DAY ELEVEN: Anti-Abortion Ideology on the Move: Examining Mobile Crisis Pregnancy Centers

You likely wouldn’t think of volunteers at crisis pregnancy centers—unregulated anti-abortion non-profit organizations that masquerade as health clinics—as the backbone of the anti-abortion movement. But this industry has become a primary mechanism through which the anti-abortion movement spreads its ideology writes Carly Thomsen. 

Carly Thomsen

Featured image: “Smiling “doctors” advertising the CPC” sourced by Carly Thomsen.

When you think of who makes up the anti-abortion movement, you might imagine activists protesting in the streets. Or political lobbyists working with conservative lawmakers to enshrine their beliefs into law. Or religious leaders condemning abortion. You likely wouldn’t think of volunteers at crisis pregnancy centers—unregulated anti-abortion non-profit organizations that masquerade as health clinics—as the movement’s backbone.

But the crisis pregnancy center (CPC) industry has become the primary mechanism through which the anti-abortion movement spreads anti-abortion ideology. Indeed, the anti-abortion movement invests more time and resources into CPCs than any other aspect of their work. Such funneling of resources reflects the anti-abortion movement’s belief that CPCs are a useful site from which they can make mobile anti-abortion sentiment and enact what we ought to consider gender-based violence under the guise of care and concern.

Deception is central to this work. Scholars, reporters, and activists have illustrated what CPCs’ deceptive practices look like: disguising their political and religious motivations; implying that they offer abortions when they do not; opening near abortion clinics with the intention of confusing and thus hijacking those en route to the clinic; and peddling false information regarding abortion.

Scholars found, for example, that 80% of crisis pregnancy center websites listed in state resource directories for pregnant women include false or misleading medical information, including that abortion leads to breast cancer, infertility, and mental health issues, among other claims that have been repeatedly proven false.

Such inaccurate information is given credence by the aesthetic decisions of CPCs, which suggest that they are medical clinics when they are not. For instance, some CPC volunteers wear white lab coats and some CPC websites include medical imagery. Perhaps more worrisome, CPCs also increasingly offer free ultrasounds, although they do not make clear to clients that these ultrasounds are meant to be “non-diagnostic,” and therefore are not medical in nature.

Recently, the CPC industry has started to take their anti-sex, anti-abortion messages on the road, using mobile on-the-go buses and vans to extend their geographic and political reach. Mobile CPCs use many of the same strategies that brick-and-mortar CPCs use; however, their geographic slipperiness raises additional concerns beyond those associated with stationary CPCs.

First, mobile CPCs are able to park immediately outside of abortion clinics, allowing them to get closer to abortion seekers than brick-and-mortar CPCs can. Second, their mobility allows them to travel along routes that can constantly shift; this unpredictability and nimbleness makes more difficult possibilities for anti-CPC resistance. Third, mobile CPCs spread anti-abortion messages while in transit, quite literally moving around anti-abortion sentiment in ways that brick-and-mortar CPCs simply cannot. Fourth, if we listen to what the CPC industry tells us, mobile units are allowing the anti-abortion movement to more effectively target low-income women, women of color, and women in rural areas. Lastly, mobile CPCs will be even more difficult to regulate than brick-and-mortar CPCs.

If a city or state were to pass laws restricting the activities of CPCs in their jurisdiction—as most states and the federal government have done regarding abortion—mobile crisis pregnancy centers could simply drive to a neighboring area without these same laws in place, a problem that would remain even if passing legislation to regulate brick-and-mortar CPCs became common.

Despite these problems, there are no state or federal laws regulating mobile CPCs and there are no large-scale feminist campaigns directed specifically at mobile CPCs. In fact, we don’t even know exactly how many mobile CPCs exist. In the U.S., where the anti-abortion movement has utilized mobile CPCs more than in any other country, estimates of the numbers of mobile CPCs in circulation range from 170 to 260. (For context, there are approximately 2600 brick-and-mortar CPCs in the U.S. and just 700 abortion clinics.) While the U.S. is the epicenter of the CPC industry, CPCs exist in more than 100 countries. They are clearly a global problem. According to a Heartbeat International database, there are, for instance, 249 CPCs in the United Kingdom. And there are eight mobile CPCs outside of the U.S.

Regardless of the scale at which mobile crisis pregnancy centers operate, they raise concerns worthy of consideration by scholars, policy makers, and activists—especially because the anti-abortion movement is increasingly using mobile units to spread Evangelicalism, medical misinformation, and anti-abortion ideology. In so doing, mobile CPCs, like brick-and-mortar CPCs, raise serious public health and data privacy concerns.

Mobile CPCs, therefore, should encourage those of us on the political left to re-think the positive affects that tend to stick to mobility and movement. Mobile crisis pregnancy centers use their mobility to reproduce dominant power relations, further entrenching the sexism, racism, and classism of the status quo through remaking the spatiality of reproductive politics.

In short, mobile CPCs demonstrate that movement and mobility can thwart people’s opportunities to develop liberatory imaginaries, desires, and futures. While CPCs’ mobility has created new possibilities for the anti-abortion movement to capitalize on people’s marginalization and enact the kinds of gendered violence inherent within anti-abortion activism, it also could inspire new forms of abortion justice and anti-gendered violence activism. We might just have to hit the road to do it. 

Author’s Bio

Carly Thomsen is assistant professor of gender, sexuality, and feminist studies at Middlebury College. She is the author of Visibility Interrupted: Rural Queer Life and the Politics of Unbecoming from the University of Minnesota Press (2021) and directed and produced In Plain Sight, a documentary short that extends the arguments of this book. For more information about the film, visit http://www.inplainsightdocumentary.com. She’s currently completing a book about queer reproductive politics. Learn more about Thomsen’s research and teaching at www.carlythomsen.com.

DAY TEN: Dowry abuse and exit trafficking in the transnational context  

Sara Singh sits down with Prof Manjula O’Connor, psychiatrist, researcher and advocate, to talk about the issue of dowry abuse in the transnational context and the use of exit trafficking by perpetrators to abandon victim-survivors overseas.

Sara Singh and Manjula O’Connor

Featured image: Couple crossing last fingers, reproduced from Shutterstock.

Sara Singh sits down with psychiatrist, researcher and advocate Professor Manjula O’Connor to talk about dowry abuse in the transnational context and the use of exit trafficking by perpetrators to abandon victim-survivors overseas.

In recent years, there has been growing awareness amongst policymakers, service providers and community members in Australia of the issue of dowry abuse. Defined as the use of ‘coercion, violence or harassment associated with the giving or receiving of dowry at any time before, during or after marriage’, dowry abuse is a form of domestic and family violence (DFV) that disproportionately affects women, girls and their families.

Whilst historically the practice of dowry in Indian societies was intended as a means of empowering women and providing them with a measure of economic and financial security as they began a new chapter in their lives as married women, in modern times the practice has been exploited by many individuals who utilise it as a tool for obtaining and/or accumulating wealth and money.

Research has highlighted how men and their families may make excessive demands for dowry and perpetrate various forms of abuse against women and their families to coerce them to accede to their dowry demands. At the same time, perpetrators may abuse women in retaliation for providing what they perceive to be ‘inadequate’ or ‘insufficient’ dowry.

“If the groom or his family believe that the amount of dowry given was not sufficient, then that starts to give rise to all kinds of abuse, including demands and extortion”, says O’Connor, who has spent more than a decade supporting women who have experienced dowry abuse in Australia.

According to O’Connor, one of the main factors facilitating the perpetration of dowry abuse is the power imbalance that often exists between perpetrators and victim-survivors. In transnational marriages, this power imbalance is often heightened, creating further opportunities for abuse. Research has highlighted how globalisation and international migration have generated and reinforced inequalities in power, status and socioeconomic opportunities between countries and regions. These inequalities can have implications for marriage and dowry negotiations.

O’Connor highlights how non-resident Indian (NRI; i.e., an individual with Indian citizenship who has migrated to a foreign country) men living in Australia may be perceived by residents in their country of origin as highly attractive candidates for marriage due to their NRI status and the potential social and economic opportunities that their residency in Australia provides. In these circumstances, NRI men may leverage their Australian residency status to demand greater dowry from women and their families. “The marriage prospect of an Australian resident back in South Asia…for example in India, they are very good…” says O’Connor. “They are seen to be far superior as compared to the local grooms and that increases the value of the groom in terms of the dowry amount.”

In many cases of dowry abuse in transnational contexts, the victim-survivor may also be reliant on the perpetrator for visa sponsorship into the country the perpetrator is residing in. This dynamic contributes to the power imbalance between the perpetrator and the victim-survivor, creating further avenues for abuse. 

O’Connor notes how perpetrators, for there may be multiple, may exploit their position as the victim-survivor’s visa sponsor to demand additional dowry. These demands may be reinforced by threats by the perpetrator to withdraw their sponsorship of the victim-survivor’s visa if the victim-survivor does not accede to the perpetrator’s demands. In this way, perpetrators coerce and control victim-survivors, and instil a sense of fear in them.

O’Connor also highlights cases where the perpetrator has, after receiving large amounts of dowry from the victim-survivor and her family, tricked or coerced the victim-survivor to return to her country of origin, and then abandoned her there and withdrawn sponsorship of her visa, leaving her unable to re-enter Australia. “What I have seen is that there are some grooms who are able to fraudulently send their wife back home under false pretense, and when she’s there, have removed their sponsorship and cut off all connections with her and confiscated the dowry given”, says O’Connor.

This tactic of deceiving or coercing victim-survivors to return to their country of origin, and subsequently abandoning them there, is termed ‘exit trafficking’. Defined as the use of coercion, threat or deception to make an individual leave the country, exit trafficking is a criminal offence in Australia (see s 271.2(1A), Sch 1, Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth)), with offenders liable to a maximum sentence of 12 years imprisonment if found guilty of the offence.

Despite the criminalisation of exit trafficking in Australia, however, community awareness around the issue remains low. Victim-survivors of exit trafficking are often unaware that the perpetrator’s conduct amounts to a criminal offence and that they can be supported to legally re-enter Australia.

“Most women do not know that they are able to return back to Australia under this particular law which says that exit trafficking is illegal and a criminal offence”, states O’Connor.

Currently, multiple services in Australia assist victim-survivors of exit trafficking. The Australian Federal Police (AFP), for example, investigates cases of exit trafficking, supports victim-survivors, and offers referrals to other relevant support services. One such support service is the Australian Red Cross, which is funded by the Department of Social Services to run a support program for individuals who have experienced trafficking. The ultimate decision around whether a victim-survivor of exit trafficking can stay in Australia rests with the Department of Home Affairs.

As O’Connor notes, more work needs to be done to develop community awareness around the issue of exit trafficking in the context of dowry abuse, so that victim-survivors are aware of their legal rights under Australian law and can access appropriate services for support and assistance. “I think that the most important thing is education of the community and women”, says O’Connor. “It’s very important that [victim-survivors] are given the information that in the case of domestic violence or any threats of trafficking that they should connect with the police and relevant services straightaway”.

Authors’ bios 

Manjula O’Connor is a Psychiatrist with four decades of experience. She is also an applied researcher and a published author. Her primary area of interest for past 10 years has been family violence and mental health in immigrant communities. She chairs the Royal Australian NZ College of Psychiatrists Family Violence Psychiatry Network and is an Honorary Associate Professor at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, as well as an Adjunct Professor at the UNSW School of Social Sciences. Manjula co-founded the Australasian Centre for Human Rights and Health in 2012 and advocates against family violence in immigrant communities. Manjula led the public dowry abuse campaign in Australia that led to the inclusion of laws against dowry abuse in the Victorian Family Violence Protection Act and triggered the Federal Senate Enquiry into dowry abuse. She is a member of South Asian Community Ministerial Advisory Council, and aa White Ribbon Advocate. Manjula’s work has been cited in the Victorian Parliament and the Federal Australian Parliament several times. Manjula was a member of the steering group that organised the Second National Dowry Abuse Summit.  

Sara Singh is a Research Assistant at the Gendered Violence Research Network (GVRN), UNSW Sydney. She has a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and a Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice from UNSW and has worked across various research projects in the fields of criminology and social work. She is interested in research aimed at informing policy development and best practice responses to individuals and communities impacted by gendered violence and has undertaken research in areas such as domestic and family violence, and economic and financial abuse. In 2020, Sara was awarded a UNSW Scientia PhD scholarship. Her PhD research explores perceptions and experiences of dowry and dowry abuse of women from Indian communities in Australia.  

DAY TEN: Whose Success, Whose Story? Indian Women on dependent visa

The narratives of migration experiences are predominantly male-oriented. Women have always been part of the migratory journey, but they are often left unseen and unheard. Read about the story of Rashmita and the violence of dependency perpetuated by the state in the form of a dependent visa.

Tasha Agarwal

Featured image: bastamanography, http://www.bastamanography.id/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Rashmita Das from Maharashtra is a software engineer and a proud employee of a multinational firm. She is proud because she has always been an achiever and has bagged this reputed position, which paid her lakhs (hundreds of thousands of rupees), in the first round of placement held during the final year of her college. Being an educated and financially independent woman, she had her dreams, aspirations and expectations for herself. Her family arranged for a groom from the same profession, working in the US on an H1B visa offered to foreign workers in particular occupations. She married him and got settled in the US on a dependent visa known as an H4 visa. What followed in the aftermath of her migration was the unanticipated turn of her life, shattering her dreams and confidence. She found that she does not have permission to work on an H4 visa. She was scared and worried about the idea of being confined at home. The restriction on work meant that she would be financially dependent on her husband for every need, which was hard for her to accept. She could not understand why she cannot work when she was skilled enough to work. In fact, in many instances, she would help her husband in his office work at home but yet she was the dependent.

The charm and excitement of the ‘American Dream’ started fading away, and she felt lonely most of the time, confined at home. Family and friends in India would explain to her how lucky she was to be in the US and that she should stop complaining. Her loneliness turned into anger, frustration and depression. Her husband Manav could never understand why Rashmita was always talking about the need to have a job when she could have the luxury of staying at home and enjoying life. But that is not what she wanted. All she was longing for was to have an identity for herself. Manav’s sympathy soon turned into frustration, and there were frequent spells of verbal clashes, which later turned into physical abuse. Later they had a child in the hope of fixing their issues and easing her loneliness. However, things did not change much. The physical and verbal abuse became more frequent, and she started contemplating the idea of getting a divorce. She was devastated to know that in the case of divorce the principal visa holder gets custody of the child. Her visa becomes invalid because the H4 visa holder is dependent on the principal visa holder. She would have to leave the country without her child. In the blink of an eye, she felt that she lost everything. She was forced to continue in an abusive relationship to be with her child.

The narratives of migration experiences are predominantly male-oriented. Women have always been part of the migratory journey, but they are often left unseen and unheard. The story of Rashmita Das resonates with many other women in the US on an H4 visa. Though the magnitude of the issue may vary from case to case, the dependency perpetuated by the state in the form of a dependent visa has impacted many women in the US.

Every year approximately 85000 Indians leave India to join the labour market in the US on an H1B visa. There is a parallel migration stream with an approximately equal number of spouses of these H1B visa holders. Data shows that due to the systematic exclusion of women in the labour market, almost 80% of the H1B visas petitions are filed by men; implying that most H1B visa holders are men and most H4 visa holders are women (USCIS, 2019, Balgamwalla, 2014). These H4 visa holders, despite being equally skilled and educated, are legally constrained from entering the labour market. Their immigration to the US and their continuity of stay are contingent on the principal visa holder, i.e., H1B holder. The visa restricts them from possessing a social security number or even a bank account which makes women completely dependent on their husbands.

The vulnerable space in which a woman is pushed due to such a visa is exploited by many men to perpetuate violence. There have been increasing cases of physical and verbal abuse, depression, and anxiety among several thousands of women who are forced into dependency by the state. Ironically, the US was the first country to organise a national movement for women’s rights in 1848 yet after several decades, a large chunk of women have been deprived of their right to live with dignity.

The state perpetuates the patriarchal notions of social roles by assigning superior positions to men through immigration laws. Despite the US being a land of opportunity, there is no level playing field within the immigrant household. On the one hand, H1B visa holders have ample scope to excel in their careers; on the other, their married women counterparts are pushed into the confines of domestic spaces where they can be trapped in abusive relationships.

While an article on 24th February 2009 from Forbes read ‘Indian Americans: The New Model Minority’ applauding Indian immigrants in the US for their achievements and successes. But the question to ask is–whose achievements and whose successes are we talking of? Whose success stories are we extrapolating under the banner of ‘Indian’s success story’?

Author’s Bio

Tasha Agarwal is presently working as a Consultant in the Ministry of External Affairs. She has a PhD degree from the School of Development Studies, Ambedkar University Delhi and an M. Phil degree in Educational Planning and Policy from NIEPA. Her research interest lies in the field of international migration and gender, refugees and education. She has been associated with several national as well as international projects by Stanford University, SAAPE, and NCERT. She has also worked with national-level education bodies to develop innovative learning tools such as audio-visual content, comic books etc.

DAY NINE: Missing Girls: Displacement, Disconnection and Criminalisation 

In this powerful piece, the authors reflect on missing women, seen as ‘runaways’ in Australia. These women’s experiences and the reasons for running away, are not questioned at all and seen as offenders who leave home as an act of rebellion in the first place. When they are found, it is usually because they have been in contact with the criminal justice system, which further disrupts their access to welfare and their community through incarceration.

Phillipa Evans, Peita Richards, BJ Newton and Maree Higgins

Featured image: shoe on train tracks, reproduced from iStock

Gendered research into contact with the criminal justice system overwhelmingly focuses on contextual vulnerabilities, life experiences, and the issue of recidivism versus rehabilitation for male offenders. Yet in Australia, statistics show that the number of women in contact with the criminal justice system is increasing. Between 2009–2019, the prevalence of women detained in correctional facilities rose by 49%, and the number of women in contact with the criminal justice system for violence-related offences increased from 38% to 46% between 2016-2017. Concerningly, many women in prison have experienced gender-based violence throughout their lives and are at increased risk of ongoing victimisation once they are released from custody. Despite this, research into female offenders, and how they have come to enter the criminal justice system, is still largely overlooked.  

Research has identified that girls and young women are more likely to come in contact with the criminal justice system after being reported missing, or ‘running away’. Studies in the United States confirm that as little as one-fifth of missing girls are reported to authorities, and Australia records an average of 38,000 missing persons each year.

So, we pose the question: where are the missing girls?  

We know that between 40–60% of missing persons are aged 13–17 years at the time of reporting. Previous research has found that girls are more likely to have contact with the criminal justice system after they are reported missing or classified as ‘runaways’ from Out-Of-Home Care, in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls are over-represented.

What we seek to know is: why are these girls only ‘found’ through contact with the criminal justice system? 

Displacement from family, community, and culture are significant factors when considering the experiences of, and decisions made by, missing girls. For these girls – often classified as ‘runaways’ – the period of time in which they are classified as ‘missing’ is fraught with challenges and fragmented service provision and engagement. Exposure to high-risk situations, such as homelessness, substance use, and exploitative sex work heightens their vulnerability. Engagement with service agencies may be sporadic or non-existent until after initial contact with the criminal justice system is made, further exacerbating displacement and disconnection.  

The term ‘runaway’ conjures up a mix of emotions regarding young women, often leading to stereotyping that their behaviour is an act of rebelliousness, or that they have a clear choice to leave home. The reason that girls run away is complex and may be due to reasons including child sexual abuse and family and domestic violence. When a girl runs away and cannot be located, she is classified as a missing person. However, when she re-emerges or is ‘found’ through contact with the criminal justice system, this welfare approach is disrupted. 

In these cases, girls and young women are instead labelled as ‘offenders’, and their displacement from family, community and culture is often reproduced through incarceration. Their lived experiences in those missing years are often ignored or treated as a mere afterthought during sentencing.   

It may be that the very nature of being classified as missing is more criminalising for girls than it is for boys with similar early life experiences, potentially including removal from the family of origin and placement in Out-Of-Home Care. The complexities of lived experience for girls and young women who go missing have significant implications for both their safety and well-being over the short and long term.

 Specifically, there is heightened concern about girls and young women with lived experience of sexual abuse and/or neglect being further exploited during the years in which they are formally missing. Of particular concern is their exposure to broader social challenges, such as homelessness, drug use, targeted sexual exploitation, and accidental deaths.  

There is uncertainty about how government and non-government service providers are best able to respond to these girls and young women, both after they appear in the criminal justice system, and through interventions that will prevent the commencement of offending in the first instance. Understanding missing girls’ experiences, including the impact of displacement and contextual vulnerability such as experiences of gender-based violence, will drive better outcomes and enable more meaningful engagement with partners, families, communities, and women themselves.  

Authors’ Bios 

Dr Phillipa Evans is the Chief Investigator on the ARC linkage grant – Missing Girls: From childhood runaways to criminalised women. A Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences at UNSW, Phillipa worked for over 18 years as a social worker in clinical, policy and academic roles across a variety of contexts including youth justice, child protection, and mental health. Phillipa is also currently working on an ARC linkage grant examining the effectiveness of a training and coaching program for youth justice custodial staff. This study aims to increase the interpersonal and behaviour management skills of youth justice staff through specialist training, coaching and supervision. 

Peita Richards is a social psychologist with an interdisciplinary academic history across justice studies, politics, and law. Having recently completed her PhD, Peita joined the School of Social Sciences at UNSW as the Research Associate for the ARC linkage grant – Missing Girls: From childhood runaways to criminalised women. A proud Wiradjuri woman, and former political analyst, Peita is dedicated to solution-based research. You can tweet her @peitalr  

Dr BJ Newton is a proud Wiradjuri woman and Scientia Senior Research Fellow at the Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Sydney. BJ’s research focuses on working in partnership with Aboriginal organisations to build evidence and support Aboriginal families interfacing with child protection systems. Her current research, Bring them home, keep them home, is the first of its kind to investigate the rates, outcomes and experiences of successful and sustainable restoration for Aboriginal children in out-of-home care. 

Dr Maree Higgins is a Senior Lecturer and convenor of the Social Work Honours Program and UNSW. Maree undertakes research on human rights priorities of people from refugee backgrounds, those with disability, older people, and missing girls. She is an Associate of the Australian Institute of Human Rights and is affiliated with the Forced Migration Research Network, the Kaldor Centre, and the Gendered Violence Research Network. You can tweet her @MareeHiggins  

DAY NINE: Migration and Violence:  The Question of trans* masculine persons in India 

In India, trans* masculine people face the risk of violence and displacement through forced migration and homelessness. Family resistance can take the form of conversion therapies and healers while trying to silence to avoid stigma. Sutanuka Bhattacharya and Bindu KC explores this issue in this insightful piece.

Sutanuka Bhattacharya / Suto and Bindu K. C.

Featured image: ‘Uprooted’ by Archee Roy (she/her), a queer visual artist based in Kolkata. Ink and water colour on paper, 16th October 2022 

Seeing Violence, Seeing Gender 

Thinking about gender is thinking about “normalcy”.  One does not “see” gender if one is comfortable in one’s gender identity. Thus, people who see themselves within the cis-hetero-sexist nexus need not think about gender as a system of power.  It is precisely this invisibility of normality that is any powerful system’s route to domination.   

Under these circumstances, an event of violence, in a flash, gives us a glimpse into what was always already at play. Like a scanner revealing the inner structure of the body, it allows us access to the violently structured world of power. Thus, it is not surprising then that the everyday of queer and trans* lives marred by violence opens up the process of gendering.   

On 22nd July and 1st September 2022, India saw a torrent of social media posts by the queer and trans* community about violence against transgender persons. In both the instances, Aditya and Shyam, two adult trans men from Uttar Pradesh were forced to leave their violent natal homes. They took refuge in shelter homes for transgender persons, run by Non-Governmental Organizations based in Delhi and Gurugram respectively. While Aditya found shelter in Garima Greh, a government-aided shelter home run by the Mitr Trust, Shyam sought shelter in Aasra run by The Transgender Welfare Equity and Empowerment Trust (TWEET) Foundation.  

21st July, post mid-night, Aditya was abducted from Garima Greh by the UP Police based on the “missing diary” lodged by his parents. At the same time, on 1st September afternoon, Shyam’s father, who was himself working with the UP Police, barged into Aasra searching for him. However, unable to find Shyam, his father forcefully brought the co-chairperson and the board member at TWEET, who also identify as trans men, to a Gurugram police station. At the police station they were physically assaulted, detained without documents and were threatened while the local police remained silent.    

Gender-based violence perpetrated by the institutions of family, education, medical sciencehealth care, judiciary, legislation, law and so on take diverse forms.

In this piece, we concentrate on the often methodically orchestrated violence leading to forced migration and resulting homelessness of trans* masculine persons. Such violence might be routine for various groups marginalized by gender and sexuality. However, even amongst less documented queer groups, the lived experiences of trans* masculine persons is striking. Their relative epistemic and ontological invisibility makes the world miss them as a category.   

Forced Migration and Homelessness 

Forced migration and homelessness among trans* masculine persons are often reported to be systematically orchestrated by natal families through physical violence or severe lack of support. For example, in both the cases we discuss, the trans men were forced to leave their natal homes because their family members refused to accept their self-identified gender and unleashed severe violence on them. Aditya was reported to be under house arrest for more than two years because his parents were ashamed of him; while Shyam, in his application for his stay at Aasra mentioned that his family members were planning to kill him or marry him to a cis–man against his consent.  

In most cases, family resistance starts when the trans* masculine persons either assert their non-normative gender identities and/or their non-normative sexual desires. Many parents at the initial stage try to hush this up fearing social stigma and the shame stemming from deep rooted trans negativity and homo–negativity. Further, parents and other family members might also take recourse to conversion therapies, performed by modern medical professionals or traditional healers with a hope to “cure and control their unruly daughters”.  

Gender–based violence unleashed on trans* masculine persons by their families entail psychological, physical and sexual violence, for example, denying their gender-sexual identities and desires, blackmailing in the name of family honour, house arrest, separating them from their romantic partners, forcing them to marry cis–men, restricting their mobility and access to resources such as food, education, communication, beating and “corrective” rape . There are also reported instances where trans masculine persons, unable to withstand societal and familial pressure, had even been forced to end their lives

Conclusion: Network of care, community spaces and their challenges 
There are glimmers of hope in alternative narratives amidst the deluge of violence against trans* masculine persons.  Occasionally, some find acceptance from their natal families. More often, they find safe spaces and care networks among friendships, community members and also within intimate relationships.  

Strangely, we find some stories of acceptance to be embedded within patriarchal ideas of gender.  In our society, intrinsically steeped with son preference, trans masculine persons—post–medical and legal transitions—taking up traditional masculine gender roles sometimes receive acceptance from natal families. However, most of the time, this acceptance comes at the cost of erasure of their gender-sexual transgressive past and hiding their gender-sexual journey. Moreover, in such cases, migration often becomes not just the trans person’s burden but that of the entire family. There are stories of entire families relocating to different localities, sometimes in the same city.   

The emerging shelter homes for queer and trans* persons across the country should be seen as possibilities of safe spaces institutionally. But the stories for existing shelter homes for cis women and children do not give much hope.  Till date, friendships and informal networks within the community remain safe spaces for trans migrations.  However, such friendships and care networks are still precarious.   

To conclude, one can see migration in trans* masculine persons’ lives, forced or otherwise, as stemming from unbearable violence within families and others whom young trans people might interact closely with. Under these circumstances, migration is both a cry for help and at the same time, the indomitable human urge to survive.  

Authors’ Bio 

Sutanuka Bhattacharya/ Suto (they/ them) is an activist-researcher based in India. They are pursuing a Doctor in Philosophy in Women’s and Gender Studies, Ambedkar University Delhi. Their doctoral thesis, titled ‘Writing Trans Subjectivities: Re-thinking gender-sexuality through identities and relationalities’, revolves around understanding contemporary trans masculine subjectivities in the context of India. At present, they are located in Kolkata and have also been associated with feminist, queer and trans* activist spaces in the city since 2005. Suto identifies as a non-binary queer person. 

Dr. Bindu K. C. (she/her) is an Assistant Professor in Gender Studies Programme, Dr B R Ambedkar University Delhi.