While the focus when it comes to sexual violence both on and off campus has been predominantly on cisgendered women (and it has every reason to be, as they are the largest group targeted), far too often people forget that there are others out there. People often forget that transgender people are targeted at almost the same rates as cisgender women, with transgender men often being lumped in with cisgender women when it comes to statistics due to their assigned sex at birth. It is stated that approximately 25% of transgender people have been assaulted sexually after the age of 13, and many of these people are included within the one in five statistic of college sexual violence. What is more concerning however, is that within the LGBTQIA+ community, we see that gay and bisexual men are over ten times more likely to be the victims of sexual assault than their heterosexual counterparts.
If we look at that fact, coupled with the information stated in Kate Harding’s book, Asking For It on page 75 where nearly 2% of men in the US have reported being raped, and 20% report being the victim of some other sort of sexual violence, it leads us to question how many victims are simply staying silent out of fear or the stigma of being a victim of rape. The push for masculinity and to always be in power means that those men are forced to struggle between the perception that they are less of a man, or the stigma that they were too weak to be a “real man” and therefore they deserved the sexual assault.
For transgender men, it is even harder. We are forced to deal with constantly proving we’re men to those around us, and if we come forward to speak up about a rape, it only adds to the attacks against us.
“If you were a real man you wouldn’t have been raped.”
“A real man would have been able to fight off his attacker.”
“Perhaps you’re secretly wanting to still be a woman, that’s why you let him rape you.”
“If you look like a chick and you have a vag [sic] then you’re just asking for it hanging around all those guys!”
I wish I could say that these are all made up quotes, that they haven’t been said to myself or my friends. I wish I could say that transgender men are treated with dignity and respect among their peers. Yet unfortunately those are very real statements, and many of us who are survivors of sexual assault are forced to hide what has happened to us if for no other reason than to keep yet another piece of ammunition away from those who would wish to keep us “in our place” under them.
While the percentage of transgender, genderqueer, and nonconforming students is far lower than that of cisgender women or cisgender men, there is a frightening fact lurking just below the surface. The statement of one in five is often touted when it comes to sexual violence against cisgender (and as I stated, lumped in are often transgender men) women, and this statistic in and of itself is horrifying when we look at the success rates for prosecuting the victim’s rapists, but what is even more frightening is the percentage of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) students. According to RAINN, 21% of them have come forward to report having been sexually assaulted. As we already know from looking at other figures, this number is most likely lower than it actually is, due to many people either being afraid to report, unable to prove their sexual assault beyond a reasonable doubt, or in my case, not looking enough like what a victim should look like to even warrant an investigation.
So the question we are left with is this:
What do we do to not only help prevent or at least lessen the prevalence of sexual assault on cisgender women, but what more can we do to raise awareness for victims of sexual assault within the LGBTQIA+ community, especially those within the TGQN community?
What steps do we need to take so that victims can safely come forward and not just report their assault, but get the help that they need (counseling, medical services, etc) to help them heal after the event?
How can we work towards dismantling the stigma against both cisgender and transgender men that often prevents them from coming forward about their assaults?