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“What Are We Going to Do with a Penis in the Room?”: Rape Crisis Centers and Treatment of Transgender Survivors

Sexual and Gender Minority Health

ISBN: 978-1-83867-147-1, eISBN: 978-1-83867-146-4

Publication date: 15 January 2021


Purpose: Being the victim of sexual violence can lead to long-term health consequences. In response, rape crisis centers provide support to survivors of sexual violence including medical and mental health treatment or referrals to treatment. A history of exclusion and provision of service by cisgenderist binary categories limit the ability of rape crisis centers to serve transgender survivors of sexual violence. Can gender be a way to provide safe, inclusive healthcare or is it necessarily a way to enact gender oppression? How can rape crisis centers and other healthcare organizations become more inclusive of transgender people?

Methods: In addition to fieldwork at a rape crisis center that had a trans inclusion project, interviews were conducted with staff and volunteers at the rape crisis center.

Findings: I found that gender-based service provision is problematic, especially when based on an understanding of gender conflated with sex category. Even organizations aiming to challenge gender oppression can reproduce it.

Practical Implications: Options for health organizations to become more trans inclusive are presented.

Originality: Research on the transgender experience, particularly at rape crisis centers and other healthcare organizations that provide gender-segregated service, is limited That literature often presents those organizing women-only space as monolithic and struggles around the inclusion of trans people oversimplified. My research illuminates how gender inequality is reproduced in an organization aimed at challenging that inequality. My research shows the logics of those engaged within an organization reproducing oppression despite individuals' desires to challenge oppression.




I would like to thank the editors and reviewers for their thoughtful comments as well as Noam Perry, Tracy Royce, Tonya Lindsey, Joan Budesa, Vanessa Vance, Alena Marie, Jeff Landeck, Leila Rupp, the participants from Leila's Feminist Studies graduate writing proseminar, and especially Sarah Fenstermaker for their helpful comments on this chapter. I am also grateful to my research participants who shared their experience and expertise with me.


Guckenheimer, D. (2021), "“What Are We Going to Do with a Penis in the Room?”: Rape Crisis Centers and Treatment of Transgender Survivors", LeBlanc, A.J. and Perry, B.L. (Ed.) Sexual and Gender Minority Health (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 21), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 299-319.



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