Transgender prejudice reduction and opinions on transgender rights: Results from a mediation analysis on experimental data
Reading about gender identity reduces transphobia, increasing support for equality and accommodation policies for transgender people.
The transgender rights movement focuses on increasing the number of policies that secure or protect transgender people. American´s tend to conceptualize transgender rights on two dimensions: equality policies (policies that prohibit legal discrimination against people who are transgender, such as job protection) and accommodation policies (policies that accommodate for a person’s chosen gender, such as allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice). These policies are often met with controversy and resistance due to the prevalence of transphobia in society.
Transphobia is the prejudice individuals hold against people who are transgender. Previous studies have shown that personal interaction (with transgender friends, colleagues, or acquaintances) and para-social contact (with transgender celebrities, media figures, or social media influences) can increase support for transgender rights. It has been assumed that this is because personally knowing someone who is transgender and/or being exposed to representations of transgender people in the media reduces transphobia.
This study seeks to test whether this increased support for equality and accommodation policies following exposure to representations of transgender people is actually the result of prejudice reduction, by showing participants information on gender identity and transgender identity. Groups were also shown either (1) pictures of gender-congruent faces- a woman with feminine facial features and a man with masculine facial features (2) pictures of gender-incongruent faces- a woman with masculine facial features and a man with feminine facial features or (3) no pictures. Participants were then asked a series of questions designed to determine their transphobia and their support for transgender rights policies.
Reading about gender identity can decrease participants’ transphobia which in turn increases their support for transgender equal rights’ policies.
- Transphobia decreased in all treatment groups compared to the control group.
- When exposed to information defining gender identity and pictures of gender-congruent faces, the average mean of transphobia was reduced by 0.13.
- When exposed to information defining gender identity and pictures of gender-incongruent faces, the average mean of transphobia was reduced by 0.18.
- When exposed only to information defining gender identity, the average mean of transphobia was reduced by 0.19.
- Reduced transphobia led to increased support for transgender rights.
- For every point decrease in transphobia, the average mean support for equality policies increased by 0.58.
- For every point decrease in transphobia, the average mean support for accommodation policies increased by 0.68.
- The treatment did not have a significant direct effect on the support for transgender rights. Rather, the treatment had a significant indirect effect on increasing support for transgender rights through decreased transphobia.
- Between 42.2% and 68% of the effect of treatment on the support for transgender rights happened through decreased transphobia.
Ultimately, reducing transphobia can lead to increased support for transgender rights in terms of both equality and accommodation policies.
2,102 subjects participated in the survey experiment and were drawn from pre-selected respondents on a research panel for Clear Voice Research. Participants were split into four groups: one control and three treatment groups. The control group read a paragraph of information about Japanese economic growth. Each of the treatment groups read a paragraph of information about gender identity and transgender identity. One treatment group was shown a picture of a set of gender-congruent faces, another was shown gender-incongruent faces, and the remaining group was not shown any pictures.
Participants from all groups then answered a series of questions to determine their transphobia and their support for transgender rights. To measure transphobia, participants answered a subset of five questions from the Genderism and Transphobia Scale on a seven-point scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree. To measure support for transgender rights policies, participants answered a series of questions taken from various previous surveys on transgender rights, as well as questions developed by the authors, on a four-point scale from completely agree to completely disagree. Following a factor analysis, the questions were split into two categories: support for equality policies and support for accommodation policies.
Control variables included individual measures of moral traditionalism, political partisanship, age, race, sex, and identification as LGBT.