Manasi Saraswate


Research project exploring the voice of the Transgender community and uncovering facts that would help them feel safe, heard and included.


UnErased explores the unknown and the unheard, examining empathy’s role in human storytelling. Through generative design research methods, this project focused on uncovering the transgender community’s safety and security needs.

As a member of a multidisciplinary team of 4, I contributed in terms of interviews, generative design methods, and storytelling.

Design Research, Synthesis and Analysis

5 Weeks

Illustrator, Design Research Methods (Mind Mapping, Affinity Mapping, Card Sorting, Fly on the wall observations, Role Playing)

Catherine Howard Lovazzano
Alexandra Michaelides

Fangia Tian
Manasi Saraswate (me)
Priyanka Saha
Vishwajeet Sawant


"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."

-Human Rights Campaign, Understanding the Transgender Community

Transgender people come from all walks of life. The word “transgender” – or trans – is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned to us 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.





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 were willing to open up and share their story. The key to accessing this sensitive community was rooted in framing conscious questions and being mindful of the language that we are going to use. It was necessary to train ourselves accordingly.

1. Six interviews

  • Five self identified transgender people

  • One writer (BDSM and Sexuality)

2. ‘Fly on the Wall’ Observations


“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.”
- Shevecca, 38 yrs


“I love Chrysanthemums and hate guns. Vermont had all the retired army guys and guns were their toys. I couldn’t bear it anymore towards the end.”
- Zoa, 42 yrs


“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 yrs


"As an educator, I want my students to know how to address issues to question authority when something is wrong — to not tolerate injustice and live a life worth living. But look around, are we living a life worth living? Today - right now - transgender women of color are negatively targeted nationwide.”
- Cris, 28 yrs


Creating a one-sheet for each person helped us dive deep into their personal stories. The one-sheeters are like personas which helped us understand the stories better. It included the interview data and the data from other research methods as well.




In this activity, we tried to discover how people think about and make sense of the information that we present before them. We used the hybrid card sorting technique where participants were given 50 cards each related to their environments, emotions and the society; and 2 categories SAFE and SECURE. The participants were asked to sort cards into categories that were given and can create their own categories as well.




After gathering the data from the interviews, we started doing Affinity diagramming to get clear buckets of data which will then take us to insights. Out of this work, a story emerged about the interviewees, their environment and the nature of their problems. This exercise then led us to our Themes.



1. Goals or Aspiration

Everyone had goals and aspirations in spite of their life struggles. Some of them were: traveling the world, becoming a graphic designer, creating a safe space and supporting the community.

2. Transition

Transition is a sensitive issue, and everyone has different experiences during the transition phase. They feel safe talking to other transgender individuals.

3. Other Major Issues

There are other factors such as filtered sex education, financial issues and political instability affecting the transgender community.

4. Feelings

A varied range of feelings and concerns were observed from self-confidence and positivity in being critical.

5. Defining Safety

Certain factors define safety for the community. Being white, educated and owning a house or a car makes them feel safer. Whereas verbal, physical assault, bullying, high crime rates, and unacceptance for the community make them feel unsafe.


Variables and Patterns
A four-step process was followed to understand the interviewees better:

  1. Identifying and making a set of continuums using behaviors, attitudes, capabilities, or motivations, as the ends of each spectrum.

  2. Mapping the interviewees to each continuum.

  3. Identifying and describing the patterns.

  4. Defining key observations and insights.

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

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




The community does not want to talk about issues.


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

Transition is a sensitive topic.


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

Safety & Security varies within the community.


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



The aim was a telling a compelling story that can build empathy for the transgender community. The final deliverable was the narration of the captured stories. We role played our interviewees and narrated their stories to help the audience understand the community better and the issues they are facing regarding the safety and security.



1. Research methods:
Initially, we started this process as a normal research process that we would conduct. But as we progressed, we realized that the key to understanding this conservative community is to ask the right questions. Deciding on a generative method was also challenging. Iterating our research methods and process on the go was one of the significant key takeaways.

2. We have been taught to see the world in binary. It is black or white, men or women for us. But there is something beyond this. After the completion of this project, I, as a designer and as a human being have become more comfortable and mindful of the community and the entire research process. We attended the Pride March 2018 in San Francisco, and I now understand how people wait for this day to celebrate and express through colors.