Ray Tanaka's high-pitched giggle is infectious. Yet the 51-year-old bears visible signs of less humorous times. Scars peaking through tightly cropped hair are telltale signs of severe beatings at the hands of a former partner who had transitioned to male.

While Tanaka's raggedy goatee is a symbol of masculinity, that girlish giggle is decidedly feminine. Tanaka identifies as genderqueer, or someone who defines their gender as being neither male nor female.

The beatings Tanaka was subjected to were often sparked by the most trivial of triggers. The very first time the abuser threw punches, he said Tanaka rattled the table during dinner with friends. At barely 160 centimeters tall, Tanaka struggled to fight back.