, Volume 67, Issue 9-10, pp 516-527

How Do U.S. Students Perceive Trans Persons?

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Abstract

This study explored undergraduate students’ interpersonal responses, namely general feelings toward and desire for further social interaction with trans persons in a helping context. Secondarily, this study explored the relationship between participants’ intrinsic empathy, interpersonal curiosity and interest in further interaction. Two hundred fifty-one undergraduates at a moderate sized university in the southeastern United States served as participants. In order to assess baseline levels of empathy and curiosity, participants in session 1 completed the Interpersonal Reactivity Scale (Davis 1983) and the Interpersonal Curiosity Scale (Litman and Pezzo 2007). One week later, during session 2, the same students assumed the role of a peer counselor and read 1 of 4 (male, female, male-to-female, female-to-male) randomly assigned versions of an intake form completed by a fictitious peer client. Each version was identical, with the exception of the gender identity of the peer client. Participants completed various measures of affect and interest in further interaction. Male participants reported less willingness to interact with, and the strongest negative feelings toward the FTM peer client. Men reported highest willingness to interact with the MTF client and showed the lowest negative reactions towards the MTF client. Female participants’ scores on willingness to interact and on negative reactions were similar across all four intake form versions. Contrary to expectations, baseline levels of empathy and curiosity did not impact responses to gender expression. Further investigation is needed to elucidate the factors associated with anti-transgender prejudice particularly in the context of helping relationships.

Portions of this paper were previously presented as posters at the Annual Conventions of the American Psychological Association, San Diego, CA. 2010 and Boston, MA, 2008.