Sexual assault within the trans community
Recently FORGE heard from a transgender individual who was devastated that they had been accused of sexually assaulting one individual and abusing others within the trans community in their city. They wrote, “Despite my now diminished mental health, I have no way to escape any of this. I have no way to prove to anyone that I didn’t do anything wrong. All I can do is be the best I can be.” They also noted, “words are the strongest weapon in the world, in my opinion…they can start wars, push someone to suicide, turn whole communities against someone….”
Living within a community where strong accusations are circulating about you – whether they are true or not – can be excruciatingly painful. It’s particularly hard when “everyone” in your community knows “everyone else,” whether that be the result of living in a sparsely-populated rural area, a tightly-knit urban neighborhood, or a community that is, like the transgender community, linked because of identity and the desire to be with one another. Many of those who find themselves in the position this person is in end up feeling forced to move elsewhere and start over, a painful and difficult process for anyone.
One example of how a close-knit community tried to resolve a charge of sexual assault among its own members is the chapter, “Beautiful, Difficult, Powerful: Ending Sexual Assault Through Transformative Justice,” written by the Chrysalis Collective and published in The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities, edited by Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani & Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (2011, South End Press). In that community’s case, the process was initiated by the victim, but a similar process of community investigation and support for both victim(s) and perpetrator(s) could be initiated by anyone. As the chapter well-illustrates, the process was not easy and included many potholes and unforeseen consequences. But it is an alternative to what usually is the case in these situations: a small community remaining perpetually and bitterly divided between those who have sided with either victim or accused.