Jacquelyn Adams, winner of 2020 RCGV Essay Contest
Since 2017, in collaboration with the Center for Gender in Global Context (GenCen), RCGV offers an award for the best undergraduate paper related to gender-based violence. Past winning student essays have covered systemic issues such as violence against women in refugee camps and femicide. In 2020, undergraduate Psychology major Jacquelyn Adams was selected for “Best Undergraduate Paper on Gender-Based Violence” for her essay entitled, “Transwomen’s Experience of Gender-Based Violence.”
Papers were reviewed by a committee of RCGV faculty and graduate student members and Jacquelyn was presented with the award at the 2021 GenCen Annual Reception. A full list of the awards presented at the reception can be found on the GenCen website.
Excerpt from ‘Transwomen’s Experience of Gender-Based Violence’
Structural gender-based violence occurs in many contexts for transgender people. Namely, this is evident is education, healthcare, and by police as well as other officials. In the introduction of the study exclusively focused on transgender women it states that “service providers, including healthcare workers and police, refuse to serve transwomen or perpetuate violence against them” (Lanham, et. al., p.38). I consider these to be examples of structural gender-based violence for two reasons. First of all, the prejudice and discrimination are based on the individual’s gender identity. Additionally, since these prejudices are rooted in stereotypes and transphobia, they are widespread not only throughout LAC, and our own society, but the entire human population. This results in transgender people everywhere living in fear of encountering situations like these, and some choose to take precautions to avoid it. These precautions include working hard every day to maintain a “passing” appearance, or in other words to convince others that they are their gender upon first impressions. The hair, the clothes, the accessories, the make-up, all of it. Some may crave sex reassignment surgery which is beginning to be known as “gender-confirming surgery” or “gender-affirming surgery” (Liss, et. al., p.160). Others may not want medical care of any kind, but still feel the pressure from society to conform.
Participants in this study “commonly experienced physical violence and threats of physical violence in school, including being pushed, beaten up, and having water thrown on them” (Lanham, et. al., p.40). In general, it was reported that peers were the culprits of these harassments, but teachers and school administrators were sometimes reported to be the perpetrators as well. The physical gender-identity based abuse was “often accompanied by verbal abuse; participants described that they were sometimes teased and insulted with the intention of starting a physical fight” (Lanham, et. al., p.40).
There were some participants in this study who reported that they were “sent home from school, received failing grades, were suspended or expelled, or were threatened with these because of their gender expression” (Lanham, et. al., p.40). A significant number of the participants suffered cruelty while using the restroom at school, and others reported being blackmailed. A few of the participants said they experienced sexual harassment at school as well.
In most schools, transwomen are treated unfairly. Different from others, these people tend to become outcasts. Fellow classmates usually exclude transgender women from group activities. Many participants reported that they did not feel accepted or “at liberty to be themselves at school” (Lanham, et. al., p.40). The majority of transwomen react to this unjust treatment with feelings of humiliation, embarrassment, and anger. Notably, “a few participants
described more severe emotional responses, such as having suicidal thoughts (Lanham, et. al.,
p.41). As a result of the previously described widespread abuse and unfair treatment of
transgender women in schools, many did not pass their classes or graduate with their diploma.
In most cases, gender-based violence against transwomen in healthcare is perpetrated by the staff and administration, but it was also reported to come from other patients in some cases. Healthcare professionals seem to blame these people’s “health issues on their sexuality, gender identity, or sexual behavior,” often times “assuming that they had HIV” (Lanham, et. al., p.41). Participants in every country that was included in this study mentioned waiting excessive amounts of time to receive medical treatment, and “receiving substandard or neglectful care”
(Lanham, et. al., p.41) once they finally do. Some healthcare providers denied these women healthcare services altogether.
These participants detailed that many providers seemed “uncomfortable with trans patients, disdainful of them, or not considering them worthy of high-quality care” (Lanham, et. al., p.41). It is not uncommon for healthcare providers to work quickly on transwomen or assign someone else who is less qualified to perform procedures on them simply because they do not want to do it themselves. Hospitals also tend to discharge transwomen as quickly as possible.