Violence Against LGBT Women

Created November 2011

Women who do not conform to societal expectations of sexuality and gender presentation are at heightened risk of violence based on their sexuality or gender identity. Reliable statistics on violence against these groups are scarce, as large numbers of victims do not report the crimes to law enforcement because of well-founded fear and distrust. Violence against LGBT[1] women includes violence faced by women who are sexually and/or romantically interested in other women, transgender[2] women, transgender men, and women who may not identify with any of these groups but are perceived by others as defying gender or sexuality norms (LGBT women and transgender men).[3]

Physical violence and harassment towards LGBT persons may come from acquaintances and strangers. These attacks can range from street harassment to murder. LGBT women and transgender men are targeted with sexual violence for many reasons. Some LGBT women and transgender men face sexual harassment and unwanted groping in addition to verbal assaults and physical violence. Some rapes are committed with the belief that intercourse with a man can “cure” a woman who is attracted to other women. Transgender women who are prostituted are especially vulnerable to sexual violence.

Violence and discrimination against LGBT women and transgender men have gained more attention in recent years, and many efforts have been made, both legislatively and culturally, to prevent attacks. The European Union and the Council of Europe have adopted a number of measures aimed at reducing hate crimes and discrimination. Although the United Nations has been slower to address issues of sexuality and gender identity, some recent actions have been important steps towards protection and equality of LGBT women and transgender men.

[1] “LGBT” is an abbreviation for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.”
[2] Transgender is a term used to describe persons whose gender identity differs from the gender they were assigned at birth. In general, transgender women were assigned male at birth, but identify as women; transgender men were assigned female at birth, but identify as men.
[3] While this website focuses on violence against women, violence against transgender men is included because much of the violence faced by these men is based on attacker’s treatment of them as a woman, meaning that the attacker acts on the belief that the victim is a woman who is going against gender norms.