Navigating Community Institutions: Black Transgender Women’s Experiences in Schools, the Criminal Justice System, and Churches

Abstract

Young transgender women, especially those of color, are negatively impacted by suicidality, HIV, residential instability, survival sex work, and other challenges. This study used an oral narrative approach to collect life histories of 10 young black transwomen between 18 and 24 years of age residing in Detroit, Michigan. This study used grounded theory analysis to explore institutional violence, discrimination, and harassment (VDH). Participants described their experiences navigating three community institutions (schools, the criminal justice system, and churches) and broader society. Results highlight VDH through gender policing at school, sexual victimization in the criminal justice system, and negative judgment of gender variation in faith-based institutions. Participants reference the essential role of support systems, including other transgender individuals, in both their gender identity development and the navigation of institutions. Significant policy intervention is needed to protect and support transwomen, and prevent VDH perpetuated against them. Across all institutions, policy and practice interventions can focus on use of transgender appropriate and sensitive language, prevention of physical and sexual assaults, and anti-discrimination measures. Specific policy recommendations and future research directions are outlined.

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Graham, L.F. Navigating Community Institutions: Black Transgender Women’s Experiences in Schools, the Criminal Justice System, and Churches. Sex Res Soc Policy 11, 274–287 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-014-0144-y

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Keywords

  • Transgender
  • Violence
  • Discrimination
  • Social support
  • Narrative