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Stay Safe When Using Ride-Sharing Apps: Tips for Transgender People and Their Allies

Transgender individuals using ride-sharing apps face risks of harassment and discrimination. Research shows persistent bias even after ride acceptance, with higher cancellation rates for riders perceived as Black or LGBTQ+. Tips for safety include checking driver ratings, sharing ride details, sitting in the back seat, and keeping phones charged. Allies can help by sharing rides, advocating for policy changes, and staying connected with transgender friends and family members.

In an era where convenience is king, ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft have revolutionized transportation. For transgender individuals, these services can be both a blessing and a potential source of danger. Unfortunately, ride-sharing apps’ anonymity and lack of accountability can result in situations where drivers who do not understand or respect transgender passengers’ identities harass, discriminate against, or even endanger them.

As an older trans woman, I’ve navigated these challenges and want to share insights and strategies to help you or your loved ones stay safe when using ride-sharing services. Here, we’ll explore real-world examples of how transgender people have been targeted, and provide practical tips to prevent injury or being left stranded by a discriminatory driver.

Examples of Discrimination and Danger

While ride-sharing services strive to maintain a safe and inclusive environment, the reality can be starkly different for transgender passengers. Here are a few examples of incidents that highlight the risks:

Harassment and Discrimination

  • Trans Woman in Los Angeles: A trans woman was verbally harassed by a driver who made derogatory comments about her gender identity throughout the ride. Feeling unsafe, she had to endure the ride until she reached her destination, too fearful to confront the driver or request an immediate stop.
  • A Non-Binary Individual in New York: The victim was refused a ride after the driver realized they were non-binary. The driver asked invasive questions about their gender and ultimately asked them to leave the vehicle, leaving them stranded in an unfamiliar area late at night.

Physical Danger

  • Physical Assault in Chicago: A transgender man, faced physical assault after a driver became aggressive upon realizing Ben was transgender. The situation escalated quickly, and Ben was forced to defend himself until he could escape the vehicle.

These incidents underscore the importance of being vigilant and prepared when using ride-sharing services. Here are some steps you can take to stay safe.

Tips for Staying Safe

Before the Ride

Taking a few precautionary steps before you get into a ride-sharing vehicle can significantly enhance your safety and peace of mind. By preparing in advance, you can ensure that you have the necessary tools and information to handle any unexpected situations that might arise. Here are some essential tips to follow before you embark on your journey:

  1. Check Driver Ratings and Reviews: Always review the driver’s ratings and read any comments left by previous passengers. High ratings generally indicate a safer and more professional driver.
  2. Share Your Ride Details: Use the app’s feature to share your trip details with a trusted friend or family member. This includes the driver’s name, car model, license plate number, and your real-time location.
  3. Plan Your Route: Familiarize yourself with the route to your destination. This helps you identify if the driver is taking unnecessary detours or straying from the expected path.
  4. Ensure Your Phone is Charged: Make sure your phone is fully charged before you request a ride. A charged phone is essential not only for communication but also for accessing the ride-sharing app and GPS in case you need to find another ride.

During the Ride

While in the ride, it’s crucial to remain alert and take proactive measures to ensure your safety and comfort. Here are some essential tips to help you stay secure throughout your journey:

  1. Sit in the Back Seat: This offers you more control over your personal space and makes it easier to exit the vehicle quickly if needed.
  2. Keep Your Phone Accessible: Have your phone in hand and be ready to use it. Keep the ride-sharing app open and be prepared to contact emergency services if necessary.
  3. Avoid Disclosing Personal Information: While small talk can be pleasant, avoid sharing details about your gender identity or personal life. If the driver asks invasive questions, you have every right to decline to answer.
  4. Trust Your Instincts: If something feels off, trust your gut. Request the driver to stop and let you out in a safe, public place if you feel threatened.

In Case of Harassment or Discrimination

Unfortunately, despite taking precautions, there may still be instances where you encounter harassment or discrimination during your ride. It’s crucial to know how to handle these situations calmly and effectively to ensure your safety and to hold the responsible parties accountable. Here are some steps to follow if you find yourself in such a scenario:

  1. Stay Calm: Responding with anger can escalate the situation. Stay calm and composed, and try to de-escalate any tension.
  2. Document the Incident: If safe to do so, record the conversation or take notes of the incident. This documentation can be crucial when reporting the driver to the ride-sharing company.
  3. Report Immediately: As soon as you are safe, report the incident to the ride-sharing company. They typically have policies against discrimination and harassment and can take action against the driver.

If You Are Forced to Exit the Vehicle

In some unfortunate cases, a driver may ask you to leave the vehicle before you reach your destination. This can be a distressing and potentially dangerous situation, especially if you are unfamiliar with the area or it is late at night. Here are essential steps to take if you find yourself forced to exit a ride-sharing vehicle to ensure your safety and well-being.

  1. Find a Safe Place: If you are asked to leave the vehicle, find a well-lit, public area such as a gas station or a business. Do not wander alone.
  2. Call for Help: Contact a friend, family member, or local authorities if you feel unsafe. Use the ride-sharing app to request another ride if necessary, but ensure you are in a safe location first.

Making Formal Complaints

If you experience discrimination or harassment while using a ride-sharing service, it’s crucial to know how to make a formal complaint to ensure that the driver is held accountable. Ride-sharing drivers are contract employees, meaning they can face consequences for violating company policies, but your report is necessary for the company to take action. Here are the steps to follow when making a formal complaint:

  1. Understand Your Rights: Ride-sharing drivers are contract employees, not direct employees of the company. This means they can face consequences for violating company policies, but the company needs your report to take action.
  2. Use the App’s Reporting Feature: Most ride-sharing apps have a built-in feature to report incidents directly through the app. Use this feature to provide details about the incident.
  3. Follow Up: After reporting, follow up with the ride-sharing company’s customer service. Provide any additional documentation or evidence you have.

Legal Protections

Navigating the legal landscape as a transgender individual can be challenging, but understanding your rights is crucial for ensuring your safety and well-being, especially when using ride-sharing services. Various federal and state laws provide protection against discrimination, and knowing these laws can empower you to take action if you face unfair treatment. Here’s an overview of the legal protections available and resources for seeking legal advice.

  1. Know Your Rights: In the United States, transgender individuals are protected under various federal and state laws against discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on gender identity. Additionally, many states have laws that specifically protect transgender people from discrimination in public accommodations, which includes ride-sharing services.
  2. Seek Legal Advice: If you believe your rights have been violated, consider seeking legal advice. Organizations like the ACLU (source) and Lambda Legal (source) offer resources and support for transgender individuals facing discrimination.

Allies: How You Can Help

Allies play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and well-being of transgender individuals using ride-sharing apps. Your support can make a significant difference, whether through direct actions like sharing rides or advocating for better policies. Here are some practical ways you can help your transgender friends and family members feel safer and more secure when using ride-sharing services:

  1. Offer to Share Rides: If possible, share rides with your transgender friends or family members. Your presence can provide an additional layer of security.
  2. Be an Advocate: Educate yourself and others about the discrimination transgender individuals face in ride-sharing scenarios. Advocate for stricter policies and protections within these companies.
  3. Stay Informed and Connected: Regularly check in with your transgender friends and family members to ensure they are safe and supported. Encourage them to share their ride details with you whenever they use a ride-sharing service.

The Bottom Line

Using ride-sharing apps should be a safe and convenient option for everyone, including transgender individuals. While there are risks, being prepared and vigilant can help mitigate these dangers. By following the tips outlined above, you can enhance your safety and navigate ride-sharing services with greater confidence.

For allies, your support and advocacy can make a significant difference. Together, we can work towards creating a safer and more inclusive environment for all transgender individuals.

Stay safe, stay strong, and remember that your safety and well-being are paramount. If you ever feel threatened or unsafe, trust your instincts and take action to protect yourself.

Founder of TransVitae, her life and work celebrate diversity and promote self-love. She believes in the power of information and community to inspire positive change and perceptions of the transgender community.


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