• Brooke Ruhl

Transgender Risk for Human Trafficking

Everyone is at risk for being human trafficked, some people more than others. As I’ve discussed in past blog posts, some factors place people at a higher risk. Those factor generally include people with lower incomes, people who are more socially isolated, and sex workers. When considering these factors, transgender people tend to experience these traits at a higher rate, giving them special risk when it comes to human trafficking and modern slavery. Looking at the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, there are a few statistics that could increase transgender peoples risk.

Photo from Unsplash

Homelessness & Isolation

A common issue for transgender people is the feeling of not being accepted. Because transgenderism was a large taboo until the recent decade, coming out as transgender was very hard, and it wasn't rare to end up on the streets. According to the report, 30% of respondents experienced homelessness at some point. Homelessness causes a lot of different factors for transgender people.

The report also stated that more than one-quarter (26%) of respondents who were homeless in the past year avoided staying in homeless shelters because they feared they would be mistreated as a transgender person. This is concerning because there is no one monitoring these people’s wellbeing at this point. This gives ample opportunity for traffickers to step in with low possibility of being caught.

Sex Work & Violence

Transgender people are at a higher risk to be in vulnerable situations. As we discussed above, homelessness and unemployment can be big issues. Turning to sex work can sometimes be the only option. Sex workers often end up in sex trafficking situations unintentionally, and the number reflect a scary amount of risk. One in five (20%) respondents have participated in the underground economy for income at some point in their lives, including in sex work, drug sales, and other currently criminalized work. This means that these people who are more emotionally at risk, are being put in situations with more physical risk as well.

With these criminal industries normally comes with violence. The report shows that the risk for human trafficking could very well mimic the risk for violence. Nearly half (48%) of all respondents in the sample reported being denied equal treatment, verbally harassed, and/or physically attacked in the past year because of being transgender, and nearly half (47%) of respondents have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.

Read the rest of the report here, and comment below what other factors you think could place transgender people at higher risk.


Trans Lifeline Hotline (877) 565-8860

Human Trafficking Hotline (888) 373-7888

Tweet me! @Brooke_Ruhl and use the hashtag #BRuhly_Trafficked


Brooke Ruhl

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Brooke Ruhl

University of Nevada Reno

2020 by Brooke Ruhl.