Law Enforcement and the Transgender Community – CRS Training Program

Every day law enforcement personnel from
across the country encounter transgender individuals who
are victims hate crimes, abuse, discrimination, intolerance, and
injustice. This training has been developed by the
United States Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service, referred to
as CRS, in consultation with law enforcement and
transgender community leaders. The purpose is to provide the law
enforcement community with information, education, and best practice approaches
for promoting greater understanding and positive outcomes when interacting with
transgender individuals in non-hostile situations. My name is
Brett Parson. I helped develop and supervise the
Metropolitan Police Department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit in Washington D.C. I’m currently a sergeant
in the Nation’s Capital. I will be walking you through this training.
Unlike most agencies within the Department of Justice, the CRS is not composed of active duty law enforcement or federal prosecutors. CRS is made up of impartial civilian mediators called conflict
resolution specialists. Originally created by the Civil Rights
Act of 1964 to resolve issues related to race, color, and national origin, the CRS
mission was expanded following the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention
act in 2009. That act helps communities prevent and
responded to violent hate crimes committed on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation,
religion, and/or disability. CRS has 10 regional
offices with four field offices strategically
located throughout the United States. Each region provides four services: mediation, facilitation, training, and consulting to communities and law
enforcement agencies. This training will give you information,
tools, and techniques to better understand individuals who are transgender and gender non-conforming
so that you can do your job more effectively. You will be able to build trust and
rapport with the transgender community, which will help you develop a network
of reliable resources, open doors for improving hate crimes response and reporting, avoid complaints and litigation, and even
close cases more quickly. This training can better equip your
department as it seeks to establish and maintain collaborative relationships with the transgender community. It may
also help make your department more welcoming for employees who are transgender, or who have family
members or friends who are transgender individuals. To get started, you need to be familiar
with the appropriate terminology. Using incorrect terminology will
negatively impact your ability to work collaboratively with transgender individuals. It’s also
important that you understand common misconceptions that can adversely impact the prevention and
response to hate crimes. We’ll also walk you through
strategies for creating successful collaboration with the transgender community. In order to be effective, you need to be
comfortable with the terminology used by members of the transgender community.
Once you have a better understanding of the vocabulary and more clarity around language that
could build or break down trust, you can do your part to reduce tensions,
conflict, and misunderstandings, so you can stay
focused on getting your job done safely and professionally. Using correct
terminology is not about being politically correct, but instead, demonstrating to a victim, witness, or survivor your awareness and a sensitivity to
their community’s existence. This will make it more likely that they
will cooperate and share vital information that can help you do your
job more effectively. Using the correct terms is the difference
between starting a conversation or interview with an open or closed door, and the words
you use from start will set the tone for the
remainder of that interaction. Let’s take a closer look at four basic
terms and the distinct differences between how
we define them. They are: assigned sex, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Assigned sex is also known as birth sex.
It refers to the biological or physiological designation of women and men as male or female at
birth. You may have also heard the term
intersex. This term is used when a person is born
with anatomy that doesn’t seem to be fully male or fully female. It may include any
individual who was born with partial, underdeveloped, or ambiguous reproductive
systems- -or, in rare instances, parts of both the
male and female reproductive system. While only a small percentage of the
population is born with these variations, they may be confused with members of the
transgender community. So, we’ve now defined assigned sex as referring to the biological
designation of male or female. Gender, on the other hand, refers to the
characteristics or expectations of a particular sex as determined by society and includes our notions of what is
typically masculine or feminine. To be clear, it’s important to understand the
difference between sex and gender. Sex is assigned at birth, whereas gender
rules are defined by, and even vary by, the society in which
we live. In the United States, we have observed the
spectrum of gender roles expanding over the last few decades to include more variation beyond the two
options of masculine or feminine to include more
nuanced diversity in human genders. One example would be a
stay-at-home father. Another would be women in
leadership positions in the workforce, such as CEOs. Sex and gender reflect only
a part of overall identity. There’s also our sexual
orientation, which refers to a person’s physical
and/or emotional attraction to people of a specific gender.
Heterosexual, bisexual, and gay or lesbian are all sexual
orientations. A person’s sexual orientation is
distinct from a person’s gender identity and gender expression, important concepts
that will be explained in the next slide. Every person has an internal
psychological gender identity, a sense of who they are in terms of
gender even if it’s not consistent with their assigned sex. We are aware of our gender identity early in
life and it stays constant. Gender identity is best viewed as a
broad spectrum with stereotypical masculine male being
at one end and stereotypical feminine female being
at the other end. People identify at many points along that
spectrum, not just at the extreme ends. Since gender identity is internal, a
person’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others and
is not something that a person can willingly change. It is one’s innermost concept of self as
male, female, or both, or, in some cases,
neither. Gender identity emerges very early in
life. Studies suggest individuals are conscious
of their gender identity between 18 months and three years of age. Another component of one’s gender identity is gender expression. Gender expression
explains how a person expresses his or her gender identity to others. An individual’s gender expression may be
different than society’s expectations. People who express their gender through
hairstyle, clothing, or general appearances, in a
manner that is distinctly different than traditional males or females are sometimes referred to as gender
non-conforming. These individuals do not consider
themselves transgender individuals it just means they express their gender
in a non-traditional way. Many American Indian or First Nations
people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, or gender non-conforming identify as Two-Spirit. In many nations, being Two-Spirit carries both great respect and additional
commitments and responsibilities to one’s community. Once we recognize that genders are not
limited to male and female and that gender identity encompasses a
much broader spectrum, we can better understand transgender as
describing individuals who have a gender identity on that
spectrum that is different from their assigned sex at birth. So, what exactly does transgender mean? When describing gender, a transgender
individual may describe himself or herself as a transgender man or transgender
woman. In either case, these self-identities are
exactly what they sound like. A transgender woman, or MTF, which stands for male to female, is
someone who was born a male but identifies as or expresses
herself as female. A transgender man, also referred to by
the acronym FTM, which stands for female to male, is
someone who was born female but identifies as or expresses himself as
male. Within the transgender community and beyond, you may also hear the word “trans,” which
is simply shorthand for transgender. You should also note that “transgender” is
an adjective. Terms such as “transgendered” or “a transgender” are not correct
terminology. There may be many other terms you’ve
heard, but the most respectful term you can choose is transgender. For example, “transsexual” might be a term you’ve heard to describe
transgender individuals. Fewer people identify as transexual. While
it might not be considered pejorative, it is just not used as broadly as the
term transgender. It is a best practice to use the
pronouns and gender terms used by the individual. When in doubt, it’s okay to ask an
individual what those preferences are. Simply ask,
“How would you like to be addressed?” Do not express your assumption of a
person’s gender until you’ve had a chance to speak to
that person and ask respectful questions. Using the correct or preferred
pronouns demonstrates respect, and lets the individual know that you are
knowledgeable about their community, which is both reassuring and shows you’re a
true professional. Remember, as a police officer, using these
correct terms and pronouns could be your one and only chance to
build and maintain the trust you need. If you want to build
trust with the transgender community, you should never use terms or pronouns
that are offensive, such as “transvestite,” “he/she,” “shemale,” or “it.” You may hear some transgender
people refer to themselves using terms such as “tranny,” but it’s best not to use this term
either. Using offensive terms can diminish trust and potentially impact the victim,
witness, or survivor’s, willingness to collaborate with law enforcement.
Remember, transgender individuals are people who
deserve respect. For law enforcement personnel, interviewing techniques are
the foundational building blocks of good police work. It’s one of the first
things we learn. Regardless of who you’re interviewing,
it’s always about being professional, respectful, and relevant. For a variety of
reasons, when you come in contact with a
transgender individual, you may see what you believe are inconsistencies between their gender
and their identification. So, what would you do if you notice the
gender marker, photo, or name on an individual’s driver’s permit
is male but the person to whom you’re speaking
is presenting as a female? It is best practice to ask clarifying
questions. Do not assume you know the right pronoun
to use You should always ask for a preferred pronoun and respect that person’s self- identification regardless of what’s printed on the
identification. Doing so will establish a level of respect and trust between you and the transgender or
gender non-conforming individual. Just ask, “How would you like to be
addressed?” Or, “What name would you like for me to
call you?” This full training program includes a series of role-play
exercises that will allow participants to practice their interviewing
techniques for this situation in a real-life
scenario. For each role-play interviewing scenario,
the trainer will break everyone up into small groups. Each group will work with a facilitator,
who will walk the group through relevant scenarios, giving participants a chance to react
and respond appropriately. Some people will play the role of the
officer, others will be witnesses, and some groups may include observers.
After each exercise, trainers will reconvene the
large group and talk about what worked and what didn’t work during the
interviews. During the discussion period, the group will walk through all of the critical
issues to consider about the role-play interviews to determine if the right tone was set,
if questions were asked respectfully, and if relevant information was obtained.
Participants will also identify any barriers to communication between officers and witnesses, so that they can
understand how to overcome those barriers on the job. All of the role-play exercises in this
training program are designed to help officers become
more comfortable with the correct terminology. It also helps officers learn how to best
ask appropriate questions when trying to determine an individual’s
preferred name and pronoun so that interviews will be conducted
professionally and respectfully, and questioning will stay succinct and relevant. Now, let’s look at a few common
misconceptions often applied to the transgender community.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that transgender or gender non-conforming
individuals are purposely putting themselves in harm’s way by choosing to go against societal norms
and revealing their gender identity to others. The fact is, being transgender or expressing
oneself in a gender non-conforming way is part of one’s identity. It’s not
something that can be turned on or off. Transgender and gender non-conforming
individuals have reported instances of law enforcement personnel blaming the transgender or gender
non-conforming victims when crimes have been committed against them.
Some officers may initially blame victims for wearing clothing or expressing
themselves in a manner not stereotypically associated with their
gender, thereby inviting the incident upon
themselves. However, the fault for a crime always lies in the hands of the perpetrator, and not
the victim. As with all victims, it is always best to show compassion and
support, regardless of their involvement in criminal or high-risk activities. Blaming them
does nothing to build rapport or seek their cooperation, therefore limiting the likelihood for a positive
outcome. Victim blaming and revictimization are not synonymous. Revictimization can occur well after the crime and at the hands
of medical professionals, law enforcement, investigators, counselors, prosecutors, and the courts among others.
Revictimization occurs through looks or glances, interaction, body language, tone of voice, or in unkind words–all of which can be
avoided through greater awareness and understanding. Right now, the statistics around
transgender victimization are unsettling. While there’s not a lot of research
available, what we do see is a cause for concern. One study has
shown that a high volume of transgender people
have been victims of hate crimes, experienced harassment in school, or have
been discriminated against in the workplace. Another study shows that transgender
people are almost three and a half times more likely to experience police
violence compared with non-transgender people. The
statistics for transgender people of color and women are equally alarming. This data
explains why many transgender individuals are fearful and reluctant to report
crimes to police due to having had previous negative
experiences with law enforcement. There are clear reasons why transgender
individuals may fear the police and be less likely to report hate crimes.
Any actual or perceived insensitivity towards transgender
individuals by police officers can reinforce the general mistrust and
the perceived indifference of law enforcement. Although there are published
statistics for the percentage of transgender individuals who have had
negative experiences with police, these numbers reflect only those who
responded to the surveys taken, and it’s believed the percentages are
even higher than what we see here. In some cases, transgender women have
reported being profiled as sex workers by law enforcement. Many more may choose
not to report a hate crime, or other crime, because they fear that
responding law enforcement personnel will stereotype them by accusing them
of being sex workers. What all of this makes clear is that there
is a pressing need for more education and greater understanding. During the full training, facilitators
will discuss several simulated encounters that officers may have, including
responding to 911 calls where transgender individuals were involved and situations where violence against
a transgender individual may have been perpetrated. In any of these
scenarios, there are critical issues to consider, which
officers can apply in this training. With each reality-based scenario
presented to the group, participants will have an opportunity to put this training
into practice to determine if a hate crime has been
committed and the best way to proceed with interviews. These examples will also highlight how
misconceptions and stereotypes can negatively affect an officer’s
ability to properly serve individuals who are transgender. With this training, officers will be
better equipped to recognize these misconceptions and stereotypes and have a better understanding as to
why there might be reluctance in the transgender community to report
hate crimes to law enforcement. The large-group discussions also create
an opportunity to reinforce the interviewing skills discussed earlier in
this training. At this point, it’s clear how officers
can avoid making gender assumptions or labeling an individual in the wrong way. Officers need to use the pronoun that
each person prefers– “he” or “she,” and respectfully address
people with titles matching those preferences, such as “ma’am” or “sir.” This training also
ensures officers understand that it’s okay to ask which title is
preferred. If a search is required, officers might consider asking the
person if they would prefer a male or a female officer to conduct the search. Depending on your
state or agency, there may be specific laws and policies
governing how to conduct searches of transgender or gender non-conforming individuals. If
your department or agency does not have a model policy for stopping and searching transgender and
gender non-conforming individuals, you may want to consider developing one
with the help of a local and/or national transgender advocacy
organization. The full training provides a list of resources and contact information for other organizations that can assist
you in creating relevant policies, and who are willing to share their
policies with other law enforcement agencies. Now that we’ve discussed terminology,
interviewing, stereotypes, and misconceptions about
individuals who are transgender, you can use this knowledge to improve
your ability to serve transgender individuals in your community. Transgender people are
young, old, and have different races, religions,
professions, and economic backgrounds. They are local business owners, community
leaders, our neighbors, and also members of law enforcement
themselves. You can engage with this community proactively by doing the following: Take
time to introduce yourself to community members and organizational leaders before issues
arise; build relationships; developing community contacts, and
creating liaisons; collaborate on trainings for other
organizations; and actively support education
initiatives. A lot has been covered in this training, but one of the most basic points is to
simply treat transgender and gender non-conforming individuals
with professionalism, respect, and dignity in the field
interactions that you have with them. With greater clarity around terminology
and common awareness of misconceptions about transgender people,
you will be better equipped to interact and collaborate more effectively with
the transgender community and even encourage the reporting of hate
crimes and victimization against transgender individuals in your jurisdiction. CRS developed this training in consultation
with national, regional, and local lesbian, gay,
bisexual, and transgender, also known as LGBT organizations,
national advocacy organizations, and federal and local law enforcement. To
incorporate broad perspectives in this training, CRS hosted a series of round-table
discussions, through which participants provided
valuable insights, guidance, and feedback. CRS appreciates the collaboration and
contributions of everyone who was involved in bringing
greater awareness of, and education about, a community that historically has been
victimized by hate crimes, disproportionate levels of violent crime,
and remains largely misunderstood by the greater population. This training
is an abbreviated version of a comprehensive training program
designed for law enforcement agencies that may wish to learn how to better serve transgender
community members. Please visit CRS’s website: at for more information about the
full-length version of this training and others CRS trainings that are
available to your agency or community. Thank you.

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