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Ciencias Psicológicas

versión impresa ISSN 1688-4094versión On-line ISSN 1688-4221

Cienc. Psicol. vol.13 no.2 Montevideo dic. 2019  Epub 01-Dic-2019 

Original Articles

Partner violence in people with gender dysphoria

1Hospital Universitario San Agustín, Área Sanitaria III, Asturias. Españ,

2 Hospital Universitario Central de Asturias. España

3 Universidad de Oviedo. Españ


The first objective of the research was to know and evaluate the types of partner violence in a 48 persons with gender dysphoria group; and, secondly, to establish differences based on identity. An adaption of the survey by Díaz y Núñez (2015) was used. The highest percentage of violence experienced occured in psychological violence, followed by sexual and physical violence and, finally and to a lesser extent, economic violence. According to their identity, people with female identity suffered more physical, economic, sexual and psychological violence. In most people with a female identity who asked for help, violence was maintained or increased, while in those with masculine identity it ceased o remained. People with a female identity suffer more partner violence in all its forms. The consequences of asking for outside help are also more negative for them.

Key words: intimate partner violence; transgender; gender dysphoria; resources; empirical study


El primer objetivo de la investigación fue conocer y evaluar los tipos de violencia de pareja en un grupo de 48 personas con disforia de género y; en segundo lugar, establecer diferencias en función de la identidad. Se utilizó una adaptación de la encuesta elaborada por Díaz y Núñez (2015). El mayor porcentaje de violencia experimentada se dio en violencia psicológica, seguida de la sexual y física y por último y en menor medida, la económica. Según su identidad, sufrieron más violencia física, económica, sexual y psicológica las personas con identidad femenina. En la mayor parte de las personas con identidad femenina que pidió ayuda la violencia se mantuvo o aumentó, mientras que en aquellas con identidad masculina cesó o se mantuvo. Las personas con identidad femenina sufren más violencia de pareja en todas sus formas. Las consecuencias de pedir ayuda exterior también son más negativas para éstas.

Palabras clave: violencia de pareja; personas transgénero; disforia de género; recursos; estudio empírico


Intimate partner violence (VP) is "an abuse that occurs in the intimacy of a relationship, when one of the members regardless of gender, tries to impose its power by force"(Hirigoyen, 2006, pp.15). It refers to any behavior that causes or may cause physical, mental or sexual harm. That is, the VP would include physical assaults such as punches and kicks; forced sex and other forms of sexual coercion; psychological abuse, including intimidation and humiliation; and controlling behaviors such as isolating a person from family and friends or restricting access to information and assistance (Pan American Health Organization-OPS, 2013). Most affected by intimate partner violence are women (González Galban and Juan Fernandez, 2010).

Gender violence, machist violence, domestic / family violence are some of the terms that are frequently used as synonyms for the VP. Gender violence or sexist violence is that which "is directed on women by virtue of being, because they are considered, by their aggressors, devoid of the minimum rights of freedom, respect and decision making itself" (Preamble to the Act organic 1/2004 of 28 December on Integrated Protection Measures against Gender Violence). It is about "The manifestation of discrimination, the situation of inequality and power relations of men over women, is exerted on them by those who are or have been their spouses or those who are or have been linked to them by similar relationships of affection, even without cohabitation "(Ley Organic 1/2004 of 28 December on Integrated Protection Measures against Gender Violence). The rights of transgender women victims of partner violence have not been considered in Spain to be included in some of the regional laws that recognize the rights of trans group. Domestic / family violence refers to the place where violence occurs, without specifying who is the victim, the aggressor, and what is the cause or purpose of violence. This type of violence include not only violence between partners or spouses, but also, the assault on minors, elderly or discapacidad (OPS, 2013).

Janice Ristock (2005) argues that gender violence in trans people has similar characteristics to that suffered by heterosexual people. Analyzes violence not only from the perspective of gender, but broadens the focus to different systems of oppression. This author argues that violence in all relationships have a significant impact on the health and welfare of people. However, most of the support services have been created to address the problem of violence in heterosexual relationships, highlighting the inability of services to respond to the characteristics of violence in the LGTBI group, which in turn results vulnerability and helplessness in this population. On the other hand, Rodríguez, Carrera, Lameiras and Rodríguez (2015) point out that in couples in which a member belongs to the group of transsexuals, transgender or intersex, violent behaviors are an exercise of power of the “normative” member in order to dominate, control, coerce and / or isolate the victim, as in heteronormative couples.

The literature on partner violence in trans people is quite low. Specifically in Spanish language is very limited. Until now, studies on partner violence have mostly focused on couples constituted by the two binary sexes and where their sexual orientation was defined as heterosexual (Diaz and Nuñez, 2015).

Internationally, one of the first studies to address the problem of partner violence in the transsexual community is that of Susan Turell (2000). The research focused mainly on collecting data on violence in same-sex couples, but also included a small sample of trans men and women. The latter had experienced physical (43%) and emotional (57%) sexual abuse (28%). Although the transgender sample was very scarce (N = 7), these data suggest the need for further research with this group.

A decade later, within the framework of the LGBT domestic abuse Project websites and the transgender Alliance of Scotland, an investigation was conducted to find out how transgender people experience dosmetic violenc and, consequently to detect their specific needs (Roch, 2010). The sample consisted of 60 female individuals calling themselves as trans (N = 28), trans men (N = 19) and other variants of the genus (N = 13). The survey assessed emotional, sexual and physical abuse. The data showed that 60% of the respondent´s partners had performed made at least one control behavior and the same percentage threatening behaviors. Partner or ex-partner of 73% of the respondents had made at least one transphobic behavior, such as: making him feel ashamed or guilty about his gender identity (52%), focus on the parts of his body that bothered him (43%) or limit it in its manifestations or expressions of the felt gender (30% -33%). 47% of their partners had starred in at least one act of sexual abuse such as forcing or pressing them for sex (32%) or other unwanted sexual activity (32%). With respect to physical abuse, 45% of their partners or former partners had conducted at least one of these behaviors: push or hold them (32%), kick, bit or hit them (25%), throwing objects (25%) try to down them (12%) or use a weapon against the victim (10%). In conclusion they obtained that 80% of respondents had experienced some emotionally abusive behavior.

Dank, Lachman, Zweig and Yahner (2014) conducted an investigation whose main objective was to explore the experiences of intimate partner violence in young LGB and compare them with young heterosexuals. Within this broad sample of young people (N = 3745) from New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the different types of violence suffered by the small transgender group included (N = 18) were also analyzed. The latter group obtained the highest percentages in all types of violence: physical (88.9%), psychological (58.8%), online dating violence (56.3%) and sexual coercion (61.1%).

The report intimate partner violence 2015 (Waters, 2016) of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence (NCAVP) Programs of the United States, included 1976 people of the LGBTQ group and affected by HIV. Of the total, 234 people identified themselves as transgender. The results established that transgender people were three times more likely than cisgender being harassed and twice as likely to have experienced violence by their partner or former partner. Transgender women were three times more likely than the rest of the sample, having suffered sexual violence and economic violence.

Langenderfer-Magruder, Walls, Whitfield, Brown and Barret (Langenderfer-Madrufer et al., 2016) used data collected in 2010 by Rainbow Alley, a youth program LGTBQ in Colorado to establish the prevalence of intimate partner violence in this collective. The sample was 140 participants. They differed two groups: the first included people with male or female (the cisgender) identity and the second grouped into a single category to male trans, trans women, genderqueer and other (not cisgender). Of the 15 subjects who were part of the category not cisgender nine experienced some form of dating violence. Therefore, 60% of participants included in the latter category experienced some form of dating violence. Langenderfer-Magruder, Darren Whitfield, Walls, Kattari and Ramos (Langenderfer-Magruder et al., 2016) conducted a study to investigate violence in the couple's adult LGBTQ group. Specifically, the authors wanted to see if there were differences in partner violence among cisgender and transgender individuals in the prevalence and contacts with the police. The sample (N = 1139) was collected through a health survey conducted by the LGBT One Colorado organization in 2011 over 18 years of age. According to the results, in the transgender group (N = 122), the prevalence of violence found was higher than for their cisgender peers (20.4% versus 31.1%). The prevalence in partner violence between female trans (male to female), male trans (female to male) and genderqueer was compared but no statistically significant differences were found. This contrasts with the results of NCAVP's 2013 (Release edition 2013) which found that trans women were more likely to experience intimate partner violence (threats, intimidation, harassment and injuries) than other LGBTQ identities. On the other hand, no statistically significant differences in rates of police contact were found although the percentage is higher for the cisgender group (26.1% vs 18.4%).

As for Spanish language studies, Diaz Nunez (2015) studied dating violence in Chile LGBTI group. To this end, they developed a 20-item survey in which different indicators of forms of intimate partner violence (physical, sexual, psychological and economic) were addressed. The sample was 118 subjects, of which only 3.4% were trans people. 47% of respondents claimed to have suffered any violent situation. 67% of the LGBTI population believes that does not have adequate institutions that provide help in case of VP.

During the literature review, citing authors, studies and laws, the terms of partner violence, gender violence and domestic / family violence have appeared. In this research we address any type of VP suffered by trans people, regardless of gender of the perpetrator or victim. Therefore, we opt for the term "partner violence”. The first objective of the present investigation is to understand and evaluate the types of VP in a group of trans people who regularly attend the Gender Identity Treatment Unit of the Principality of Asturias (UTIGPA) and secondly, establish whether there are significant differences between the group of female trans (male to female) and the group of trans male (female to male).

Materials and methods


A selection was made of a non-probabilistic intentional sample. It was composed of 48 people who regularly attend Treatment Unit Gender Identity of Asturias with complaints of gender dysphoria and who agreed to participate voluntarily in the study.

Instrument. It was based on the survey conducted by Diaz and Nunez (2015) on intimate partner violence. It originally collects 4 dimensions, physical, sexual, psychological and economic violence. After the authorization, by the authors, several modifications were made in order to adapt the items to the Spanish sociocultural reality (linguistic expressions, support networks). An item was also unfolded to make it more understandable, one of the questions was considered not relevant for this investigation and another one was added that explanded information on social violence (control and isolation). In addition to violence, data related to support networks, institutions and other factors are collected.

Questions were also included on socio-demographic data (age, gender identity felt and sexual orientation, registration rectification of the mention of the sex of people (Law March 15, 2007), education level, country of origin, occupation, religion, if you have couple currently, if you had a partner in the past) and clinicals: if you are performing hormonal treatment and / or gender confirmation surgeries.

Four self-reported categories of gender identity were defined: female identity, when the biological sex is male and female gender identity; male identity, when the biological sex is female and the male gender identity; trans identity, that person who does not feel identified within the male-female binary category; alternate Gender: When the experienced gender is an alternative other than the gender assigned at birth.


Once the study was authorized by the research committee of the University Hospital San Agustin Aviles (HUSA) on which the UTIGPA functionally depens, the surveys were applied to the users, after signing the informed consent. Data confidentiality is guaranteed.

Statistical analysis

An analysis of descriptive statistics was performed. The chi-square test was performed on those items that were allowed and only to stablish differences between male and female identities given the small number of participants from other identities identities. The statistical program SPSS 17.0 was used.


The study included 48 people from the UTIGPA, age range between 15 and 57 years and a mean of 27.71 (SD=11.41). 56.3% (N=27) was identified with male identity; 31.3% (N=15) with a female identity. 6.3% (N=3) was defined as "trans" and another 6.3% (N = 3) as "other" identities (alternative gender). With regard to to gender with which identifies, 72.9% (N = 35) is defined with a straight orientation, 18.8% (N = 9) as bisexual, 4.2% (N = 2) as pansexual and another 4.2% (N = 2) in another orientation (eg. asexual.) They carried out the registration correction of the entry regarding the sex of the person35.4% (N = 17).

The educational level of 37.5% (N = 18) is of secondary school, followed by 18.8% (N = 9) graduates. 14.6% (N = 7) of the sample has high school education, 12.5% ​​(N = 6) have primary, 10.4% (N = 5) has higher vocational studies and finally 6.3% (N = 3) has vocational studies serius grade. With regard to the occupation; 43.8% (N = 21) are students, 31.3% (N=15) professions develop low or serius qualification, 17.7% (N = 8) highly qualified. And with equivalent proportions (2.1%) retirees, housewives and marginal jobs (prostitution) (N = 1 respectively).

The country of origin of the users who participated in the study was 87.5% (N = 42) of Spanish nationality, Brazilian 6.3% (N = 3), Cuban 4.2% (N = 2) and Ecuadorian 2.1% (N = 1).

It is considered religious 33.3% (N = 16) of the sample.

41.7% (N = 20) have a partner at the time of data collection. They've had in the past couple 79.2% (N = 38).

With respect to clinical variables, they receive hormonal treatment 68.8% (N = 33) and have made gender confirmation surgical interventions (breast augmentation, hysterectomy and vaginoplasty) 25% (N = 12).

The results obtained from the application of the questionnaire are presented. Since 12.5% (N = 6) has not been paired in the past and also in the present, it is not appropriate for the statistical analysis to take into account the items 1 to 15 (inclusive) and 21. Therefore, the results of questionnaires applied to the sample if you have or have had partners are conducted with 42 subjects. Table 1

Table 1: Results the application of the questionnaire 

There is first, item 1 refers to an overall assessment of violence and secondly, the results of the different types of exposed partner violence (physical, sexual, psychological and economic). Finally, items evaluating support networks and resources are reflected.

11 people (26.2%) who had experienced situations of physical violence in the couple respond to item 13, which evaluates the severity.

The results based on identities are shown in Table 2. No statistically significant differences were found in any of the items that have been subjected to Chi Square Test: Item 1 (Sig=.564), item 2 (Sig =207), item 8 (Sig =0.139).

Table 2: Percentages and frequency of violence in items based on identities 

The results based on the identities are shown in Table 3. No statistically significant differences were found in any of the items that have been subjected to Chi Square Test: item 19 (Sig = 231); item 20 (Sig = 0.747).

Table 3: Results of identity based on support networks, institutions and other 

Table 4 shows the differences in the survey by two age groups: group 1 - up to and including 25 years - and group 2 - from 26 years.

Table 4: Results on the scale depending on the age variable 


Nearly half of the people surveyed in our study have suffered partner violence. The type of violence that occurs with the highest percentage is psychological, followed by sexual and physical, as well as, but to a lesser extent, economic violence. With regards to identity, people with female identity suffer more physical violence, while the level of severity is similar for both identities. People with female identity suffer more economic, sexual violence and also a ban from the use of protection methods. Psychological violence is also greater in female identity except for items 9 and 11. This data highlights what some authors point out (Rodríguez et al., 2015) about violence as a demonstration of power by the “normative member” of the couple. The gender violence experienced by women at the hands of their partners is based on a patriarchal society. The violence suffered by transgender people can also be understood within the context of a patriarchal society built on heterosexism. The masculine and heterosexual man constitutes the center/core, the norm, to which both women and people that transgress the rigid model of two sexes/two genders and an heterosexual orientation are subordinated (Butler, 1990). Gender violence suffered by trans women may be influenced by the fact that gender stereotypes and roles, sexist and heteronormative attitudes are reproduced in the members of the couple. The "normative" member may exert violence on the "transgressive" member (Rodríguez et al., 2015). We believe that in this situation people with a female identity may suffer a double situation of discrimination for being trans and having a female identity, increasing the vulnerability of suffering violence. However, despite these differences observed between the two major identities, as in the research of Langenderfer-Madrufer et al. (12), the differences are not statistically significant. This may be due to the small sample of the study. It can also be explained because people with male identity suffer non-negligible percentages of violence. They can be as well subjected to violence because they are out of the expected and normative in society.

People with female identity suffer more PV in any way. It also seems like the consequences of asking for external help are also more negative for them. Our attention is drawn to the fact that those who declare themselves as women, despite being assigned as men at birth, suffer more PV even though they have received an education as such. Those who declare themselves as males, although being assigned as women at birth, suffer less PV even though they have received an education as such. This challenges some old assumptions, such as women’s education was a determining factor for them to remain in a relationship of violence. Likewise, men’s education was considered a determining factor for them to get out of it. It seems that focusing on the characteristics of the victim (at least regarding their education and enculturation in a particular gender role) does not explain the perpetuation of violence. Actually, the fact that the determinant factor is not sex (understanding it as sex of birth) but the performed gender (Butler, 1990) leads us to focus on the characteristics of the aggressor and their relationship with the performativity of the feminine gender. In the small sample of people, not including the majoritarian identities (female / male), a lower incidence of PV is observed.

Over half of the sample asks for help. People with female identity request more support and usually do so to more than one resource. In the majority of the cases of people with female identity who asked for help, this violence remained or increased, while in those with male identity it ceased or remained. A significant part of the total sample considers that the LGTBI collective does not have adequate institutions. In the same vein, other international studies (Ristock, 2005; Díaz and Núñez, 2015) had already noticed this inability of services to cover this problem. The help provided by the institutions is focused on women who suffer gender violence. Current laws do not contemplate the provision of specific aid to trans people who are in this situation. This could cause them to not know where to go for help and when, or for the help provided to be inadequate and/or insufficient. In addition, many people may not seek help due to fearing repercussions, as well as to face situations of homophobia and isolation.

Regarding the age variable, older people have suffered significantly higher levels of violence. They have suffered more violence in all its manifestations. The lower information and training that this age group has received stands out. We believe that the visibility of the collective and the information benefits young people from suffering less violence.

This study presents some limitations. The total sample size does not allow for the generalization of the results, especially in those people with non-majority identities.

Mainly in the last decade trans people have been manifesting and positioning themselves as subjects of full right in society. From this point of view, it is necessary to investigate the characteristics of the PV in trans people and thus detect what their needs are and, consequently, design the most appropriate interventions and resources.


The type of violence that the study participants suffer the most is psychological, followed by sexual and physical, and to a lesser extent, economic violence. Regarding their identity, people with female identity experienced more physical, economic, sexual and psychological violence. In addition, when they requested help, the violence remained or increased.

Particularly in the last decade, trans people have been manifesting and positioning themselves in society as subjects of full right. From this point of view, it is necessary to investigate the characteristics of partner violence in transgender people and thus detect what their needs are, and accordingly design the most appropriate interventions and resources.


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Note:Authors' participation: a) Conception and design of the work; b) Data acquisition; c) Analysis and interpretation of data; d) Writing of the manuscript; e) Critical review of the manuscript. M.F ha scontributed in a, b, c, d, e; P.G in a, c, d, e; V.C in a, c, d, e; M.N in a, c, d, e; M.M in a, c, d, e; N.M in a, c, d, e

Correspondence: María Fernández Rodríguez. Centro de Salud Mental I “La Magdalena”. Valdés Salas, 4, 33400 Avilés, Asturias. Teléfono: 985 54 92 19. Email: Patricia Guerra, Email: Verónica Concha, Email: María Neir, Email:

How to cite this article: Fernández, M., Guerra, P., Concha, V., Neir, M., & Martínez, N. (2019). Partner violence in people with gender dysphoria. Ciencias Psicológicas,13(2), 185-196 doi: 10.22235/cp.v13i2.1871

Received: December 10, 2018; Accepted: June 11, 2019

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