Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Sociology & Criminal Justice


Criminology and Criminal Justice

Committee Director

Vanessa R. Panfil

Committee Member

Ruth Triplett

Committee Member

Allyn Walker

Committee Member

Jace Valcore


The field of criminology and criminal justice have widely ignored the experience of being a trans person and interacting with the criminal legal system, despite the reality that trans folx experience discrimination and harm at the hands of criminal legal practitioners. This dissertation explores these experiences, as well as how trans folx navigate a myriad of other issues to include their identity and institutional discrimination. Trans folx are not guaranteed many protections or rights in the United States which leaves them at an especially vulnerable position when entering the criminal legal system. Essentially, trans folx are forced to navigate a society and various systems (housing, employment, medical, criminal legal) which have historically ignored their existence and may even place them in harm’s way because of how they identify. This research seeks to explore the questions of: What are trans people experiencing in their daily lives? What are the experiences of a diverse group of trans people with the criminal legal system? These research questions were investigated using a queer praxis that combined queer theory, intersectionality, and critical race theory. In-depth, semi-structured interviews center the narratives of trans folx who had experiences with the criminal legal system, in order to understand the impact of these situations.

Using this queer praxis alongside a community-based study, 44 interviews with trans folx were conducted to understand narratives centering on the trans experience from identity development, to institutional discrimination, criminal legal experiences, perceptions of the criminal legal system, and policy implications. Highlighting these experiences and the resilience of the participants is important to provide a glimpse into the challenges and triumphs that participants faced. In a society currently fixated on policing gender modality in bathrooms, on sports teams, and in medical offices, it is vital to listen to trans folx, who are the experts on their own lives. The final chapter discusses the author’s recommendations and conclusions.


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