Sophia Banks is a trans woman activist based in Toronto.
Sexual assault for me, and for so many other trans people, happens when people just grab us to see what we have, to see if we’ve had surgery or not. When I started transitioning, all of a sudden the privilege I had as a man was gone. People treated me differently; I started experiencing misogyny, trans misogyny. I had never dealt with sexual assault before and then once I came out as trans, I’ve been raped, attacked, sexually assaulted multiple times.
It’s a tough struggle, because where do trans women go to heal when so many female spaces are hostile to us?
I’ve been groped so often, I wonder if this is normal for a woman to experience. I have never reported a sexual assault to law enforcement. I did try to report a physical assault to the cops—once. I called and said I was attacked and they kept calling me ‘sir’ even after I told them that I was a trans woman. But they didn’t even understand me. After that, I just gave up. They mis-gendered me and therefore revictimized me. I don’t know any trans woman who feels safe reporting to the police because of this. It’s very difficult for us to feel safe when it comes to law enforcement.
I think in order for things to change, we need to believe people more often. As far as the trans community goes, so many people already feel that their humanity is invalidated—that we’re not going to be taken seriously when we come forward with our assaults. It’s an issue for all women, but even more so because we’re trans. So many people don’t even see me as a woman. We also see these stats in which trans people who report physical and sexual assault end up getting attacked for doing so. Police need better training to ensure they are respecting and acknowledging people’s gender identities, to start out with. We shouldn’t have to teach the police Trans 101 while we are reporting a rape.
— As told to Rachel Browne. This interview has been edited and condensed.
This story is part of #Project97 — a year-long conversation about sexual assault, abuse and harassment. Visit Project97.ca for more details on this collaborative project by Rogers-owned media outlets, and join us on Twitter with the hashtag #Project97.