• Attitudes toward Transsexual People: Effects of Gender and Appearance

      Gerhardstein, Kelly R. (2010-07-20)
      The transgendered community, like other gender non-conforming communities, is the subject of stigmatization, discrimination, and violence. However, there is a notable lack of research investigating the specific attitudes toward various manifestations of transgenderism, and the factors that may be contributing to these attitudes. The goal of this study was to investigate factors that contribute to negative attitudes toward, and discrimination against, this consistently marginalized group of people. The present study explored the relationship between attitudes toward transsexuals and several gender-related variables, including gender of the rater, sex and apparent gender of the transsexual, as well as gender role beliefs, personal gender-role identification, and general attitudes toward transgenderism and homosexuality. The sample population for the main analyses consisted of 251 heterosexual undergraduate students, including 131 men and 120 women. Participants rated one of two vignettes, which were paired with one of four different pictures. The vignettes described either a male-to-female or female-to-male transsexual, and the corresponding picture depicted an individual whose appearance was stereotypically consistent with either the vignette character’s post-operative sex or his or her biological sex. Additionally, participants completed the Genderism and Transphobia Scale, the Kite Homosexuality Attitudes Scale, the Hypergender Ideology Scale, and the Personal Attributes Questionnaire to determine whether a relationship existed between these scales and ratings of the target vignette characters. There were significant main effects for appearance of the transsexual, gender of the participant, and sex of the transsexual. Participants reported more positive general perceptions and more positive evaluations of the transsexual character’s attractiveness as a friend or romantic partner when his/her appearance was congruent with the desired sex. Compared to women, men rated the transsexual character more negatively. There was also a significant interaction for gender of the participant and sex of the transsexual, such that females rated the attractiveness of the FTM transsexual significantly more positively than the MTF transsexual, whereas men’s attractiveness ratings for the FTM and MTF transsexuals were not significantly different. More negative attitudes toward gender non-conformists in general were associated with more negative general perceptions and more negative evaluations of the transsexual character’s attractiveness. Results of the present study suggest that gender-related variables, including appearance, are associated with attitudes toward transsexuals. In addition, there are both similarities and differences in the patterns of the relationships between gender and attitudes toward transsexuals and the patterns observed in attitudes toward gay and lesbian people.