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Serving Transgender Victims of Sexual Assault
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Transgender 101Sexual Assault in the Transgender CommunityTips For Those Who Serve Victims
June 2014
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Transgender-Specific Issues

The Nonchoices: Other People's Choices or Actions

SOFFAs (significant others, friends, family, and allies) go through a transition of their own as they gain more information, work through their feelings, and figure out how their loved one's gender identity, expression, and journey affect them. Unfortunately, the public nature of a gender transition often results in SOFFAs also going through their transition publicly. In some cases, SOFFAs may be included in early discussions about gender and choices, but they may also be informed right before or even after a transgender person has begun to make physical, social, medical, or legal changes. SOFFAs face many of the same questions, unsolicited opinions, and acts of discrimination that transgender people do. Some SOFFAs are asked invasive questions about a transgender person's body because the person asking thinks it may be more polite to query a partner, friend, or family member than to ask the transgender person directly.

Just as transgender people can make choices about their lives, SOFFAs can and do make independent choices as well. When learning of a loved one's gender identity or desire to transition, a SOFFA has several choices:

  • Connect with the loved one, accept the knowledge, and work toward making necessary cognitive and other life adjustments to continue in the relationship.
  • Actively resist or oppose the transgender person's gender identity or transition plans.25
  • End the relationship.

Fortunately, for everyone involved, many partners stay together, many families continue to love and care about each other, and friendships prevail through new and sometimes challenging times. Yet the hard reality is that no person can make a choice for someone else. The choice a SOFFA makes is not within the transgender person's control.