Trans People Face a Huge Risk of Sexual Assault—but Conservatives Paint Them as Predators

This Canadian anti-trans ad typifies the grotesque prejudice of conservative smear campaigns.

Buried among the data from the Association of American Universities’ new study on campus sexual assault was an especially distressing detail: Trans and genderqueer students face a stunningly high risk of sexual assault and harassment. Here are the lowlights:

  • 39.1 percent of trans, genderqueer, noncomforming, and questioning (“TGQN”) seniors were subject to nonconsensual sexual contact.
  • 29.5 percent of TGQN seniors experienced unwanted sexual contact as a result of physical force or incapacitation.
  • 75.2 percent of TGQN undergraduates have been sexually harassed.
  • 22.8 percent of TGQN undergrads experienced intimate partner violence.
  • 12.1 percent of TGQN undergrads are victims of stalking.

The list goes on, but the trend is clear: TGQN students are at a higher risk of assault and harassment than any other group.

Obviously, this data reveals that universities have a long way to go to protect their trans and genderqueer students—as they are required to do under Title IX. But it also demonstrates a depressing irony: The most victimized community in America today is also the most vilified.

This vilification is currently on display in Houston, where—thanks to an outrageous act of judicial overreach by the Texas Supreme Court—voters may soon repeal the city’s equal rights ordinance. Opponents of the ordinance slam the measure as a “bathroom bill” that would allow trans residents to molest people in public bathrooms with impunity. These smear tactics often paint trans people as disturbed, confused predators and perverts who crave the ability to violate women and children. (A slightly less mephitic version of this canard asserts that men will pretend to identify as women in order to gain access to women’s bathrooms.) Never mind that these claims have been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked by law enforcement. The power of transphobia keeps them afloat among the right-wing media.

At the same time that conservatives bash trans Americans as predators—and some states try to throw them in jail for using the correct bathrooms—TGQN students are facing an epidemic of sexual violence. That’s how vast the chasm is between the right’s fevered fantasies and trans people’s lived reality. While conservatives strive to demean and imprison this marginalized, victimized group, trans people are literally struggling to survive. TGQN people aren’t asking for anything more than the right to live with dignity. But even that is too much for their adversaries on the right.