Greater visibility reduces transphobia and increases public support for transgender rights, study finds

For Immediate Release
May 2, 2018

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Rachel Dowd
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A new study examining the relationship between prejudice and support for the rights of marginalized groups found that reducing transphobia increases an individual’s support for the equality and legal protection of transgender people. Transphobia is an emotional dislike of people whose gender identity or expression differs from what is traditionally associated with their sex assigned at birth.

The study also found that exposure to images and information about transgender people helped reduce transphobia.

“These are encouraging findings,” said lead author Andrew R. Flores, a visiting scholar at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. “As research continues to examine the effects of increased knowledge and depictions of transgender people in mass media, this study further suggests that these developments can have a positive impact on the rights and well-being of transgender people.”

Researchers separated 2,102 study participants into four groups. Two groups received written information defining gender identity and images of male and female faces that appeared congruent (group 1) or incongruent (group 2) with their desired gender. Group 3 received only the written information about gender identity and the control group (group 4) got only written information on an unrelated topic.

Then, researchers asked questions to measure participants’ levels of transphobia and support for policies that ensure equal treatment of transgender people and policies that offer specific protections, such as use of public restrooms and medical treatment for transgender health issues. All of the exposure groups showed a reduction in transphobia and an increase on both types of policies.

“These findings offer some guidance to people working to change public attitudes toward transgender rights,” said Flores. “Reducing transphobia by humanizing transgender people can lead to more accepting attitudes and greater support from the public.”

The study, Transgender Prejudice Reduction and Opinions on Transgender Rights: Results from a Mediation Analysis on Experimental Data, was published in Research & Politics and co-authored by Williams Institute Visiting Scholar Andrew R. Flores along with Donald P. Haider-Markel, Daniel C. Lewis, Patrick R. Miller, Barry L. Tadlock and Jami K. Taylor.

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