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Gender Identity

CRS works with communities to prevent and respond to alleged hate crimes based on actual or perceived gender identity. Below are some examples of how CRS supports communities dealing with tension and conflict based on gender identity:

  • Strengthening police and community partnerships through training programs for law enforcement officers that include information about transgender communities and individuals, best practices to engage transgender communities, and strategies to improve officers’ contacts with transgender individuals
  • Facilitating dialogues between law enforcement professionals, community leaders, local and state officials, and civil rights organizations to relieve community tension in the wake of actual or perceived hate crimes based on gender identity
  • Delivering facilitated dialogue programs to educational institutions that bring together students, teachers, staff, and administrators to identify issues, increase understanding, and develop solutions

Below are some recent examples of CRS's work assisting communities experiencing tension and conflict based on actual or perceived gender identity. Additional case summaries may be found within CRS’s Annual Reports, located on the CRS Resource Center webpage.

Case Highlights

Following the successful 2019 in-person delivery of the CRS Engaging and Building Relationships with Transgender Communities training program in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, local county law enforcement officials requested in May 2020 that CRS conduct the training again, this time virtually, to continue addressing the long-standing tensions between law enforcement and the transgender community. A county law enforcement official wanted to provide all officers the opportunity to attend the well-received training, including new hires and officers who had been unable to attend the training the prior year.

Participants in a June 2018 City-Site Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (City-SPIRIT) program in Winston-Salem, facilitated by CRS, had recommended the training to improve relationships between law enforcement and local transgender communities. During the City-SPIRIT, which included local city and county officials, a newly elected law enforcement official, the Winston-Salem Police Department (WSPD), and other community groups in Winston-Salem, community members had expressed concerns related to police treatment of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) individuals. CRS met with county law enforcement representatives, the WSPD, local LGBTQ communities, and council working to implement the City-SPIRIT recommendations, to plan the virtual delivery of the CRS training for law enforcement participants.

CRS, along with two subject matter experts (SMEs), a transgender rights advocacy group representative and a police officer, conducted the virtual training in August 2020 for the WSPD and county law enforcement representatives. CRS adapted the program for online delivery from the original, in-person classroom format to accommodate COVID-19 social distancing protocols.

Twenty-four officers attended the two-day training. Participants commended the WSPD and county law enforcement for championing the effort and thanked the SMEs for creating an environment conducive to candid dialogue.

In February 2020, a transgender woman was murdered in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, sparking outrage and fear in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) communities in Puerto Rico. A video posted online appeared to show the victim being threatened, harassed, and murdered. Several weeks later, two other transgender women were murdered in Humacao, Puerto Rico, exacerbating the community’s concerns. CRS met with local LGBTQ stakeholders, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) coordinator for civil rights in San Juan and representatives from a coalition of community leaders and nonprofit organizations supporting the LGBTQ community to provide consultation on how to address the communities’ tensions and fears.

CRS facilitated a May 2020 meeting between the FBI’s San Juan, Puerto Rico, field office and local LGBTQ stakeholders to discuss FBI community engagement. The parties set goals of developing trust between federal agencies, law enforcement, and the LGBTQ community to address issues including a lack of understanding of transgender issues and perceptions that Puerto Ricans are treated differently due to the island’s commonwealth status. CRS shared examples of community engagement strategies and best practices for communication. CRS also introduced officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico to representatives of the LGBTQ stakeholder groups to facilitate the LGBTQ groups’ communication of their concerns to that office.

In July 2020, CRS conducted its first virtual stakeholder training after the COVID-19 pandemic made in-person training not practical. A local law enforcement training agency sponsored the virtual training to address the Burlington, Iowa Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) communities’ ongoing concerns about safety and the need for law enforcement to better understand issues facing the transgender community.

The LGBTQ communities’ concerns stemmed from the March 2016 murder of a gender-fluid Black teenager in Burlington and perceptions about law enforcement’s handling of the case. Prosecutors had charged the perpetrators with murder, foregoing hate crime charges because murder carried the state’s highest possible penalty (a maximum sentence of life in prison). Local transgender community members perceived the decision as a major injustice, caused by the invisibility of transgender individuals in the state, and reached out to the Attorney General, state officials, and local law enforcement calling for hate crime charges to be filed.

As a result of these calls, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa (USAOSDIA) requested support from U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division (CRT) officials, who met with local transgender advocates to discuss their concerns. The experience helped the small and dispersed Iowa communities learn how to make transgender individuals more visible to law enforcement.

During the sentencing process, CRS reached out to local transgender advocates and a statewide LGBTQ advocacy group, to provide information on CRS’s services. As a result, the USAO-SDIA, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa, and transgender community advocates requested CRS support to educate law enforcement officials throughout the state on civil rights issues impacting transgender Americans and build their capacity to engage with and build relationships with transgender individuals.

In July 2020, CRS virtually facilitated the Engaging and Building Partnerships with Transgender Communities for 25 officers from police departments and sheriffs’ offices across Iowa. CRS adjusted the in-person program for virtual delivery, adapting content to best encourage open discussions and learning online. Law enforcement and LGBTQ subject matter experts presented information on misconceptions that affect the prevention and response to hate crimes against transgender communities and best practices for respectfully communicating with transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals. Participants also discussed strategies for outreach to transgender communities to increase trust and collaboration with their police departments.

In June 2019, local law enforcement officers found the body of a murdered African American transgender woman on the porch of an abandoned home. This homicide, the eleventh in 2019 targeting an African American transgender woman in Kansas City, was reminiscent of the murder of another African American transgender woman which occurred on the same block in 2015. The 2019 homicide intensified fears and concerns among the area’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) communities. A local LGBTQ youth advocacy organization requested CRS assistance in building stronger relationships with city law enforcement agencies.

Beginning in July 2019, CRS facilitated a series of dialogues with the LBGTQ youth advocacy organization and Kansas City LGBTQ communities. The first dialogue between the parties focused on engaging the city’s transgender communities with the broader Kansas City community. Next, CRS convened dialogues between the LGBTQ youth advocacy organization and local law enforcement to address the communities’ growing concerns about the homicide investigation and the vulnerability of transgender communities. Throughout the summer, CRS also provided consultation services to the parties on best practices to reduce community tensions and improve communications with the city’s LGBTQ communities. The dialogues clarified details on the investigation process and highlighted ways to strengthen the relationship between the city’s law enforcement and LGBTQ communities.

Participants at the dialogues jointly committed to improving relations between law enforcement and LGBTQ communities and forming an LGBTQ and law enforcement working group. The working group agreed on conducting a CRS Engaging and Building Relationships with Transgender Communities training. On September 17 and 18, 2019, CRS conducted the training for local law enforcement officers, working with local advocacy groups and law enforcement. During the training, transgender advocacy groups shared a brief presentation and other resources, in addition to the training materials and resources provided by CRS. The working group continues to meet quarterly to address law enforcement-community relations, enhance mutual trust, and increase collaboration.


Resources for You

Toolkit: Working with LGBTQI+ Communities (PDF)

Engaging and Building Relationships with Transgender Communities (PDF)

School-Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (School-SPIRIT) (PDF)

City-Site Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (City-SPIRIT) (PDF)

Strengthening Police and Community Partnerships (SPCP) (PDF)

Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes Forum (PDF)

Working with LGBTQ Communities (PDF)

Additional Resources and Informational Videos

Updated December 27, 2023