Reducing Transgender Stigma via an E-contact Intervention

Abstract

As a result of persisting stigma, transgender people experience vastly higher rates of harassment, violence, and mental health issues compared to cisgender people. The current study experimentally evaluated a computer-mediated intergroup contact strategy, called E-contact, to reduce transgender stigma. E-contact is a synchronous, cooperative, goal-directed online interaction which is informed by Allport’s intergroup contact theory. In total, 114 cisgender, heterosexual, Australian undergraduates and community members (83 women, 31 men) were randomly allocated to E-contact with an online confederate who either disclosed that they were a transgender woman or a cisgender woman. Following the online interaction, participants then completed measures assessing prior transgender contact and transgender stigma. The findings revealed that transgender E-contact reduced stigma for cisgender men whereas it had no impact on women’s already lower levels of stigma. These novel findings have important implications for researchers, policymakers and counsellors interested in developing transgender stigma reduction interventions by (a) highlighting the importance of transgender contact for those individuals with low or poor prior contact and (b) targeting prejudice-prone populations, such as men, who stand to gain the most from such cooperative, goal-directed interventions.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1

References

  1. Allport, G. W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Reading: Addison Wesley-Brown.

    Google Scholar 

  2. American Medical Association. (2019, June 10). AMA adopts new policies on first day of voting at 2019 Annual Meeting [Press release]. Retrieved from https://www.ama-assn.org/press-center/press-releases/ama-adopts-new-policies-first-day-voting-2019-annual-meeting.

  3. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2013). SEIFA by state suburb code. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from http://stat.data.abs.gov.au/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=SEIFA_SSC.

  4. Barbir, L. A., Vandevender, A. W., & Cohn, T. J. (2017). Friendship, attitudes, and behavioral intentions of cisgender heterosexuals towards transgender individuals. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Mental Health, 21(2), 154–170. https://doi.org/10.1080/19359705.2016.1273157.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. BBC News. (2019, June 27). Transgender hate crimes recorded by police go up 81%. BBC News. Retrieved from www.bbc.com.

  6. Buck, D. M. (2016). Defining transgender: What do lay definitions say about prejudice? Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 3(4), 465–472. https://doi.org/10.1037/sgd0000191.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Capuzza, J. C. (2016). Improvements still needed for transgender coverage. Newspaper Research Journal, 37(1), 82–94. https://doi.org/10.1177/0739532916634642.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Case, K. A., & Stewart, B. (2013). Intervention effectiveness in reducing prejudice against transsexuals. Journal of LGBT Youth, 10(1–2), 140–158. https://doi.org/10.1080/19361653.2012.718549.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Cochran, B. N., Stewart, A. J., Ginzler, J. A., & Cauce, A. M. (2002). Challenges faced by homeless sexual minorities: Comparison of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender homeless adolescents with their heterosexual counterparts. American Journal of Public Health, 92(5), 773–777. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.92.5.773.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  10. Faul, F., Erdfelder, E., Lang, A.-G., & Buchner, A. (2007). G*Power 3: A flexible statistical power analysis program for the social, behavioral, and biomedical sciences. Behavior Research Methods, 39, 175–191. https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03193146.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  11. GLAAD. (n.d.-a). Victims or villains: Examining ten years of transgender images on television. Retrieved July 26, 2018, from https://glaad.org/publications/victims-or-villains-examining-ten-years-transgender-images-television.

  12. GLAAD. (n.d.-b). What does transgender mean? Retrieved March 21, 2018, from https://www.glaad.org/transgender/transfaq.

  13. Glotfelter, M. A., & Anderson, V. N. (2017). Relationships between gender self-esteem, sexual prejudice, and trans prejudice in cisgender heterosexual college students. International Journal of Transgenderism, 18(2), 182–198. https://doi.org/10.1080/15532739.2016.1274932.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Grant, J. M., Mottet, L. A., Tanis, J., Harrison, J., Herman, J. L., & Keisling, M. (2011). Injustice at every turn: A report of the national transgender discrimination survey. Washington: National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Ho, F., & Mussap, A. J. (2017). Transgender mental health in Australia: Satisfaction with practitioners and the standards of care. Australian Psychologist, 52(3), 209–218. https://doi.org/10.1111/ap.12188.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Hodson, G. (2011). Do ideologically intolerant people benefit from intergroup contact? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20, 154–159. https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721411409025.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Hodson, G., Costello, K., & MacInnis, C. C. (2013). Is intergroup contact beneficial among intolerant people? Exploring individual differences in the benefits of contact on attitudes. In G. Hodson & M. Hewstone (Eds.), Advances in intergroup contact (pp. 63–94). London: Psychology Press.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Hyde, Z., Doherty, M., Tilley, P. J. M., McCaul, K. A., Rooney, R., & Jancey, J. (2014). The first Australian national trans mental health study: Summary of results. Perth: School of Public Health, Curtin University.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Jefferson, K., Neilands, T. B., & Sevelius, J. (2013). Transgender women of color: Discrimination and depression symptoms. Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Social Care, 6(4), 121–136. https://doi.org/10.1108/EIHSC-08-2013-0013.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  20. Kaleem, J. (2019, November 12). Latinos and transgender people see big increases in hate crimes, FBI reports. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from www.latimes.com.

  21. Kenagy, G. P., & Bostwick, W. B. (2005). Health and social service needs of transgender people in Chicago. International Journal of Transgenderism, 8(2–3), 57–66. https://doi.org/10.1300/J485v08n02_06.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. King, M. E., Winter, S., & Webster, B. (2009). Contact reduces transprejudice: A study on attitudes towards transgenderism and transgender civil rights in Hong Kong. International Journal of Sexual Health, 21(1), 17–34. https://doi.org/10.1080/19317610802434609.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Koken, J. A., Bimbi, D. S., & Parsons, J. T. (2009). Experiences of familial acceptance- rejection among transwomen of color. Journal of Family Psychology, 23(6), 853–860. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0017198d.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  24. Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Zongrone, A. D., Clark, C. M., & Truong, N. L. (2018). The 2017 National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth in our nation’s schools. New York: GLSEN.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Liu, R. T., Sheehan, A. E., Walsh, R. F., Sanzari, C. M., Cheek, S. M., & Hernandez, E. M. (2019). Prevalence and correlates of non-suicidal self-injury among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 101783. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2019.101783.

  26. Lombardi, E. L., Wilchins, R. A., Priesing, D., & Malouf, D. (2002). Gender violence: Transgender experiences with violence and discrimination. Journal of Homosexuality, 42(1), 89–101. https://doi.org/10.1300/J082v42n01_05.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Makwana, A. P., Dhont, K., Akhlaghi-Ghaffarokh, P., Masure, M., & Roets, A. (2018). The motivated cognitive basis of transphobia: The roles of right-wing ideologies and gender role beliefs. Sex Roles, 79(3–4), 206–217. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-017-0860-x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Maunder, R. D., White, F. A., & Verrelli, S. (2019). Modern avenues for intergroup contact: Using E-contact and intergroup emotions to reduce stereotyping and social distancing against people with schizophrenia. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 22, 947–963. https://doi.org/10.1177/1368430218794873.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Maunder, R. D., Day, S. C., & White, F. A. (2020). The benefit of contact for prejudice-prone individuals: The type of stigmatized outgroup matters. The Journal of Social Psychology, 160(1), 92–104. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224545.2019.1601608.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  30. McCall, L. (2008). The complexity of intersectionality. In E. Grabham, D. Cooper, J. Krishnadas, & D. Herman (Eds.), Intersectionality and beyond: Law, power and the politics of location (pp. 65–92). New York: Routledge-Cavendish.

    Google Scholar 

  31. McConnell, E. A., Birkett, M., & Mustanski, B. (2016). Families matter: Social support and mental health trajectories among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. Journal of Adolescent Health, 59(6), 674–680. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2016.07.026.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. McNeil, J., Ellis, S. J., & Eccles, F. J. (2017). Suicide in trans populations: A systematic review of prevalence and correlates. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 4(3), 341–353. https://doi.org/10.1037/sgd0000235.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. McNemar, Q. (1946). Opinion-attitude methodology. Psychological Bulletin, 43(4), 289–374. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0060985.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  34. Miles, E., & Crisp, R. J. (2014). A meta-analytic test of the imagined contact hypothesis. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 17(1), 3–26. https://doi.org/10.1177/1368430213510573.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. National Centre for Transgender Equality. (2016). Frequently asked questions about transgender people. Retrieved March 21, 2018, from https://transequality.org/issues/resources/frequently-asked-questions-about-transgender-people.

  36. Norton, A. T., & Herek, G. M. (2013). Heterosexuals’ attitudes toward transgender people: Findings from a national probability sample of US adults. Sex Roles, 68(11–12), 738–753. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-011-0110-6.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Pettigrew, T. F., & Tropp, L. R. (2006). A meta-analytic test of intergroup contact theory. Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes, 90(5), 751–783. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.90.5.751.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Poteat, V. P. (2015). Individual psychological factors and complex interpersonal conditions that predict LGBT-affirming behavior. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 44(8), 1494–1507. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-015-0257-5.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  39. Riggs, D. W., Webber, K., & Fell, G. R. (2012). Australian undergraduate psychology students’ attitudes towards trans people. Gay and Lesbian Issues in Psychology Review, 8(1), 52–62.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Riggs, D. W., Coleman, K., & Due, C. (2014). Healthcare experiences of gender diverse Australians: A mixed-methods, self-report survey. BMC Public Health, 14(1), 230. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-14-230.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  41. Riggs, D. W., Ansara, G. Y., & Treharne, G. J. (2015). An evidence-based model for understanding the mental health experiences of transgender Australians. Australian Psychologist, 50(1), 32–39. https://doi.org/10.1111/ap.12088.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. SBS News. (2018). Murders of trans people rising worldwide. Retrieved from www.sbs.com.au.

  43. Shields, S. A. (2008). Gender: An intersectionality perspective. Sex Roles, 59(5–6), 301–311. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-008-9501-8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Strauss, P., Cook, A., Winter, S., Watson, V., Wright Toussaint, D., & Lin, A. (2017). Trans pathways: The mental health experiences and care pathways of trans young people. Summary of results. Perth: Telethon Kids Institute. https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.19410.25284.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Thompson, E. H., & Pleck, J. H. (1986). The structure of male role norms. American Behavioral Scientist, 29(5), 531–543. https://doi.org/10.1177/000276486029005003.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Trans Murder Monitoring. (2019). TMM update trans Day of remembrance 2019. Retrieved December 10, 2019, from https://transrespect.org/en/tmm-update-trans-day-of-remembrance-2019/.

  47. Walch, S. E., Sinkkanen, K. A., Swain, E. M., Francisco, J., Breaux, C. A., & Sjoberg, M. D. (2012). Using intergroup contact theory to reduce stigma against transgender individuals: Impact of a transgender speaker panel presentation. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 42(10), 2583–2605. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1559-1816.2012.00955.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Webb, T. L., & Sheeran, P. (2006). Does changing behavioral intentions engender behavior change? A meta-analysis of the experimental evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 132(2), 249–268. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.132.2.249.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  49. White, F. A., & Abu-Rayya, H. M. (2012). A dual identity-electronic contact (DIEC) experiment promoting short-and long-term intergroup harmony. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(3), 597–608. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2012.01.007.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. White, F. A., Abu-Rayya, H. M., & Weitzel, C. (2014). Achieving twelve-months of intergroup bias reduction: The dual identity-electronic contact (DIEC) experiment. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 38, 158–163. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2013.08.002.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. White, F. A., Turner, R. N., Verrelli, S., Harvey, L. J., & Hanna, J. R. (2019a). Improving intergroup relations between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland via E-contact. European Journal of Social Psychology, 49, 429–438. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2515.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. White, F. A., Verrelli, S., Maunder, R. D., & Kervinen, A. (2019b). Using electronic contact to reduce homonegative attitudes, emotions, and behavioral intentions among heterosexual women and men: A contemporary extension of the contact hypothesis. The Journal of Sex Research, 56, 1179–1191. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2018.1491943.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  53. White, F. A., Maunder, R., & Verrelli, S. (2020). Text-based E-contact: Harnessing cooperative internet interactions to bridge the social and psychological divide. European Review of Social Psychology, 31(1), 76–119. https://doi.org/10.1080/10463283.2020.1753459.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We acknowledge the Cadigal and the Wangal peoples of the Eora nation, upon whose ancestral, unceded lands this research was conducted. We pay our utmost respect to Elders past and present. We particularly acknowledge Brotherboys and Sistergirls, as well as all First Nations Australians, in their ongoing struggles for sovereignty and justice.

We thank members of the SUPIR Lab, Vitor from the School of Psychology’s IT team for technical assistance with the E-Contact tool, those who helped by providing feedback and participating in the study, Riki for their copyedit, and the Editor and Reviewers for their very helpful feedback. We thank our loved ones and those who have supported us. This work is for all trans people: past, present, and future.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

Emery Boccanfuso and Fiona White contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation and data collection were performed by Emery Boccanfuso. Data analysis was conducted jointly by Emery Boccanfuso and Rachel Maunder. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Emery Boccanfuso and subsequent versions were developed in collaboration with Fiona White and Rachel Maunder. The final manuscript was read and approved by all authors.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Emery Boccanfuso.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Research Involving Human Participants

The present research involved human participants. Ethical approval to conduct the research was approved by the authors’ institution’s Human Research Ethics Committee (Project number 2018/315). The research was conducted according to these standards.

Informed Consent

All participants read a Participant Information Statement allowing them to make an informed choice as to whether they wanted to participate in the research or not. They were informed that they could also cease participation at any stage with no penalty to them. The ethics of the consent procedure was approved as above.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Electronic Supplementary Material

ESM 1

(DOCX 54 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Boccanfuso, E., White, F.A. & Maunder, R.D. Reducing Transgender Stigma via an E-contact Intervention. Sex Roles (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-020-01171-9

Download citation

Keywords

  • Intergroup contact
  • Transgender
  • Prejudice
  • E-contact
  • Stigma
  • Sex roles