Baseless anti-trans claims fuel adoption of harmful laws – two criminologists explain

Henry F. Fradella, Professor, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Affiliate Professor, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law., Arizona State University and Alexis Rowland, Ph.D. Student in Criminology, Law and Society, University of California, Irvine, The Conversation on

Published in Political News

When laws permit transgender people to access sex-segregated spaces in accordance with their gender identities, crime rates do not increase. There is no association between trans-inclusive policies and more crime. As one of us wrote in a recent paper, this is likely because, just like cisgender folks, “transgender people use locker rooms and restrooms to change clothes and go to the bathroom,” not for sexual gratification or predatory reasons.

Conversely, when trans people are forced by law to use sex-segregated spaces that align with the sex assigned to them at birth instead of their gender identity, two important facts should be noted.

First, no studies show that violent crime rates against cisgender women and girls in such spaces decrease. In other words, cisgender women and girls are no safer than they would be in the absence of anti-trans laws. Certainly, the possibility exists that a cisgender man might pose as a woman to go into certain spaces under false pretenses. But that same possibility remains regardless of whether transgender people are lawfully permitted in those spaces.

Second, trans people are significantly more likely to be victimized in sex-segregated spaces than are cisgender people. For instance, while incarcerated in facilities designated for men, trans women are nine to 13 times as likely to be sexually assaulted as the men with whom they are boarded.

In women’s prisons, correctional staff are responsible for 41% of women’s sexual victimization, with cisgender women committing the balance of nearly all prisoner-on-prisoner violence. Similarly, trans boys and girls who are barred from using the washrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity are respectively between 26% to 149% more likely to be sexually victimized in the locations they are forced to use than cisgender youths.

In society at large, between 84% and 90% of all crimes of sexual violence are perpetrated by someone the victim knows, not a stranger lurking in the shadows – or the showers or restroom stalls. But trans and nonbinary people feel very unsafe in bathrooms and locker rooms, though others experience relative safety there. In fact, the largest study of its kind found that upward of 75% of trans men and 64% of trans women reported that they routinely avoid public restrooms to minimize their chances of being harassed or assaulted.

Because criminological data does not support trans-exclusionary laws or policies, advocates of anti-trans laws often resort to lies, flawed anecdotal evidence, or what fact-checkers have called “extreme cherry-picking” to support their position.

For instance, one of us documented how isolated news stories, often from notoriously transphobic tabloids, conflate the actions of sexual predators with the “dangerousness” of trans women. Although there are undeniably examples of actual transgender people committing crimes, even deeply troubling ones, they are not evidence of any behavioral trends among the broader class of trans people. No such data exists.


We believe the spate of anti-trans proposals represents a textbook example of crime-control theater – an unnecessary, ineffective and harmful legislative response to unfounded fearmongering.

Anti-trans laws are not just baseless. They’re hurtful and damaging, especially to LGBTQ+ teenagers. Recent polls indicate that more than 60% of these people experience deteriorating mental health – including depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts – as a result of laws and policies aimed at restricting their personhood.

The criminological research is clear that anti-trans laws do not help the people they are claimed to protect. In fact, these laws inflict harm on people who are even more vulnerable.

This article is republished from The Conversation, an independent nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. If you found it interesting, you could subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

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Henry F. Fradella has received funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Justice, but not with regard to anything relevant to the subject matter of this piece.

Alexis Rowland does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


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