Defining Safety & Security for the Transgender Community

Project Description:
The project started with a simple idea to explore the
unknown and learn more about social problem. The key objective was to study a specific community to better understand their needs and behaviors through design research. We decided to choose our topic as Safety and Security in the Transgender community.

Duration: 3 week (2017)
Project Advisor: Catherine Lovazzano & Alexandra Michaelides
Project Skills: Design Research, Primary Interviews & Synthesis
Team Members: Fangia Tian, Manasi Saraswate, Priyanka Saha

2017 the deadliest year for colored Transgender women.

According to Human Rights Campaign, 2017 has seen 25 transgender people fatally shot or killed by other violent means. Transgender people come from all walks of life. They are dads and moms, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. They are your coworkers, and your neighbors. They are 7-year-old children and 70-year-old grandparents. Transgender is a diverse community, representing all racial and ethnic backgrounds, as well as faith backgrounds.

The objective of our research was to understand how the transgender community defines safety and security and how do they seek it.

User Interview (Primary Research Method)

While choosing the Transgender community as our topic we thought it would be easy for us to meet with a lot of individuals as San Francisco has a lot of organizations working for the community. But soon realized it was challenging to find individuals who would want to speak to us and how reserved the community was to discuss the topic of Safety & Security. Framing the right questions was key as it was a sensitive community that we were trying to understand.

We walked around the Castro neighborhood observing and speaking to people.

We sat in Wicked Grounds for 3 hours everyday hopping to get interviews as it was challenging.

We approached the SF LGBT Center to speak to organizations involved, but din’t get any response.

We interviewed 5 transgender individuals from different backgrounds and environments. We visited Wicked Grounds Coffee and Mission Neighborhood Resource Center where we conducted fly on the wall observations and interviews of visitors who agreed to share their experiences with us.

Card Sorting (Generative Research Method)

To get deeper understanding we conducted a small activity with the participants to observe certain things that they might not have been comfortable in sharing regarding the topic of Safety and Security. We tried to discover how people think and make sense of the information that we presented before them. We used Hybrid Card Sorting technique where participants were given 50 cards each and 2 categories SAFE and UNSAFE. The participants were asked to sort cards into these categories and they could create their own categories as well if needed.

The most occuring cards in each category were:

Friends | Self-Esteem | Self-Acceptance |
Justice | Intimacy | Disappoint

Verbal Assault | Public Transportation | Discrimination |
Loan | Health Insurance | Physical Assault

Content Synthesis

Post primary interviews and generative research, we started synthesizing the data by clustering common content in different buckets. We represented each bucket under different headings which lead us to an understanding about the communities feeling, challenges and experiences.

The topic areas that showed up after synthesis were:

1. Goals or Aspiration: Everyone has goals and aspirations in spite of their life struggles.

2. Transition: Everyone has different experiences during their identity transition phase.

3. Other Major Issues: Other political and financial factors affecting the transgender community.

4. Emotions: A varied range of feelings and concerns.

5. Around Safety: Defining factors that define Safety & Security.

To understand personalities, behaviors and motivations we placed each individual we interviewed on multiple spectrums. This helped us in identifying some patterns through which we observed the following:

Observations & Insights

In the end we tried to frame insights based on the observations we made post synthesis of the data.

Action Statement

How might we redesign a more inclusive sex education program in schools to create awareness about the transgender community.

The Transgender Community defines Safety and Security as...

Being safe is your present condition - it’s the current status of your well-being. But security is all about the future. So will your situation today remain the same tomorrow?


Working on projects teaches you new methods, tools, and skills but in some, it changes you as an individual. Unerased was one of such where it changed my perspective towards communities around me. It reaffirmed the importance of being inclusive in every decision we take be it as a designer or even a human being. Design teaches us to be in someone else's shoes to understand them, but there are experiences and perspectives that we can never completely understand. The biggest learning for me has been that active listening is a key part of the design research process, which can help us empathize with individuals and communities you can never completely understand without being through the experiences.

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