Navigating Microaggressions, Overt Discrimination, and Institutional Oppression: Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People and the Criminal Justice System

  • Kevin L. Nadal
  • Tanya Erazo
  • Chassitty N. Fiani
  • Mónica Christina Murillo Parilla
  • Heather Han


The purpose of this chapter is to uncover how transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) people perceive and experience the criminal justice (CJ) system. The chapter focuses primarily on the types of discrimination and bias TGNC encounter and how those experiences impact their perceptions and interactions with different sectors of the CJ system. Over the past ten years, multiple scholars have described the various microaggressions faced by LGBTQ people, as well as the negative impact of these microaggressions on LGBTQ people’s mental health. Findings from this qualitative study (N = 11) affirm that TGNC people are highly marginalized and are systemically discriminated against. Results point to the need for transgender-affirmative competency training programs for police officers and other liaisons of the legal system.



Funding for this study was provided by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Office for the Advancement of Research.


  1. Anderson, K. F. (2012). Diagnosing discrimination: Stress from perceived racism and the mental and physical health effects. Sociological Inquiry, 83(1), 55–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bronski, M. (2011). A Queer History of the United States. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  3. Brown, B., & Reed Benedict, W. (2002). Perceptions of the police: Past findings, methodological issues, conceptual issues and policy implications. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 25, 543–580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Crompton, L. (1976). Homosexuals and the death penalty in colonial America. Journal of Homosexuality, 3, 277–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. D’Emilio, J. (2014). Making Trouble: Essays on Gay History, Politics, and the University. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Dinno, A. (2017). Homicide rates of transgender individuals in the United States: 2010–2014. American Journal of Public Health, 107, 1441–1447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Fiani, C. N., Nadal, K. L., Han, H., Mejia, D., Deutsch, T., & Murillo, M. (2017). A system of transphobic injustice: Microaggressions toward transgender and gender nonconforming people in the criminal justice system. New York State Psychologist, 29, 5–15.Google Scholar
  8. Gladstone, B., Volpe, T., & Boydell, K. (2007). Issues encountered in a qualitative secondary analysis of help-seeking in the prodrome to psychosis. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 34(4), 431–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Grant, J. M., Mottet, L., Tanis, J. E., Harrison, J., Herman, J., & Keisling, M. (2011). Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality.Google Scholar
  10. Heaton, J. (2004). Reworking Qualitative Data. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hill, C. E., Thompson, B. J., & Williams, E. N. (1997). A Guide to conducting consensual qualitative research. The Counseling Psychologist, 25, 517–572.Google Scholar
  12. Hillman, J., & Hinrichsen, G. A. (2014). Promoting an affirming, competent practice with older lesbian and gay adults. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 45, 269–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hinds, L., & Murphy, K. (2007). Public satisfaction with police: Using procedural justice to improve police legitimacy. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 40, 27–42. Scholar
  14. Krueger, R. A., & Casey, M. A. (2014). Focus Groups: A Practical Guide for Applied Research. Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  15. Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558. (U.S. June 26, 2003). Retrieved January 14, 2016, from
  16. Nadal, K. L. (2013). That’s So Gay! Microaggressions and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Nadal, K. L. (2018). Microaggressions and Traumatic Stress: Theory, Research, and Practice. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Nadal, K. L., Rivera, D. P., & Corpus, M. J. H. (2010). Sexual orientation and transgender microaggressions in everyday life: Experiences of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender individuals. In D. W. Sue (Ed.), Microaggressions and Marginality: Manifestation, Dynamics, and Impact (pp. 217–240). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  19. Nadal, K. L., Skolnik, A., & Wong, Y. (2012). Interpersonal and systemic microaggressions toward transgender people: Implications for counseling. Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling, 6, 55–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Nadal, K. L., Griffin, K. E., Wong, Y., Hamit, S., & Rasmus, M. (2014). Racial microaggressions and mental health: Counseling clients of color. Journal of Counseling and Development, 92, 57–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Nadal, K. L., Quintanilla, A., Goswick, A., & Sriken, J. (2015). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer people’s perceptions of the criminal justice system: Implications for social services. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 27, 457–481.Google Scholar
  22. Nadal, K. L., Davidoff, K. C., Davis, L. S., Wong, Y., Marshall, D., & McKenzie, V. (2015). A qualitative approach to intersectional microaggressions: Understanding influences of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and religion. Qualitative Psychology, 2, 147–163.Google Scholar
  23. Nadal, K. L., Whitman, C. N., Davis, L. S., Erazo, T., & Davidoff, K. C. (2016). Microaggressions toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and genderqueer people: A review of the literature. Journal of Sex Research, 53, 488–508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Pascoe, E. A., & Smart Richman, L. (2009). Perceived discrimination and health: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 135(4), 531–554.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Schafer, J. A., Huebner, B. M., & Bynum, T. S. (2003). Citizen perceptions of police services: Race, neighborhood context, and community policing. Police Quarterly, 6, 440–468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Stotzer, R. L. (2009). Violence against transgender people: A review of United States data. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 14, 170–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Tyler, T. R., & Fagan, J. (2008). Legitimacy and cooperation: Why do people help the police fight crime in their communities. Ohio St. Journal of Criminal Law, 6, 231–275.Google Scholar
  28. Weitzer, R., & Tuch, S. A. (2004). Race and perceptions of police misconduct. Social Problems, 51, 305–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Weitzer, R., & Tuch, S. A. (2005). Racially biased policing: Determinants of citizen perceptions. Social Forces, 83, 1009–1030.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin L. Nadal
    • 1
  • Tanya Erazo
    • 1
  • Chassitty N. Fiani
    • 1
  • Mónica Christina Murillo Parilla
    • 1
  • Heather Han
    • 1
  1. 1.City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations