The latest FBI Hate Crime Report from 2019 shows 19.4% of hate crimes were against LGBTQ+, the highest percentage since 2013. What’s more, 2021 was the deadliest year on record for trans and non-conforming people. For black and Latinx trans women, the risk for violence is disproportionately worse. And with the increase in anti-trans and LGBTQ+ rhetoric and legislation, such as Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the already frightening numbers of 2021 may be surpassed this year. 

The transgender and non-confirming community, which consists of an estimated 2 million Americans, faces unique challenges when it comes to self-defense and personal protection. Many are uncomfortable reporting hate crimes, while others have had bad experiences when they do report. And with the LBGTQ+ community’s long and complicated history with law enforcement, many do not trust the system will protect them.

Therefore, the need to provide personal protection falls on the individual, and here are five ways to

Stay Alert and Aware

Self-defense starts well before a violent encounter occurs. It begins with awareness of your surroundings and being on the alert for potential threats. Don’t passively walk down the street. Instead, stand tall and confident, watch those around you, and assess the danger. Avoid using your phone or having earbuds in, as criminals specifically target unsuspecting people. Taking a local self-defense class can also enhance your awareness and confidence when it comes to personal protection (here’s how you can find one near you).

Avoid the Unknown

Personal protection includes keeping yourself out of high-risk situations. Don’t go places alone, especially at night. If you must, stick to open, well-lit streets and plan your journey in advance so you know where you’re going. Don’t take shortcuts through alleys, parks, or wooded areas and attempt to be where people are. It’s also good to know where ally businesses are and when they are open in case you find yourself in an unsafe situation.

Make a Scene

If you end up in a situation where you feel you may be in danger, trust your instincts. Get to an area where there are people. If someone is following you, turn around and look at them. Gather any identifying information possible, including size and build, hair color, clothing, tattoos, birthmarks, or piercings. If they continue to pursue you, do what you can to get away. If you can’t get away, make a scene to draw attention to the situation. Scream. Yell. Toss a brick through a store window. The more unpredictable you can be, the more you throw the perpetrator off their guard. If they lose confidence in their ability to victimize you or fear they may get caught, they may leave.

Don’t Cooperate

If an encounter occurs, don’t cooperate with the criminal. If they ask for your bag, throw it past them. If they come within your personal space where they can physically put their hands on you, try to get away. Use whatever you have within reach to protect yourself. If an attacker tries to get you into a vehicle or to leave the scene, fight with everything you have. You never want to leave with the perpetrator if you can help it. Scratch their eyes, kick them in the groin, and do whatever you have to do to get away. Once a victim enters a vehicle, the incidence of violence and death grows exponentially.

Carry a Personal Protection Device

Many people feel more confident when they carry a personal protection device. Noisemakers like whistles can draw the attention of others nearby, as can a flashing strobe light. For those who want more to protect themselves, consider a stun gun, like the Strikelight 2, or a TASER Self-defense device. These less-than-lethal devices can stop a perpetrator in their tracks while offering you the security of personal protection.

While transgender and non-conforming folks are at a higher risk for unprovoked violence, there are actions you can take to increase your personal protection and focus on self-defense.