead of addressing these persistent patterns of discrimination, however, lawmakers have recently sought to further exclude transgender people from public spaces. From 2016 onward, lawmakers have sought to limit transgender people’s rights with hundreds of bills in state legislatures restricting access to bathrooms and locker rooms, athletic competition, and healthcare services. The public debates surrounding these bills have often featured dehumanizing rhetoric about transgender people, portraying them as predatory, “mentally ill,” or dangerous, despite research confirming that transgender inclusion has not created safety concerns.
Both transgender individuals and advocates told Human Rights Watch that they have felt less safe as hostility toward transgender people has been openly voiced in legislatures and in media, and available data suggest that bias-motivated violence has increased in recent years.
Lack of Access to Services
When transgender people do experience violence, the services available to them are often extremely limited. While shelters and domestic violence programs can be challenging to access for cisgender people as well, transgender people often face legal, functional, and attitudinal barriers that drastically limit their available options.
The Equal Access Rule requires that recipients of federal funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Office of Community Planning and Development not discriminate based on gender identity in programs, shelters, and other services. Where these programs, shelters, and services are gendered, they should respect people’s gender identity.
However, transgender people remain particularly vulnerable to discrimination in private or religious facilities that do not receive federal funding but are the primary shelter providers for survivors of violence in many communities. They also experience discrimination in shelters that are formally inclusive of transgender people but functionally exclude them or fail to protect them from mistreatment by other residents or staff.
Services for survivors of intimate partner violence may also be difficult for transgender people to access. The 2015 US Transgender Survey found that 47 percent of respondents had been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives, and 10 percent had been sexually assaulted in the past year. Of those who had been assaulted at some point in their lives, 34 percent had been assaulted by a current or former partner, 25 percent had been assaulted by a relative, and 30 percent had been assaulted by a stranger.
In 2013, the US Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which for the first time expressly prohibited discrimination based on real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in federally funded antiviolence programs. VAWA also created a grant program for service providers working with underserved populations, including LGBT communities, supporting those providers who work with LGBT people and encouraging other providers to do so as well. VAWA expired in late 2018, was temporarily reauthorized, and expired again in early 2019. While grant programs have continued to receive funding through congressional appropriations, advocates have urged Congress to reauthorize VAWA with greater emphasis on alternatives to criminalization and send a message that addressing violence is a priority. As of writing, a reauthorized version of VAWA had passed the US House but stalled in the US Senate. Advocates have also called for reauthorization of the Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act, which would fund and support crucial services for survivors of violence.
Advocates highlighted that, despite advances since 2013, transgender individuals still face considerable legal, functional, and attitudinal challenges in accessing homeless shelters and antiviolence services. As this report details below, gendered spaces remain inaccessible for many transgender people at risk of poverty, homelessness, and violence.
Lack of Access to Justice
Survivors of violence can also experience significant barriers obtaining access to justice. Whether an incident is reported and documented as an instance of bias-motivated violence, whether transgender victims of violence are treated with respect by law enforcement and judicial officials, and whether perpetrators of violence can use the victim’s gender identity as a defense in court all vary within the United States.
At the federal level, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act extends federal funding and assistance to aid state and local governments in the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes, including hate crimes on the basis of gender identity. It also criminalizes violence that is motivated by a person’s gender identity when an act of violence extends across or affects more than one state.
At the state level, hate crimes protections for transgender people are uneven. As of July 2021, only 22 states expressly enumerated gender identity in their hate crimes law. While Tennessee does not expressly enumerate gender identity, the state’s Office of the Attorney General has clarified that “gender identity” is covered under the term “gender.” The remaining 27 states enumerate sexual orientation but not gender identity, do not enumerate either sexual orientation or gender identity, or do not have a hate crimes law.
In some instances, perpetrators of bias-motivated violence toward transgender people have defended their conduct by claiming that they became upset or enraged when they discovered that their victim was transgender. This defense, known as the gay or trans panic defense, is used by individuals accused of anti-LGBT violence who contend they were wholly or partially justified in reacting violently when they discovered that someone was LGBT. In recent years, a growing number of states have taken steps to curb the use of gay and trans panic defenses. Although the American Bar Association has called on states to prohibit these defenses, only 15 states had done so as of November 2021.
II. Violence and Discrimination
Discussions of anti-transgender violence often focus on hate crimes and the suggestion that a transgender person has been targeted and killed by an unknown assailant because of their gender identity. This is only one of the many forms that anti-transgender violence takes. In interviews with Human Rights Watch, advocates and survivors of violence described incidents where they were made to feel unsafe or targeted by strangers because of their gender identity, experienced violence at the hands of family members or intimate partners, or were harassed or assaulted by law enforcement officers.
Exposure and Social Hostility
A common perception of anti-transgender violence is that it is committed by strangers in public places who target individuals who are transgender for abuse. The 2015 US Transgender Survey, which remains the largest survey of the experiences of transgender people in the United States to date, bears this out. According to the survey, 54 percent of respondents had been verbally harassed in the past year, and 46 percent believed they were harassed because of their gender identity or expression. Thirteen percent of respondents had been physically attacked in the past year, and 9 percent believed they were attacked because of their gender identity or expression. Other recent research similarly reflects a prevalence rate for gender-based violence of anywhere from 7 to 89 percent among transgender people in the United States.
Interviewees described incidents of this type of violence. Sam F. a trans person in Florida, told Human Rights Watch about being assaulted by strangers after being at a sports bar in 2018:
The pretty waitress could see I sat somewhere in this world and said you have pretty eyes and an hour later she’s putting eye makeup on me. And two dudes with crewcuts beat the shit out of me. I passed out and I woke up a little later. And a nice person came up to me and I was bleeding from the head and asked if she could call the police. And I said no because I was too embarrassed… So I wandered home and bled on the pillow and I didn’t even tell my wife. She asked why there was blood on the pillow, and I said it was just a nosebleed…. All I remember are the two young blond guys saying, “Fuck you faggot” and punching me over and over.
Nell Gaither, president of Trans Pride Initiative (TPI) in Dallas, described another incident where a Black trans woman who contacted TPI had been assaulted by employees in a 7-11 store. The woman bought food from one cashier, but the other claimed to have believed her to be stealing and attacked her with a pipe. Eventually, the first cashier confirmed her account and they let her go; however, the police had been called. The woman told TPI that she was bleeding when police arrived, but they ticketed her based on the clerk’s allegation that she fought back, charging her with assault.
As Misty Eyez, who works with transgender clients at SunServe in Wilton Manors, Florida, observes, transgender people are susceptible to violence
[w]hen they leave their house. Or in their house…. Bus stops. Street corners. 7-11. Doctors’ offices. My clients have been attacked anywhere, I don’t know there’s a safe place. You hope that home will be safe. But then that leads to a lot of my clients not leaving their house ever, and being reclusive, and some will only leave at nighttime under cover of darkness.
Interviewees described the precautions they took to avoid being attacked or victimized. These included avoiding going out at night, not walking outside or taking public transportation, calling ahead to ensure places would be welcoming, patronizing trusted establishments and adhering to rigid routines, and avoiding bathrooms and other gendered spaces where they might face scrutiny.
This concern for safety can significantly constrain transgender people’s options and mobility. Tori O., a 25-year-old Black trans woman in Ohio, said:
I don’t walk to the corner store, I’ll drive clear across town. I’ll avoid a lot of places. If it’s not a big chain, I wouldn’t go out and go in the store.
The fear of violence can also restrict how people express their gender. Samantha J., a 28-year-old trans woman in Florida, explained:
It’s just being aware all the time. And being hyper aware of how I’m being read. Am I being read correctly? Am I being misgendered? And people get really defensive when they misread you and then make that switch—for someone to read me as a woman, then clock me, then have some hate or anger toward me. I made sure to present hyper feminine to avoid that, which then also messed with me, because it was like is this who I am or am I just presenting this way for my safety?
Individuals who are perceived as transgender by others are at heightened risk of harassment and violence. In the 2015 US Transgender Survey, individuals who said that others could always or usually tell that they were transgender were significantly more likely to be verbally harassed—and more than twice as likely to be physically attacked—than those who said others could rarely or never tell they were transgender. A third of respondents reported being verbally harassed by strangers in public in the previous year because they are transgender, while 5 percent reported being physically attacked by strangers in public because they are transgender.
When this violence occurs, it often results in serious physical injury. Stephanie Houston, whose transgender daughter Muhlaysia was killed, recalled an assault captured in a viral video in April 2019 that left Muhlaysia with a broken wrist, concussion, and black eye. Muhlaysia was shot and killed weeks later, in May 2019.
Yet violence and threats of violence also had lasting psychological effects. Other interviewees described having pervasive fear, nightmares, or anxiety attacks, and advocates noted that many of their clients experienced depression, post-traumatic stress, or are bipolar. As described in more detail below, transgender people face serious obstacles to accessing mental health services and healthcare.
Even years after an assault, the consequences can linger. Rajee Narinesingh, a transgender woman who has survived multiple incidents of physical violence, explained:
Even though I haven’t been attacked in recent years, I still live with that every day of my life… I go to the same gas station, because I know the employees know me, we have a rapport, it feels safer to go there, and maybe if something happened, I could depend on someone coming to my aid. I was in Hollywood, Florida, two weeks ago, and was heading back up to Fort Lauderdale, and my gas was low, not on empty yet, but pretty low— but I didn’t stop and get gas. I thought, I think I can make it to the gas station I usually go to. It’s stuff like that: I don’t think the average person would think twice about that. If I go out for dinner and I have to use the bathroom, often times I’ll hold my urine and not go, just to prevent maybe a scene happening if I go to the ladies’ room. To just avoid any potential conflict, I’ll hold my urine…
It’s the mental aftereffects. You know, I suffer from PTSD, I suffer from agoraphobia. I’m a people person, I’m an activist in my community, people would be surprised to hear I have agoraphobia, and I believe it’s because of these attacks. If you said to me, let’s go to the mall, I would probably start having an anxiety thing—because all I think right away is, a lot of people in one place, and what are the possibilities that I’m going to run into some people who don’t like trans people, and what are the possibilities they’ll say nasty things to me, and what are the possibilities it’ll escalate into a physical attack? I’ve been working with a therapist to push through that, but it does scar you.
This can come at an intense personal cost. Yolonda Burt, a Black transgender woman in Ohio who was assaulted and stabbed during a period of incarceration, recalled:
I can still see this guy and it looks like he’s looking at me. I’m paranoid. What I would really like, is I would like to be able to have, for me, I would like to be able to have the enjoyment of life again. I want to be able to do things. My first love used to be, it’s no longer, it was racquetball. I love tennis. I love to shoot pool. I don’t do any of those things. I don’t have a social life, period.
Violence can also occur at the hands of family members of transgender people, who may object to the victim’s gender identity. While family rejection can put transgender people at higher risk of experiencing violence—for example, by cutting them off from material support or evicting them from the family home—family members can also be direct perpetrators of violence.
In the 2015 US Transgender Survey, 10 percent of respondents said that an immediate family member had been violent toward them because they are transgender, and 15 percent of respondents ran away from home or were kicked out of their home because they were transgender. Of those who transitioned in the year preceding the survey, 8 percent reported violence from an immediate family member because they are transgender, 7 percent ran away from home, and 8 percent had been kicked out of their home.
Advocates told Human Rights Watch about young trans people who had struggled with physical and psychological abuse from family members, often resulting in homelessness or further violence.
Verniss McFarland, executive director of the Mahogany Project in Houston, Texas, explained that, “If I’m 21, and I tell my parents I’m trans and they say you’re not welcome here and kick me out of the house, I only have the streets and maybe sex work as an option.”
This concern was echoed by service providers. Cara Hackett-King, who ran a house for transgender women looking to leave sex work, observed:
The hopelessness sets in very easily when your family ostracizes you and convinces you you’re nothing during the formative years, 13 to 18, when your opinions of yourself are risky at best… And it almost always leads to violence, because you don’t think much of yourself and get in situations that you might stay out of if you had a little bit more self-esteem.
Daniel Merkan of JASMYN, an organization that works with trans youth in Jacksonville, Florida, noted that “we know [family] rejection probably leads to the worst outcomes for people, because that puts them at risk of all these other things like homelessness, joblessness, which puts you at higher risk of sex work, dealing drugs to make a few bucks to survive. It’s all related.”
Intimate Partner Violence
Transgender individuals who are involved in romantic or sexual relationships also experience intimate partner violence, a category that is broader than physical or sexual assault.
The National Coalition for Anti-Violence Programs defines “intimate partner violence” as “[a] pattern of behavior where one intimate partner coerces, dominates, or isolates another intimate partner to maintain power and control over the partner and the relationship,” which may involve “psychological/emotional abuse, economic abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, cultural abuse, isolation, and intimidation.”
Data suggest that transgender people experience high rates of intimate partner violence, although transgender people have often been overlooked in research on partner violence. The 2015 US Transgender Survey found that 54 percent of respondents had experienced some form of intimate partner violence in their lives, with 44 percent reporting one or more kinds of coercive control and 35 percent reporting some form of physical violence.
Both transgender individuals and advocates recounted cases where transgender people were victimized by intimate partners. In an interview in 2019, Cynthia G., a Black transgender woman in Florida, told Human Rights Watch about an ongoing pattern of violence with her partner. Weeks before the interview, Cynthia’s partner hit her in the mouth, and she reported it to police. Days later, he was released on bond and broke into her house while she was away and destroyed her things. As she recalled:
All the times I’ve been beaten up, held hostage in my own house and couldn’t get out…. I’ve called the police before. He’ll leave, or they’ll come out and if he was there, they would talk to him and he’d say I didn’t hit her, and I’m standing with a busted lip.… I called the Sheriff’s Department the other day, and they came out, and they said we’re always coming out to your house, this is getting boring, tired, and I thought, what if I was getting killed? What if I was walking to my house and someone was trying to hurt me, then what?
In this case, as in others, discrimination or fear of discrimination and a lack of options can leave transgender people vulnerable to ongoing violence. While Cynthia contacted a shelter and was told they housed transgender women, she ultimately opted to stay in her home because of uncertainty about how she would be treated in a shelter setting.
A common refrain from advocates and transgender individuals was that police often assumed that transgender women had instigated the violence, dismissed or downplayed violence when they learned a victim was transgender, or encouraged transgender women to fight their abuser.
Gio Santiago, a transgender advocate in Ohio, recalled one incident where a transgender woman he knew had a cisgender friend staying with her who brought others into the house, and when the transgender woman objected and called the police, “every time the police would come, the [cis] woman would be like well ‘he’ hit me.”
And it’s like, this is your friend, you know she’s trans, and it was only when the police would come that she’d call her ‘he.’ And eventually the neighbors rallied and said this is not what’s happening. But they were treating her as the aggressor—she’s taller, she’s stronger. It’s that victimization of trans people even in their homes.
Aaron Eckhardt, who works with the antiviolence organization BRAVO in Ohio, echoed that assessment:
A lot of what we struggle with in Ohio is departments where if it’s not a quote female survivor and male perpetrator, in a heterosexual way, it’s not seen as domestic violence. It’s seen as two people fighting or two people assaulting each other…. 
Eckhardt believes across the state, police are less likely to do an assessment of who was the primary aggressor when the victim is transgender, than in cases with a cisgender victim of violence. In the end, Eckhardt says, the police decide to either arrest everyone involved, or no one, but do not analyze what has happened and who is at risk:
And I’d say, more often in trans communities and really the whole community, they’re not calling the cops. There’s a huge pressure to stay in your relationship for a number of reasons. One, don’t get law enforcement involved, they’ll hurt everybody. And then there’s such an intense pressure to make relationships work because society or your family says they won’t. So there’s pressure to make it seem like relationships are fine, nothing’s wrong, even more so than in the cisgender heterosexual community. That pressure exists across domestic violence, but even more so in the trans community.
Police and State Violence
While many responses to anti-transgender violence center law enforcement, advocates and transgender individuals report that law enforcement officials themselves are frequently perpetrators of anti-transgender violence.
The National Center for Transgender Equality found that 58 percent of respondents who had interacted with police who knew they were transgender in the previous year reported that they were harassed, abused, or otherwise mistreated. The police violence that transgender people face is both racialized and gendered.
Advocates and transgender individuals shared incidents where transgender people were harassed or left to fend for themselves by police. Diamond Stylz, a transgender advocate in Texas, said:
There are so many stories of cops telling them I’m going to lock you up if you don’t suck my dick for free. Or, when I see you out here, I’m going to lock you up, because I don’t like you…. There’s tons of instances where police are assaulting people because they hate you or they have the power to exploit people because of their position… because who’s going to believe the trans woman over the cop?
Rachel B., a transgender woman in Florida, shared a recent example of a friend who “was picked up in a routine traffic stop for a light, and as soon as they saw the driver was trans, [it was a] lack of respect, unnecessary force, verbal force, and I got out of the car and asked for the badge number and that set him straight a bit, but she was still arrested.”
This can deter transgender people from relying on police when needed; 57 percent of transgender people surveyed said they did not feel comfortable calling the police when they needed help. Melissa D., a transgender woman in Florida, offered an illustration of this sentiment when she told Human Rights Watch: “Nobody will go to the police because they assume that because we’re trans we’re lying to them.”
In some instances, police violence and harassment can be attitudinal. Naomi Green, a transgender advocate in Texas, pointed out that “just like in society, when people are attacking trans people, some of these are the same people who wear these badges.... They have the same opinions or views whether they’re off the job or at work.”
But violence and harassment can also be the product of insufficient attention to transgender rights in departmental policies and practices. A National Center for Transgender Equality report in 2019 found that many large metropolitan police departments—including Columbus, Ohio; Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, Texas; and Miami-Dade, Florida—have yet to adopt best practices to ensure that transgender people and their rights are respected.
Such policies, if publicized and enforced, could help make clear to both law enforcement and the public that officers should not profile or discriminate against transgender people, should be respectful in their interactions with transgender people, and should ensure that a person’s gender identity is respected in recordkeeping, procedures, and access to medical care and facilities.
Involvement with the criminal legal system puts transgender people at heightened risk of violence and discrimination in other ways as well. Past data from the Bureau of Prison Statistics indicate that nearly 40 percent of incarcerated transgender people had been sexually assaulted in prison in the year preceding the survey. Approximately 33 percent of transgender respondents reported being victimized by other incarcerated individuals, while 15 percent reported being victimized by staff.
A history of incarceration can also make it more difficult for transgender people to find stability and safety after release. In addition to the difficulties that formerly incarcerated people face in obtaining employment and housing upon reentry, a felony conviction can prevent transgender people from updating their name on identification documents. In Texas, for example, people have to wait for two years after release to legally change their names; according to the Transgender Pride Initiative, nine other states also use conviction history to restrict name changes, which can prevent transgender people from obtaining identification documents that accurately reflect their gender identity and expression.
The high prevalence of violence against transgender people is due in part to intense animus among many people toward transgender people, fueled in large part by cultural and political narratives that portray transgender people in a dehumanizing or stereotypical light.
But violence is also the product of systemic discrimination that deprives many transgender people of access to economic resources, jobs paying a living wage, safe housing and transportation, quality healthcare, and other material supports that help keep people safe. The lack of access to these material goods puts many transgender people in precarious situations where they are regularly exposed to violence and put in harm’s way.
Poverty is a strong risk factor for violence in the United States. A study of federal data from the National Crime Victimization Survey found that household income “contributes significantly and independently to the risk for serious violence,” with persons in households earning less than $25,000 a year at more than twice the risk of violence as persons in households earning more than that amount.
A lack of material resources can restrict people to unsafe environments, foreclose opportunities, and limit access to the tools they need to keep themselves safe.
Surveys consistently show that poverty is widespread within transgender communities. Among the more than 28,000 respondents to the 2015 US Transgender Survey, 29 percent were living in poverty, compared to 12 percent of adults in the United States generally. Similarly, 15 percent were unemployed, a far higher rate than the 5 percent unemployment rate in the United States at the time of the survey.
The socioeconomic precarity of transgender individuals in the United States is linked in part to discrimination in both education and the labor market, which can function to narrow employment options over a person’s lifespan. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation and researchers from the University of Connecticut surveyed more than 5,600 transgender youth in 2017, and found that only 16 percent of respondents always felt safe at school, and 84 percent had been verbally threatened and 42 percent had been physically threatened because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. GLSEN found similar data in its 2019 School Climate Survey, where 83 percent of transgender students reported being victimized because of their gender. This can create an unbearable climate for young transgender people. GLSEN’s data showed that nearly a quarter of transgender students had changed schools and more than 40 percent had missed school in the past month because of safety concerns. When students are unable to succeed in school, they may face additional limitations in continuing on to post-secondary education or obtaining employment that facilitates upward socioeconomic mobility.
Constraints on educational opportunity are compounded by discrimination in the workplace. According to the 2015 US Transgender Survey, almost a third of respondents who were employed in the year preceding the survey said they had been fired, passed over for a promotion, or harassed or attacked at work because of their gender identity or expression. Interviewees told Human Rights Watch that they believed they had been passed over for employment opportunities because they are transgender.
Robin P., a 34-year-old nonbinary person in Des Moines, told Human Rights Watch that they felt most vulnerable to violence and harassment when they were experiencing poverty:
Most of the death threats I’ve gotten was when I was what people call the hidden homeless – you don’t have a place of your own, you’re staying on couches… I think the reason they targeted me was that I looked very gender ambiguous, I had holes in my jeans and holes in my shoes because I couldn’t afford new clothing… [In a store,] a tall beefy guy threatened my life and said if you don’t get the fuck out of here I’ll beat you to shit. And all I was looking for was cheap shoes.
Individuals living in poverty are often constrained in their ability to refuse sources of income and working conditions that put them at risk, including work in informal economies that are unregulated and often violent. Stephanie Houston recalled that her daughter Muhlaysia faced pervasive harassment at work before leaving her job at an airport and turning to sex work for income:
She just wanted to work, but people would call her a freak and just make her work experience uncomfortable. So that’s one of the reasons she turned to sex work. Muhlaysia didn’t have to do that—some of those people have nowhere to go, and that wasn’t the case with her…. But it was those issues, how she would be harassed at work or guys would bother her on the bus, so that made it uncomfortable for her trying to lead a normal life, and that kind of drove her into the sex work. She used to cry about that, it was overwhelming, and I’m sure it is if you’re trying to live your life and people are harassing you.
Many transgender individuals who have difficulty obtaining employment turn to sex work, which is criminalized to some degree in all US states, including Florida, Ohio, and Texas. Advocates and transgender individuals shared multiple incidents where transgender women involved in sex work were victimized by clients.
Melissa D., a transgender woman in Florida, told Human Rights Watch that she had been assaulted multiple times by clients, including being hit in the face hard enough to give her a black eye and being struck in the back of the head with a gun. As she told Human Rights Watch: “I’m looking for jobs every day. But until I find something, I need to eat… I’m certified as a [stylist], but we’re living in the south, I’m a trans woman. I’ve applied at Dollar Tree, I’ve applied at McDonald’s. You think I want to be in that business? But for now it’s the business I have to rely on.”
When transgender people have criminal records, including criminal records relating to sex work, employment can be particularly difficult to obtain.
Research shows that the criminalization of consensual adult sex work not only undermines personal autonomy, but puts sex workers at higher risk of exploitation and violence, makes it more difficult for sex workers to protect their physical and sexual health, and limits sex workers’ ability to access justice when abuse occurs.
Paige Mahogany Parks, a transgender advocate in Jacksonville, Florida, gave the example of a transgender woman who came to her after a client had attempted to rob her, noting that the woman would not report the assault to the police because of the work she was doing. Jasmine McKenzie, a transgender advocate in Florida, said:
Violence specifically for trans women who are involved in sex work—often times you have men who are robbing them, throwing rocks at their cars, busting car windows out… It’s very hard for them to call the police, because when you call the police, they say you have no business out here. They assume the worst instead of saying what happened, what’s going on? That’s an issue that a lot of the girls here who are doing sex work on the streets face. And then clients are robbing them or are jumping on them if they won’t have sex. They get angry with themselves and turn on the girls and it becomes a domestic dispute, and girls don’t call the police because they don’t want to go to jail for sex work.
The 2015 US Transgender Survey found that those working in informal economies were significantly more likely to experience verbal harassment and physical violence than those who were not. 70 percent of respondents working in informal economies experienced verbal harassment and 29 percent were physically attacked in the past year, while those figures were 45 percent and 8 percent for respondents who were not working in informal economies.  A similar gap is evident in reports of sexual assault; 36 percent of respondents working in the underground economy reported being sexually assaulted in the past year, compared with 10 percent of respondents generally.
Poverty also exacerbates other risk factors, including the inability to obtain safe, stable, and adequate housing, private transportation, or identification that accurately reflects one’s name and gender identity.
Housing and Homelessness
A lack of secure housing also leaves many transgender people vulnerable to violence and unsafe living conditions in the United States. Both family rejection and housing discrimination may contribute to this reality, compounding the effects of poverty; 23 percent of respondents to the 2015 US Transgender Survey reported experiencing housing discrimination in the year preceding the survey. 30 percent of respondents reported experiencing homelessness at some point in their lives, while 12 percent experienced homelessness in the year preceding the survey because they were transgender.
Misty Eyez, who works with transgender clients in Florida, told Human Rights Watch that “I’ve had over 1,000 clients in the last 6 years, and I’d say 86 to 90 percent of my clients have struggled with homelessness because they cannot find a job and cannot get help.”
The effects of that housing insecurity can be dire. Andy Dugan, an attorney with Equality Ohio, observed: “If you don’t have [housing], everything crumbles. It’s hard to keep a job, you don’t have a place to stay, the shelter is already overcrowded, it’s hard to find an affirming place.”
Nora H., a transgender woman in Florida, told Human Rights Watch:
I just moved…. After two years they said I’d have to move because they were remodeling. And I knew it wasn’t true, but I couldn’t prove it. Nothing was directly said to me, but I knew in my heart what it was. Nobody else was asked to move, and my apartment was one of the nicer ones. And the manager of the building was always sexually harassing me… And he found me the apartment, so it’s like, you know. Not like I did anything, but I thought if I’m not nice to him, I’ll get evicted. And eventually I did.
As Nora noted, having to find affordable housing put transgender women in the area at risk, as they were forced by necessity to move into more affordable but sometimes more dangerous neighborhoods where they were less safe.
Homelessness appears to have climbed for transgender people in recent years. According to point-in-time data cited by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, from 2016 to 2019, homelessness among transgender people increased by 88 percent, compared to a rise of 11.5 percent in the United States more generally; some of this increase is likely a reflection of improvement in counting methodology. Rates of unsheltered homelessness, or living outdoors or in places that are not intended for human habitation, saw similarly sharp increases, with a 113 percent increase among transgender people compared to a 25 percent increase in the United States more generally.
As the National Alliance to End Homelessness notes, “all the data tells a similar story: transgender people are more likely to be unsheltered than their cisgender peers, and those who are unsheltered have considerably more health and safety challenges than those who are sheltered.”
When transgender people do experience homelessness, discrimination can prevent them from obtaining emergency shelter. The 2015 US Transgender Survey found that 26 percent of people who experienced homelessness avoided shelters because they anticipated discrimination. This fear is not unfounded; 70 percent of respondents who did stay in shelters reported discrimination because of their gender identity, with more than half being verbally, physically, or sexually attacked and nearly 10 percent being forced to leave when staff discovered they were transgender.
When shelters are expressly or functionally closed to transgender people, it often leaves them without alternative options. According to survey data from the Center for American Progress, 87 percent of transgender respondents said “it would be somewhat difficult (31 percent), very difficult (40 percent), or impossible (16 percent) for them to find an alternative homeless shelter if they were refused.”
The numbers were particularly high for nonbinary, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, or agender respondents, who may not be able to comfortably access facilities that are organized around binary gender categories. Only 7 percent of transgender respondents generally and 4 percent of transgender people of color knew of alternative options within 10 miles; 39 percent of transgender people generally and 41 percent of transgender people of color would have to travel more than 20 miles to reach an alternative homeless shelter.
Transgender individuals who are left unsheltered report higher rates of health and safety threats than their sheltered counterparts. Paige Mahogany Parks, a transgender advocate in Jacksonville, Florida, observed that when transgender women and men she knew who were experiencing homelessness were assaulted or harassed, “they still have to be around these people, they’re in that sector, so they don’t report those crimes. People hurt them, they get robbed a lot, beaten up.”
An analysis of recent point-in-time data from the National Alliance to End Homelessness finds that unsheltered transgender people are 3 times more likely to have a mental health condition; 8 times more likely to have a physical disability; and 17 times more likely to have problematic drug or alcohol use. In addition, 60 percent of unsheltered transgender people have 3 behavioral and physical health concerns co-occurring: chronic health conditions, mental health conditions, and problematic use of alcohol or drugs, compared to only 3 percent of sheltered transgender people.
Lack of shelter is also correlated with risk taking and constraints on autonomy; 98 percent of unsheltered transgender people report engaging in behaviors that threaten their health (e.g. having unprotected sex or sharing a needle) and in some cases may increase their risk of running afoul of the law (for example, engaging in sex work or selling drugs) and 40 percent say they have been forced to do things they do not want to do, while those figures are 18 percent and 11 percent for sheltered transgender people. And lack of shelter is associated with increased interactions with the criminal legal system: the average number of interactions with the police over a six month period was seven times higher for unsheltered transgender people, with the average number of jail or prison stays ten times higher for unsheltered transgender people.
A notable caveat to this data, however, is that shelters may not protect transgender people from interpersonal violence. In recent point-in-time data, sheltered transgender people are slightly more likely to report being attacked (42 percent) or facing trauma or abuse (38 percent) than their unsheltered transgender counterparts (39 percent and 31 percent, respectively). In both cases, and in other compiled data, rates of violence are high. While 47 percent of respondents to the 2015 US Transgender Survey generally had experienced sexual assault in their lifetime, for example, that number rose to 65 percent of respondents who had experienced homelessness.
Lack of housing can also exacerbate other harms detailed in this report. A lack of stable housing can make it more difficult to obtain and keep employment and can lead to a wide range of health conditions. As the National Health Care for the Homeless Council has explained, “[l]iving on the street or in crowded homeless shelters is extremely stressful and made worse by being exposed to communicable disease (e.g. TB, respiratory illnesses, flu, hepatitis, etc.), violence, malnutrition, and harmful weather exposure.” And people experiencing homelessness may have difficulty keeping and storing needed medications, maintaining a healthy diet, managing behavioral health issues and problematic substance use, or obtaining needed preventive care. The Covid-19 pandemic has further exacerbated risk; people experiencing homelessness are at heightened risk of contracting severe illness and may be less able to manage their exposure to the virus due to lack of resources and support. These conditions compound each other to deepen the precarious circumstances in which many transgender people live, in addition to putting them at greater risk of physical and sexual violence.
Lack of Access to Health Care
Barriers to accessing affordable health care, including gender-affirming care, can also put transgender people at heightened risk of violence. As Human Rights Watch has previously documented, barriers like cost and discrimination prevent transgender people from getting the care they need, and the inability to obtain gender-affirming care can mean that transgender people are more readily perceived as transgender in public and subjected to harassment and violence.
Accessibility remains a significant issue for many transgender people. The Center for American Progress survey in 2020 found that more than 51 percent of transgender respondents had postponed or forgone medical care they needed in the year preceding the survey because of cost, and the 2015 US Transgender Survey found that 33 percent of respondents had done so. In addition to difficulty accessing health care generally, respondents living in poverty were significantly less likely to have access to a range of transition-related care, including counseling, hormone therapy, and gender-affirming surgeries. Accessibility is also an issue, particularly for transition-related care; more than half of respondents had to travel more than ten miles from their home to access transition-related care, which can be difficult without access to reliable transportation.
Discrimination is also a barrier to accessing care. The Center for American Progress survey in 2020 found that 28 percent of transgender respondents had postponed or forgone medical care they needed in the year preceding the survey because of disrespect or discrimination. The 2015 US Transgender Survey similarly found that 23 percent of respondents had forgone care they needed in the past year because they worried about discrimination and mistreatment from providers.
Transgender respondents had experienced a range of negative experiences in healthcare settings. In the Center for American Progress survey, 38 percent of respondents saw providers who were visibly uncomfortable with them because they were transgender, 33 percent had to teach a healthcare provider about their needs to receive care, 32 percent had a provider intentionally misgender them or use an incorrect name, 20 percent reported that providers were physically rough or abusive, and 19 percent reported that providers were verbally harsh or abusive. All of these experiences were more widely reported by transgender people of color than by transgender people generally. As a result, some were unable to obtain the care they needed at all; 25 percent were refused transition-related care, and 18 percent were refused care because of their real or perceived gender identity.
Lack of access to care can exacerbate exposure to violence. Carter Brown, a transgender advocate in Texas, told Human Rights Watch:
You might make risky choices, or take black market hormones, or share hormones and needles, or if you just cannot, you find ways to self-medicate otherwise. In a lot of ways, this puts people in living situations and environments where people are doing what they need to survive, and often that’s where crime happens, for trans people who don’t have health care.
The intersection of gender identity with other factors can make it particularly difficult for some transgender people to access health care. Melissa D., a transgender woman engaged in sex work in Florida, noted that transgender sex workers—like other sex workers—may be reluctant to seek care for assault or sexual health concerns for fear that their employment may be recorded in their medical records. When people are unable to obtain care for mental health conditions or problematic substance use, these issues can exacerbate each other and make it difficult to find and enter supportive programs.
Conversely, regular care can help to keep transgender people safe from harm. Samantha J., a 28-year-old transgender woman in Florida, noted that having access to medical professionals who were monitoring her hormones and other medications allowed her to get help when she had suicidal thoughts the previous year. As Human Rights Watch has previously documented in Florida, ensuring that transgender people have access to gender-affirming care can facilitate regular treatment and care for HIV and other health issues.
Access to gender-affirming care can also be a protective factor to minimize incidents of harassment and violence. Multiple interviewees told Human Rights Watch that they felt most at risk when people suspected or perceived that they were transgender in public.
The ability to access puberty blockers, hormones, gender-affirming surgeries, and other medical care can reduce public visibility and scrutiny and function to keep people safe. Samantha J. observed that “having access to hormones can help you have those secondary [sex] characteristics. I was able to afford lasers, and hormones, and even proper fashion advice—not all girls have that, and all those things can keep you from being clockable or keep you from harm.”
The scrutiny that transgender people experience because of their appearance can be heightened in environments where gender is monitored and policed, including bathrooms, locker rooms, and other gendered facilities. Anti-transgender rhetoric from public officials that portrays transgender people as predatory or dangerous—for example, the myth that inclusive laws lead to sexual harassment or assault in public bathrooms—can exacerbate that scrutiny and embolden people to harass or abuse transgender people in public spaces.
Individuals may also be at particular risk of anti-transgender violence when their gender expression and identification documents do not align, exposing them as transgender. The inability to update identity documents to reflect one’s gender identity can also function as a risk factor for violence. Texas does not allow transgender individuals to update their documentation unless they have proof of gender-affirming surgery, a court order, or an amended birth certificate, for example, while Florida requires certification from a person’s physician stating that the person is undergoing clinical treatment for gender transition. Ohio also requires provider certification, but accepts that certification from a wide range of professionals. Burdensome requirements in various US states can prove prohibitive for individuals who lack access to health care, transportation, or the resources to pay related fees.
According to the 2015 US Transgender Survey, 68 percent of respondents did not have the name and gender they preferred on any identification, and only 11 percent had the name and gender they preferred on all of their identification. As a result of showing identification that did not reflect their gender expression, 32 percent of respondents had had a negative experience. 25 percent of respondents had been verbally harassed, 16 percent had been refused service, 9 percent were kicked out of establishments, and 2 percent were attacked.
The risk of violence is also exacerbated by criminalization of survival activities (such as sex work) and activities of simple existence (such as loitering), and by aggressive policing in low-income Black communities and other communities of color. Such laws and practices put transgender people, particularly those who are Black, Latinx, or Native American, at heightened risk of involvement with the criminal legal system with collateral consequences for their ability to obtain employment, housing, health care, and identification. Criminalization also disproportionately affects transgender people, keeping many individuals in a situation of socioeconomic precarity and making them particularly vulnerable to exploitation and violence.
As noted above, discrimination and a lack of opportunity drive many transgender individuals into underground economies, including sex work, where they are at risk of arrest or prosecution. According to the 2015 US Transgender Survey, 20 percent of respondents had participated in underground economies at some point in their lives, and nearly 10 percent had participated in underground economies in the year preceding the survey.
The criminalization of sex work also contributes to violence, including violence at the hands of the police. Of the respondents to the 2015 US Transgender Survey, 19 percent reported doing sex work at some point for money, food, or shelter. Of those who interacted with police while engaged in sex work or suspected of engaging in sex work, nearly nine in ten respondents said they had at least one negative experience, including being misgendered, verbally harassed, physically attacked, or sexually assaulted. Black, Latinx, and Native American transgender people are likely at heightened risk, given the significant racial disparities in police use of force.
Whether or not they actually engage in sex work, transgender people and people in poverty are often singled out and charged with loitering, solicitation, and other offenses that put them at risk of arrest, incarceration, and violence in prison.
IV. Lack of Social Services
When transgender individuals do experience violence, they often experience difficulty accessing antiviolence or protective services that function to keep people safe. These services are important for survivors to address physical and emotional trauma, leave abusive or dangerous situations, and obtain lasting stability. Unfortunately, these services are often inaccessible to transgender survivors, potentially revictimizing them and putting them at risk of additional violence.
Lack of Anti-Violence Services
Many emergency services are gendered and are not available or accessible to transgender survivors of violence. Although VAWA and inclusive programs have expanded options for some transgender people, significant disparities in access remain. Interviewees told Human Rights Watch that many religiously affiliated providers would not shelter or counsel people consistent with their gender identity. One provider noted that transgender men in particular faced challenges accessing shelter, as few gendered shelters for intimate partner violence are specifically dedicated to housing men. Resources were particularly scarce in rural areas, and transgender people often did not have alternatives when providers were hostile or unwelcoming. When transgender survivors were only able to access some services in a piecemeal fashion, advocates expressed concern that they were less effective. As Verniss McFarland, a transgender advocate in Texas, said:
If they’re just offering you a place to stay for a bit, it’s not connected to other resources, or longer term programming. You’re not helping people to break the cycle and get out of those cycles of violence. We haven’t educated them to find better resources and care, and that poses risks to their health as well.
Lack of Housing Support
Advocates in all three states examined in this report expressed concern about the availability and accessibility of emergency housing for transgender individuals experiencing homelessness.
Where shelters are available, they may not always be safe in practice for transgender people. Rajee Narinesingh, a transgender advocate in Florida, gave the example of one shelter for people experiencing homelessness where:
the administration is making an effort to be trans friendly, but when I was walking through those hallways, the people in the shelter were not trans friendly …
And not all of them, but I’d say a good majority. I kept thinking, my god, if I was homeless and staying at this shelter, oh my God, I’d feel threatened. I guess you have to give them kudos for trying, but it hasn’t trickled down socially for a lot of people.
Misty Eyez, who works with transgender clients at SunServe in Florida, similarly recalled:
I’ve had clients wake up with their hair cut off while sleeping in a homeless shelter. This may not be a physical attack, but it’s definitely an attack.… Many of my clients have also been sexually assaulted, by other residents at the shelter. Unfortunately, you are not safe from rape in a homeless shelter.
To alleviate concerns about harassment by residents or staff, some shelters have placed transgender people in hotels or other non-communal spaces. Morgan Mayfaire, a transgender advocate in Florida, noted that in some instances “a voucher for two or three days for a hotel room doesn’t help. That person is now put in a hotel room and they’re dreading going out.” Melissa D., a transgender woman in Florida, similarly noted that the quality and safety of the hotels varied, raising concerns for transgender people left there on their own.
Lack of Access to Justice
When violence does occur, transgender people also face barriers engaging law enforcement and obtaining redress.
Both advocates and survivors of violence described incidents where law enforcement or judicial officials deliberately did not respect the name, pronouns, or gender identity of transgender victims of violence. Cara Hackett-King, a transgender advocate, recalled:
When I would call the police and they’d find out that I was the head of a transgender house, they misnamed girls.… They’re laughed at, mocked by the police. Especially if you’re a Black trans woman, it’s like three strikes against you. You’re not going to be treated with the same respect or decorum that other people in society are going to get, you just get forgotten. And that’s how many women feel, so they think what’s the use of trying to better myself?
Interviewees told Human Rights Watch that police were at times dismissive of violence against transgender people. As a result, some transgender individuals said they would not feel comfortable contacting the police when they feared or experienced violence. In the Center for American Progress survey conducted in 2020, half of transgender people had avoided law enforcement for fear of experiencing discrimination. Transgender people who are Black or from other communities of color may also be reluctant to contact police for help because of these communities’ longstanding distrust of the police.
Concerns about gender identity and expression can also make it uncomfortable for survivors of violence to seek protection or redress. Ellysia Price, a shelter advocate at Cocoon in Ohio, told Human Rights Watch:
One of our survivors who’d started his transition while in shelter was in the middle of his court process, where he was charging his abuser with domestic violence, and he was so scared any time he didn’t look enough like a man that they’d take him seriously, but then was also nervous that because he was a man, he couldn’t be abused. And luckily we send an advocate with people to court, but he constantly felt uncomfortable – that police either didn’t see and respect him as a man or they minimized his abuse because he identified as a man. It’s a double bind.
In instances where charges are brought against perpetrators of anti-transgender violence, they often do not face significant repercussions for the harm they have inflicted. Stephanie Houston, whose daughter was assaulted by a mob in a viral video shortly before she was killed in 2019, told Human Rights Watch:
They didn’t pursue the other people, just the guy who was the main guy. I felt they should have put everyone who put hands and feet on Muhlaysia on trial. I don’t feel like justice was served, he got a slap on the wrist. I feel like they failed Muhlaysia…. This was my baby. And just because she’s trans, who’s to say that it won’t be your baby, or your family member, or someone you love?
Advocates suggested that the relative leniency of punishment for anti-transgender violence can be attributed to various factors. Some of these are formal. Defendants have invoked the trans panic defense to argue that they were justified in harming a transgender person because they were surprised or shocked to learn they were transgender. Others are attitudinal, with some advocates suggesting that police, the media, law enforcement, jurors, and others are less sympathetic to transgender victims or take anti-transgender violence less seriously than other forms of violence.
V. Legal Obligations
In 1948, the United States voted at the UN General Assembly to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which remains the most prominent articulation of international human rights principles. The UDHR and human rights treaties that the United States has ratified or signed identify a range of rights to which transgender people, like other people, are entitled under international law. The rights to life, liberty and security of the person, nondiscrimination, effective remedy, work, and an adequate standard of living, among others, are all undermined by structural conditions that expose transgender people to violence.
Subsequent agreements have reiterated that “[a]ll human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated.” Discrimination based on gender identity prevents many transgender people from enjoying a range of internationally recognized human rights. When transgender people are denied the right to work, right to housing, or right to health, it puts them at risk of violence that can deprive them of their physical security or even their life. And when transgender people experience violence, it can make it more difficult for them to obtain work, housing, and health care.
The systemic discrimination and socioeconomic precarity that transgender people experience in the United States heightens their risk of victimization. The United States is obligated to respect and protect the human rights of transgender people under international human rights law. This requires addressing the underlying conditions that give rise to incidents of violence as well as providing support and redress when incidents of violence occur.
Life and Security of the Person
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) was ratified by the United States in 1992.
Article 6 of the ICCPR protects the right to life. The UN Human Rights Committee, which interprets the ICCPR, has stated that states are obligated to protect life from foreseeable threats, including threats caused by private persons or entities, even if their conduct is not attributable to the state. As the Human Rights Committee has observed, “[t]he duty to protect the right to life requires States parties to take special measures of protection towards persons in vulnerable situations whose lives have been placed at particular risk because of specific threats or pre-existing patterns of violence.” The Committee specifically references victims of domestic and gender-based violence and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons, among other groups, as populations that require special measures of protection. Where transgender people are regularly subject to fatal violence, state failure to act may infringe on the right to life.
Similarly, the Human Rights Committee has found that article 9 of the ICCPR, which guarantees the right to liberty and security of person, encompasses an obligation on the part of governments to “protect individuals from foreseeable threats to life or bodily integrity proceeding from any governmental or private actors.” This obligation includes “respond[ing] appropriately to patterns of violence against categories of victims… such as violence against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.” In its reviews of states’ human rights records, the Human Rights Committee has also expressed concern about violence and harassment against LGBT people.
The United States is also party to the Convention Against Torture, which it ratified in 1994. The UN Committee Against Torture, which interprets and applies the treaty, has said that a state’s failure to address gender-based violence, including domestic violence, can amount to a violation of the prohibition against torture or ill-treatment under the Convention Against Torture.
Article 26 of the ICCPR states: “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” The UN Human Rights Committee, which provides authoritative guidance on the ICCPR, has determined that this provision also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) similarly recognizes that the rights it contains should be exercised “without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
The United States has signed, but not ratified, the ICESCR, meaning that the US government is obligated to refrain from actions that undermine its object and purpose.
The particular risks faced by transgender women of color also raise concerns about race and gender discrimination. The United States has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), which obligates states parties “to review governmental, national and local policies, and to amend, rescind or nullify any laws and regulations which have the effect of creating or perpetuating racial discrimination wherever it exists.” Racial discrimination encompasses distinctions that have “the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.”
It also obligates them to “take, in the social, economic, cultural and other fields, special and concrete measures to ensure the adequate development and protection of certain racial groups or individuals belonging to them, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
Among other forms of racial discrimination that states are obligated to address, article 5 of ICERD specifically identifies “[t]he right to security of person and protection by the State against violence and bodily harm” and “[e]conomic, social and cultural rights.” Because a lack of protections and systemic marginalization leave transgender people of color at particular risk of violence, the United States has an obligation to examine and address the legal and socioeconomic conditions that give rise to those racial disparities.
The exposure of transgender women of color to violence also raises concerns about discrimination against women. Article 3 of the ICCPR commits states parties, including the United States, to ensure that men and women have an equal right to enjoy the civil and political rights protected by the Covenant. Like the ICESCR, the US has signed but not ratified the Convention on the Rights of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Article 2 of CEDAW instructs states parties “[t]o adopt appropriate legislative and other measures… prohibiting all discrimination against women,” “[t]o take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women by any person, organization or enterprise,” and “[t]o take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women.” This includes an obligation to address socioeconomic discrimination against women, as well as gender-based violence. While the United States is not yet party to CEDAW, these provisions illustrate some of the steps necessary to reduce pervasive discrimination and violence against transgender women.
Right to an Effective Remedy
The ICCPR commits state parties to ensure that “any person whose rights or freedoms as herein recognized are violated shall have an effective remedy.” In instances where transgender people experience violence and law enforcement and the criminal legal system dismiss or fail to adequately respond to that violence, victims are often left without a meaningful remedy.
Right to Work
The UDHR, which the United States voted to adopt in 1948 and has reaffirmed in principle, recognizes the right to work and to protection against unemployment. The ICESCR, which the United States has signed, similarly affirms the rights to work and to the enjoyment of just and favorable conditions of work.
Widespread discrimination against transgender people in employment threatens their right to work. The lack of legislative protections against discrimination based on gender identity at the federal level and in many US states jeopardizes the right to work for transgender workers.
The denial of the right to work can also drive transgender people into situations of economic precarity and lead them to engage in work that is unstable or unsafe, putting them at greater risk of violence.
Right to an Adequate Standard of Living
The UDHR states that:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
The ICESCR, which the United States has signed, reaffirms these core social and economic rights. It recognizes a right to an adequate standard of living as well as a specific right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
Many transgender people struggle to meet basic human needs that are necessary for an adequate standard of living. The difficulty can be particularly acute for transgender people who are marginalized in other ways, including on the basis of race, gender, class, nationality, and disability.
The inability to secure basic economic needs, adequate housing, and necessary health care restricts transgender people’s choices and puts them in situations where they are more likely to face serious harm. The state failure to provide an adequate safety net, combined with the failure to address discrimination in both public and private settings, violates transgender people’s right to an adequate standard of living in addition to putting them at higher risk of violence.
This report was researched and written by Ryan Thoreson, a researcher in the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. Dee Farmer, a consultant, assisted with additional outreach, interviewing, and editing. Ryan Huynh, an intern in the LGBT Rights Program, provided additional research assistance.
The report was reviewed by Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT Rights Program; Grace Meng, associate director of the US Program, Amanda Klasing, associate director of the Women’s Rights Division; and Jane Buchanan, deputy director in the Disability Rights Division; Brian Root, senior quantitative analyst; Kyle Knight, senior health researcher; and Lena Simet, senior researcher and advocate on poverty and inequality. Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno and Danielle Haas provided legal and program review, respectively. Editorial assistance was provided by Yasemin Smallens, LGBT Rights Program associate. Production assistance was provided by Travis Carr, senior publications coordinator, Fitzroy Hepkins, senior administrative manager, and Jose Martinez, administrative officer.
This project was made possible by a grant from OneHeartBeating. Human Rights Watch would like to thank the experts and organizations that provided information for the report, including TransSocial, Arianna’s Center, SunServe, JASMYN, Cocoon, Margie’s Hope, Octopus LLC, BRAVO, Equality Ohio, the Trans Pride Initiative, Mahogany Project, Black Trans Women, Inc., Black Trans Men, Inc., and the Transgender Education Network of Texas. Particular thanks go to the survivors of violence who shared their experiences with us.