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Through the lifespan of a transgender individual: Issues and research

Through the lifespan of a transgender individual: Issues and research

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Susan Mac Conaill. Originally submitted for Applied Psychology at University College Cork, with lecturer Dr.Sean Hammond in the category of Medical Sciences
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Susan Mac Conaill. Originally submitted for Applied Psychology at University College Cork, with lecturer Dr.Sean Hammond in the category of Medical Sciences

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
There are varying ideas of what constitutes gender identity, and the terms can meandifferent things to different people. The general consensus seems to be thattransgenderism refers to individuals who do not conform to the gender roleexpectations of their biological sex. This term can also generally be used to includetranssexualism, which refers to individuals who feel that their physical bodies do notrepresent their true gender (Lev, 2004). Transsexuals often want surgery to realisetheir bodies, others do not. Transgenderism can encompass many different terms suchas: male to female (MTF), female to male (FTM), transvestites, cross dressers, dragkings and queens. Generally, transvestites, cross-dressers and drag kings and queensdo not have an issue with their gender identity, and simply enjoy wearing clothesusually worn by members of the opposite sex, for many different reasons. Bigendered/ genderqueer individuals identify with some aspects of both genders, and androgynoustransgender individuals do not identify with either (SAMHSA, 2001). This reviewwill look at various key points in the life of the transgender individual, and willencompass attitudes, identity development, relationships, children and ageing.Several studies on transgenderism have revealed high rates of depression, anxiety andeating disorders among this population (Hepp, Kramer, Schnyder, Miller &Delsignore, 2005; Vocks, Stahn, Loenser & Tegenbaur, 2009). Recent research hasfound that emotional distress in this population may stem from the difficulties of 
“gender 
-
variant living in an often hostile social environment” (Cole et al., 2000,
p170). Adolescence in particular is a very difficult time, as many transgenderindividuals are physically, verbally and emotionally attacked by family members, co-workers, neighbours and even police officers for not conforming to socially accepted
gender rules (Balsam, Rothblum & Beauchaine, 2005; D‟Augelli, Grossman & Starks,
2006). Research on attitudes towards transgenderism is quite scarce. The area has
 become more popular in recent years in the media however, with films such as „BoysDon't Cry‟ and „TransAmerica‟ having very much mainstream audiences. While
moves such as this may start some discussion, the overall area is still quite closed,with attitudes towards transgenderism seeming quite like those shown towardshomosexuals in decades gone by. For transgenderism to become more sociallyacceptable and to stop the abuse that is ongoing, education and information is key tochanging attitudes of the general public.
 
 Various studies have found that attitudes towards transgenderism can be predicted byfactors such as contact, religiosity, and causal attribution (Antosewski et al. 2007;King, Winter & Webster, 2009; Landon & Innala, 2000).King, Winter and Webster (2009) look at the relationship between contact and
attitudes towards transgender people based on Allport‟s Contact Hypothesis(1954).
The sample consisted of 856 Hong Kong Chinese people aged between 15 and 64
years of age. Allport‟s hypothesis proposes that “prejudice (unless deeply rooted in
the character structure of the individual) may be reduced by equal status contact
 between majority and minority groups in the pursuit of common goals” (Allport,
1954, p.281). They used the Chinese Attitudes towards Transgenderism andTransgender Civil Rights Scale (CATTCRS). Their findings supported the Allporthypothesis, that contact has a positive effect on prejudice. These findings could be of use in developing specific goals to be used in education about transgenderism.Another key area that has been shown to be predictive of attitudes towardstransgenderism is that of religiousity. In a study carried out by Erica Clamen (2007), itwas predicted that high levels of religiosity would be predictive of negative attitudestowards transgenderism. She used the 14 item Intrinsic/ Extrinsic Religiosity Scale(I/ER; Gorsuch & McPherson, 1989) in a survey involving 155 participants. Intrinsicreligiosity refers to a spiritual and integrative template which one uses to interact withothers in everday situations, whereas extrinsic religiosity refers to a self-serving,religion-for-the-sake-of-appearance type (Allport & Ross, 1967). The hypothesis wassupported, indicating that higher levels of extrinsic religiosity appeared to predictnegative attitudes towards transgender individuals. Findings of research of attitudes
towards homosexuality have been similar, such as Schwartz and Lindley‟s (2005)
study which looked at the correlations between extrinsic religiosity and prejudice.Causal attribution refers to how people explain the behaviour of others and
themselves (Tygart, 2000).Dispositional attribution(about a person‟s character) tends
to lead to more punitive behaviour, while situational attributions are seen of beyond a
 person‟s control (Wood & Bartkowski, 2004). Because people tend to see disposional
 
attributes as more controllable than situational ones, people who think that the causesof transgenderism are a dispositional rather than situational tend to have morenegative attitudes. This is perhaps due to people who view transgenderism negatively
 believing that transgender individuals are „choosing‟ to feel this way, and are
therefore less understanding than if they believe that causes are genetic and not achoice (Wood & Bartkowski, 2004). Their study found that that situational attributionof homosexuality (the belief that homosexuality has a biological basis) substantiallyincreases positive attitudes towards homosexuality. In contrast, people who believehomosexuality to be a lifestyle choice (dispositional attribution) tend to have morenegative attitudes.As is the case with anyone, identity development is an important part of developing asa person and knowing who we are. Disclosures of gender identity to themselves andothers for transgender individuals are defining events in their lives (Nuttbrock et al.,2009). Identity development of transgendered individuals seems to be reasonablyconsistent across groups(MTF, FTM, genderqueer), usually occurring first at between6 1/2 and 9 years, at which time dissonance between body and how one identifies interms of gender begins to be apparent (Factor & Rothblum, 2008). According toMorgan and Stevens (2008), in their study of 11 FTM's, a common pattern of development occurs. This pattern is best understood in terms of four themes of identity development: early sense of body-mind dissonance, biding time, missedopportunities, and the process of transition. Body-mind dissonance refers to the strongfeeling (a
mong this group) of „boyhood‟ that was inherent, until they were told or realised otherwise. Morgan and Steven‟s study continues to describe how this feeling
of dissonance led to social pressure to conform to the gender norms of society, andthis is partic
ularly stressful during puberty. The next stage in this theory is „bidingtime‟, where the individual somewhat resists gender conformity, and resides in a more
gender neutral zone, until the right time to transition to their real sex occurs. Thisleads usu
ally to physical changes being made. Factor and Rothblum‟s (2008) studies
sees gender identity development in a slightly different way, that is it is insteadpunctuated by disclosure of gender identity. It begins similarly to Morgan and
Steven‟s study, with a realisation of “ their self as other than their assigned sex”
(Factor & Rothblum, 2000, p 242). The next step was identification as other than theirassigned sex. They found significant age differences for those among MTF, FTM and

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