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The Right Is Trying to Ban Trans People from Domestic Violence Shelters in the US

October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As anti-LGBTQ legislation rises to an all-time high rate in this country, service providers and DV advocates are now witnessing how the safety of LGBTQ+ survivors is also being threatened. In the battle to support domestic violence and intimate partner violence survivors, we’re witnessing increasing stigma, eroding legal protections, and attacks that target the LGBTQ+ community.

In 2023, Kansas became the first state to pass legislation that seeks to explicitly bar transgender people from accessing domestic violence services. Similar legislation and executive orders have also been introduced (and in some cases, signed into law) in Alabama, Florida, and Oklahoma. This past August, we witnessed Nebraska Governor Pillen sign into executive order a transphobic “Women’s Bill of Rights” which directly states a person’s gender is the sex assigned at birth. 

This is harming the very people who need domestic violence services most. Transgender individuals are at higher risk of domestic violence and sexual assault due to the disproportionate discrimination, stigma, and barriers to financial and housing security that the community experiences. According to the U.S. Transgender Survey, 54% of trans people will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

Additionally, these laws contradict the Violence Against Women Act and the Family Violence Prevention & Services Act, both of which explicitly name federal protections for trans people. 

Local service providers are now in an impossible position: They can defy state law by providing life-saving services to a transgender person, or they can break federal law by denying those services. This legal bind for providers mirrors the way doctors and health professionals have been compromised due to the overturning of Roe v. Wade—setting up a potential situation where neither client nor provider feels safe. 

In light of these anti-trans and nonbinary measures, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, which operates the National LGBTQ Institute on IPV, has co-authored a powerful letter with over 200 national domestic violence and sexual associate resource groups that directly highlights the discrimination and contradictory nature of this legislation.

“Those who perpetuate falsehoods about transgender people and non-discrimination laws are putting transgender people in harm’s way and making no one safer. We cannot stand by while survivors, both those who are transgender and those who are not, are endangered by these laws.”

National Letter of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Trafficking Organizations in Support of Full and Equal Access to Services and Shelter for Transgender Survivors

In a statement, the Center’s Chief Impact Officer, Terra Russell-Slavin, who helped draft the LGBTQ+ provisions in the Violence Against Women Act, spoke directly to the transphobia and gendered attacks in this space.

“I am and have always been a proud lesbian, a proud mother, and a proud feminist. So let me be absolutely clear with all of you: These laws—and more importantly, the people pushing these laws—do not care about women.”

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