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Serving Transgender Victims of Sexual Assault
Message From the DirectorAbout This Guide
Transgender 101Sexual Assault in the Transgender CommunityTips For Those Who Serve Victims
June 2014
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Transgender-Specific Issues

The Givens: Caveats

What people call themselves may not, to an outsider, reflect their behavior. For example, a woman who says she is heterosexual may have a female partner; and a person who has a male gender identity may dress and appear female. There are many reasons a person's identity and behavior may not line up the way others might expect, including the following:

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  • Cultural relevance. Many of the terms commonly heard are terms used predominantly by white people.6 These terms may have little meaning in some cultural contexts or may not resonate for an individual with a non-Western cultural background.
  • Concerns regarding personal safety or autonomy. Claiming a particular term may put one's physical safety, access to resources, and/or social support in jeopardy.
  • Denial (e.g., "I'm not really transgender").
  • Wishful thinking or intention (e.g., dressing in clothes designed for teenage girls to appear younger).
  • Opportunity (e.g., the male-to-female transgender person doesn't dress as a woman outside of the house until she retires from the job where everyone knows her as a man).


  • Everyone has a sexual orientation: heterosexual, gay, bisexual, lesbian, asexual, queer, or something else.
  • Everyone has a gender identity: female, male, genderqueer, transgender, Two-Spirit, stud, femme, or something else.7