If you google “sex trafficking” the images that come up are bound hands, high heels, lipstick, barcode tattoos, and faces of females.
There is a deeply embedded stereotype in the United States that only females are sex trafficked here.
But that is not true.
The reality is that many boys and men are exploited and trafficked, but we often leave out an important and highly sought after demographic in our conversations, research, and education.
Transgender and non-binary youth and adults.
Research and anecdotal evidence shows that gender minorities are targeted by traffickers and have many vulnerabilities that abusers use to their advantage (Sex Trafficking of Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Youth in the United States (luc.edu))
Women who are trafficked on the streets often disclose that transgender victims are picked up by buyers more than anyone else.
For buyers, a lot of it goes back to the motivation for buying sex in the first place.
There is typically a sexual fantasy that buyers want to play out when they are paying for sex. This fantasy is fueled by habitual porn use, loneliness, and thrill seeking in the buyer’s life (Facts About Men Who Buy Sex - Demand Abolition).
For many buyers, they want to try a sex act or have a sexual experience they’ve never had before.
This comes at the cost of a transgender victim being repeatedly raped and humiliated over and over. Survivors repeatedly share that their encounters with buyers are extremely violent and degrading.
As we think about what we’ve been taught about sex trafficking, we have to expand our thinking to include anyone with a vulnerability. That means females, males, and transgender youth and adults are all being targeted. If you see that something is “off” even if it doesn’t fit into a trafficking stereotype.
For more information and accurate facts on human trafficking, check out the Polaris Project (Human Trafficking - Polaris (polarisproject.org)) or contact REHOPE for a community presentation (REHOPE | Services for Women and Children in Human and Sex Trafficking).