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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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Chicken or Egg?

The vast majority of transgender sexual assault survivors who responded to FORGE's 2005 survey were first assaulted as children or youth.22 Many transgender people first realize they do not identify with their assigned gender when they are young.23 This is not a coincidence and may make it harder for survivors to figure out which came first and whether one influenced, mediated, or even caused the other. Respondents came down on all sides of the question24:

Being raped did not make me attracted to lesbians. Nor did it make me trans. Providers should know that and not say so or imply it. Even noting that many women who are abused "become" lesbians or that many lesbians have been abused in such a way is rather offensive and kept me from going to a gyn[ecologist] for some time.

***

I kept blaming things on trauma from the rape that were really trans-related. But, I can see how that could be a hard call to make dealing with a queer teenager that was raped at 8 years old.

***

I'm afraid to go anywhere for help, because they will say my transgenderism is related to abuse, or that I somehow egged it on by being a freak. I do not want to have it affect my ability to rightfully claim my own identity. I was transgendered before I was ever abused, but I don't think they will understand.

***

I don't know if this was a negative impact or not, but several of the mental health providers whom I saw suggested that my sexual and/or gender ambiguity was caused by the sexual abuse. I bought that at first. I don't believe that to be true anymore. I've healed from the sexual abuse—truly—and I remain sexually/gendered ambiguous. This is just who I am. Maybe more sensitivity in the fact that gender identity does not have to be a direct result of sexual abuse. It can just 'be' and should not just automatically be thrown in as being the same issue.

***

I understand that my gender dysphoria arises from the childhood abuse. I had researched this area fairly carefully, and if useful, I have literature suggesting abuse as a possible cause of gender dysphoria.

Studies have shown that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are more likely to be sexually assaulted in childhood than heterosexual and non-transgender children.25 It is unclear whether perpetrators were reacting to some gender-related cue and assaulted these children because of it, whether gender insecurity made the children more vulnerable, or whether the attack was meant to "teach the child a lesson."26 One child abuse survivor said that gender identity was a factor in not reporting the abuser: "By me putting up with it, I thought it would help me to be 'normal,' not transgendered or lesbian."27