Post submitted by Sam Anderson, HRC Foundation Assistant
[Trigger Warning: discussion of sexual assault/rape]
Disclaimer: Survivors of all genders and identities face unique challenges when they – as my social worker would so eloquently put it – are trying to find a normal way to cope with an abnormal circumstance. This is one person’s story and is not meant to reflect the experiences of all who identify as survivors.
Sexual assault rates are shockingly high in bisexual and transgender communities. Over 60 percent of bi-identified women and 64 percent of transgender people experience sexual assault during their lifetimes. These numbers are staggering and important to know, but I’m not here to talk about numbers.
I’m here to talk about my own experience as a bisexual-spectrum queer, a trans person and a survivor.
I was raped in June 2014 while attending a conference. My rapist was a cisgender (non-transgender) man who had no association with the conference. I don’t even know his name, but his actions have affected my life every day since the incident.
Every survivor has a different journey, and many face unfathomable struggles – challenges that may include low self-worth, emotional distress, guilt or self-blame, social stigma, and even post-traumatic stress. A queer identity paired with survivorship can often bring unique challenges.
After my rape, my priorities instantly became hiding what I’d been through. I wanted to keep it private, so, like many survivors, I didn’t report it to the police. Instead, I struggled silently, trying to live my life as I had before I was assaulted.
It took me a week to tell my partner what had happened, and they took me right to the hospital to get examined. Dealing with healthcare agencies as a trans-spectrum person can be anxiety-inducing. Even in facilities with an LGBT focus, transgender and bisexual people often face uncomfortable questions and misunderstandings of their identities from healthcare professionals. After the receptionist scolded us for not coming in for an exam sooner, we faced a string of abrupt nurses and healthcare professionals who acted as if they had never worked with sexual assault survivors, much less gone through LGBTQ sensitivity trainings.
When I got into the exam room, I was surprised when the doctor and social worker there not only asked my pronouns, but were radically accepting of my and my gender-diverse partner’s identities. In the same building, I had gone from being on the verge of having a panic attack to a safe space where I could calmly tell my traumatic story, knowing I was being supported.
When I went in for testing at an LGBT health center, I was again faced with a doctor who had no idea how to talk with gender-fluid people or survivors. After telling him about my rape, he asked me for details with all the grace and sensitivity of a rabid, stampeding rhino. I was barely listening to myself talk as I relived this excruciating experience in front of a cisgender male doctor who had already made me feel unsafe by disregarding my gender identity.
One of my largest struggles was continuing my physical transition. I had gone to the conference as a person exploring my own trans identity. The information I gained there was immensely beneficial, and I was ready to take the next step toward living openly in a body that matched my identity.
But after the assault, I couldn’t think about my transition without reliving my trauma, which many survivors call “being triggered.”
It took months of therapy, self-care and determination to get my life back on track. Some days, I honestly don’t know how I did it. But I’m happy to say that last month, I was finally able to start testosterone.
I still have fears whenever I share my story with a new person. Will they push their assumptions about victimhood onto me? Will they think I’m weak? More importantly, will they disregard my queer identity and just reduce me to the broken person they think I am?
I have not done this alone. I am lucky and privileged to live in a city that not only has support programs for survivors, but many that also have knowledge and acceptance of LGBTQ identities. I can’t say enough about what my social worker from the DC Rape Crisis Center did for me. But it’s an appalling fact that many survivors, queer and non-queer, do not have access to the resources and support they need. That is why we must work toward more inclusive and culturally-competent care for all survivors.
Let’s reframe the national discussion about transgender people, keeping in mind the lived experiences of people like me. As a trans survivor of rape by a cisgender person, I see red when I hear suggestions that transgender people using public bathrooms consistent with their identity poses a danger to cisgender people. To equate the entirety of the trans and gender-expansive community, my queer family, with the predator who put me through hell, sickens me.
I wish this had never happened to me, but this experience is now a part of me. Out of a horrid experience, I was surprised to find a strength and resilience in myself. Because of the support I had, I was able to become empowered as a queer survivor.
I know, from my experience, that it is possible to create environments for survivors where all identities are honored. It is my hope that by sharing my story, others will work with me to ensure that all victims - regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity - will find safe and accepting environments to help them not only survive, but ultimately flourish.
If you are the survivor of sexual violence, there are resources available to you, including 24/7 crisis hotlines:
For more information on how sexual violence affects LGBTQ people, check out HRC Foundation Health and Aging Program’s new resource on Sexual Assault and the LGBT Community.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, here are some LGBTQ-friendly resources:
National Sexual Assault Hotline (RAINN)
(can also refer you to a local rape crisis center)
1-800-656-HOPE (4673) 24/7 or
Online Counseling at http://apps.rain.org/ohl-bridge/
1-866-331-99474 (24/7) or Text “loveis” 22522
The Anti-Violence Project– serves people who are LGBTQ
Hotline 212-714-1124 Bilingual 24/7
GLBT National Help Center
Hotline 1800-246-PRIDE (1-800-246-7743) or
Online Chat at http://www.volunteerlogin.org/chat/
The Network La Red– serves LGBTQ, poly, and kink/BDSM survivors of abuse; bilingual
Northwest Network– serves LGBT survivors of abuse; can provide local referrals