“Transphobia is pervasive in the UK in daily interactions, representations and discourse. Because of this, there is a paucity of avenues for targets of transphobia to turn to for support.”
Social implications of hate crime
A hate crime is a crime motivated by prejudice, hostility and hatred toward someone’s identity, perceived identity or affiliation with a specific group. Any crime that is motivated by hostility on the grounds of race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity can be classed as a hate crime.
Hate crimes have severe and detrimental effects on the individual and wider society. For example, non-trans people can be victims of hate crimes because they may appear to be trans or because they advocate for trans people. In addition, members of a community become traumatised as a whole because of what has happened to a member of the community they identify with. This kind of indirect victimisation is associated with different negative behaviour and emotional patterns e.g. anger, fear, shame, sense of helplessness, avoidance of going to specific areas.
To be explicit about what constitutes transphobia in society is to acknowledge the default position of gender conformity, and, to a large extent, the gender binary framework. Most attacks on people who are trans are driven by an irrational reaction to those who do not conform to socio-cultural, political and economic notions of gender identity. Trans identity is often constructed as directly challenging perceived ‘norms’ around masculinity and femininity for example.
Transphobia is pervasive in the UK in daily interactions, representations and discourse. Because of this, there is a paucity of avenues for targets of transphobia to turn to for support. It is often the case that trans identified individuals do not have support from families or wider social networks. This can leave people feeling ostracised and rejected by almost everyone in their lives.
Hate crimes are often directed toward a trans person’s gender identity or expression, but can also be targeted toward their sexual orientation, race, religion or belief or disability. In general, trans people who are black and minority ethnic (BME) are at higher risk for hate crimes as they experience intersectional forms of oppression. It can be difficult for those with multiple oppressed identities to understand the reason for being targeted – it also means that they are likely to be subject to a higher number of hate crimes.
Hate crime laws
It is only relatively recently that transgender identity has been recognised as deserving of legislative protection under hate crime laws. In England and Wales transgender identity was specifically included as one of the five protected characteristics in hate crime legislation in 2012.
What do studies show?
There are very few studies that look at the experience of trans people specifically, and even fewer that do not treat trans people as a single group. The homogenizing of victim groups means that differences and similarities that exist between members of those
broad categories are yet to be comprehensively explored.
The top three findings of recent studies:
- Trans people are particularly susceptible to hate crimes, both in terms of prevalence and frequency.
- Hate crime victims tend to experience emotional traumas such as shock, anxiety, fear, anger and depression and trans people are more likely to suffer from these types of consequences because they are generally unsupported by family, local communities and wider society.
- Trans victims of hate crime are often misgendered by public sector respondents which can lead to secondary victimisation.
How can I help?
- Allow crime victims to have plenty of time and opportunities to make informed choices about what they should do.
- Stress that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel after a crime.
- Remember, everyone is different and poverty and economic vulnerability may affect a crime victim’s willingness to report a crime or to seek public attention.
- Offer assistance to the hate crime victim in reporting the crime to the police. Hate crime victims may be reluctant to do so for fear of being mistreated by the police. Be prepared to do some educational work with the police.
- Help victims learn about their legal rights and locate transgender-aware representation if needed.
- Assist the victim in connecting with victim’s rights groups.
- Encourage allies to step forward to help and encourage educational initiatives for people in your organisation and/or community.
- If interpretation services (including British Sign Language) are needed in order to communicate with family members or friends or service providers, ensure that you arrange for this.
- An important part of demonstrating respect for crime victims and families is correctly spelling and pronouncing names and taking the time to communicate carefully.
- Discuss ways to prevent future hate crimes with local community leaders, law enforcement officials and local politicians.
- Ask that the police work with you and local or national organisations to figure out strategies to prevent future hate crimes. Ask them to send a clear message to the wider community that the police have no tolerance for hate crimes and to help you reach out and educate people about transgender issues.
- Respect the privacy concerns of transgender individuals.
Walters, Mark A, Paterson, Jennifer L, Brown, Rupert and McDonnell, Liz (2017) Hate crimes against trans people: assessing emotions, behaviors and attitudes towards criminal justice agencies. Journal of Interpersonal Violence.