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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: Passing

"Passing" refers to whether someone is perceived as female, male, or another gender. Everyone passes, regardless of whether the person identifies as transgender or non-transgender. Many transgender people strongly oppose the presumption that all transgender people want to pass as either male or female. For many, gender identity and expression is not about conforming; these individuals consciously and intentionally present their gender in ways that do not conform to one of only two genders.

Ramifications of Not Passing

On the street—

    • Violence
    • Ridicule
    • Questions
    • Rudeness

On the exam table—

    • All of the above, plus—
    • Refusal of provider to treat
    • Refusal of insurance to pay
    • Assumption of provider that all health problems are transgender related
    • Refusal of transgender individual to seek or accept health or personal care services

How a person is perceived by others is not always consistent. For example, it's not uncommon for a transgender person in a department store to be called "ma'am" by one clerk and "sir" by another. People's unconscious inability to categorize a person's gender creates discomfort, which some shift onto the transgender person.

In general, but with numerous exceptions, FTMs pass as male more often than MTFs pass as female—when they are clothed. Undressed, FTMs are more vulnerable to abuse and discrimination because fewer of them have had genital surgery than MTFs (5 percent versus 20 percent, respectively).24