This project focused on uncovering the transgender community’s safety and security needs through generative design research.

Project duration

5 weeks



Card sorting

Affinity mapping​​


Fangjia Tian (Me)   Manasi Saraswate

Priyanka Saha        Vishwajeet Sawant

My role

I led the interviewsmappings, and developing stories from research results.

What I learned

Being safe is the present condition — it’s the current status of an individual's well-being. Security is about the future. It is critical to first understand factors that affect both safety and security (i.e., present and future) of the transgender community.

About the transgender community

"Transgender people come from all walks of life. We are dads and moms, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. We are your coworkers and your neighbors. We are 7-year-old children and 70-year-old grandparents. We are a diverse community, representing all racial and ethnic backgrounds, as well as faith backgrounds. "

- Understanding the Transgender Community

The word “transgender” – or trans – is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned to them at birth. Although the word “transgender” and our modern definition of it only came into use in the late 20th century, people who would fit under this definition have existed in every culture throughout recorded history.

2017 was the deadliest year for colored transgender women


have attempted Suicide.


feel uncomfortable seeking help from the police.


transgender youth feel unsafe at school.


have experienced discrimination at work.


My role: I led 4 of the 6 interviews as the main interviewer.

In the beginning, 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 transgender community. We soon realized how challenging it was to find individuals who would be willing to speak to us and how reserved the community was to discuss the topic of safety and security.

We were able to conduct six interviews through multiple recruiting channels. We also quickly learned that it was key to frame the right interview questions for a sensitive community.​

Interview structure

Each interview lasted about 40 minutes and was roughly divided into three parts. 


Tell us about yourself. 

Where are you living?

What do you do?

Tell us how your regular day looks like.​

Safety and security issues


What are your thoughts about safety?

Where do you feel the safest? Could you narrate us an incident where safety concerns were involved?​

Identity and belongingness


Where do you see yourself in the next 5/10 years?

Could you tell us when did you know about your gender identity?

What were your initial thoughts during your transition period?

Quotes from interviews

Sheveca, 38

“I’m 6ft tall and athletic. So I personally feel safe even though there are things going on around me. The bulk of the crime scene here is not the crime against people, its crime against identity and property. My height and built are a privilege when it comes to safety.”

“In every decade, people have found groups to blame in the society.”

Christopher, 28

“I love Chrysanthemums and hate guns. Vermont had all the retired army guys and guns were their toys. I couldn’t bear it anymore...”

Zoa, 42

“People think you are their property. Misogyny and forces of you being trans — it’s just a lot. And then if you are black or brown, it’s another thing. I’m just saying that if I wasn’t white appearing, it could get worse for me.” 

Tavi, 22

“The safety concerns within the LGBTQ community is tremendous. Especially this year.”

Ted, 42

We developed stories for each interviewee. The stories helped us dive deep into their personal experiences related to safety and security. 

Card sorting

My role: I developed the 50 cards (terms) from what the interviewees had mentioned and a number of news articles about the transgender community. 

We used a hybrid card sorting technique where the six interviewees were given 50 cards each and 2 categories: Safe & Secure and Unsafe. The interviewees were asked to sort cards into the two given categories. They were allowed to create their own categories if needed.

Affinity diagramming

Most sorted cards in categories

My role: I led the research and planning of the affinity diagramming activity.

After gathering the data from the interviews, we started doing affinity diagramming in order to get clear buckets of data for insights. This analysis helped enhance the stories of the interviewees. We also identified common themes from the affinity diagrams.​


Everyone has goals and aspirations in spite of his or her life struggles.

Everyone has different experiences during the transition phase.

Safety and security are defined by a wide range of factors, including income, education, economic status, race, etc. 

Other factors like sex education, inequality, race, cost of living, etc. could have effects on the transgender community. 

A varied range of feelings and concerns exist in the transgender community.

Patterns of interviewees

We followed a four-step process to identify potential patterns among the interviewees. 

Identify a set of continuum using behaviors, attitudes, capabilities, or motivations, as the ends of each spectrum.

Map the interviewees to each continuum.

Visualize and describe possible patterns.

Develop key observations.

Skilled and Healthy individuals tend to be more stable and self-sufficient while feeling comparatively more caring about the community. 

Unskilled and Unhealthy individuals are less stable and are dependent while feeling alienated from the rest of the community. 



The transgender community generally avoids discussing safety and security issues.


The gender transition is a sensitive topic.


Safety and security vary for individual members of the community.


With violence against transgender people at an all-time high and rising, there is a sense of fear within the community.


Sex education is filtered and not inclusive of other genders in the society.


Multiple factors like financial stability, education, physical strength, and race contribute to the feeling of being safe and secure.


Understand interviewees first

Before actual interviews, it’s important to learn about the people as much as possible. Understanding them and speaking the same language as they create trust.

Be empathetic

When I ask questions and listen to responses, I need to maintain eye contact and really take in people’s stories. My body language and simple reactions can encourage people to open up.

Prepare good questions

It’s hard to ask questions about sensitive topics. I need to tweak questions well before interviews and make sure questions are unbiased and open. 

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