Sex Roles

pp 1–13 | Cite as

Gender, Masculinity Threat, and Support for Transgender Rights: An Experimental Study

Original Article

Abstract

We explore how gender, attitudes about traditional gender roles, and threats to masculinity and femininity affect U.S. participants’ support for transgender rights. First, we present analyses using data from the 2016 pilot survey of the American National Election Survey (ANES) showing how men and women differ in their attitudes toward transgender people as measured by thermometer ratings toward transgender people and questions about perceptions of whether they are victims of discrimination. Next, we describe our randomized laboratory experiment, testing three hypotheses/predictions: (a) that men are less supportive of transgender people and rights than women are, (2) that threatening a man’s masculinity increases opposition to transgender rights whereas threatening a woman’s femininity has no effect, and (3) that this effect will be stronger among men who report that their gender identity is very important to them. Consistent with existing scholarship, we find that women are more supportive of transgender rights compared to men. More importantly, we also find that threatened masculinity is an even better predictor of opposition to transgender rights than gender identity. In short, we find that attitudes toward transgender people and rights are closely linked with the way people think and feel about their own gender identity and expectations of gender performance.

Keywords

Transgender Gender Transgender rights Political psychology Gender identity Masculinity LGBT Public opinion Bem Sex Role Inventory BSRI Threat 

Notes

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Experimental data for this paper was obtained via the undergraduate research lab at Northwestern University. All participants provided informed consent prior to participating in the experiment. Prior to data collection, the study was approved by Menlo College’s Institutional Review Board.

Supplementary material

11199_2018_916_MOESM1_ESM.docx (264 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 263 kb)

References

  1. Adams, H. E., Wright Jr., L. W., & Lohr, B. (1996). Is homophobia associated with homosexual arousal? Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105, 440–445.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-843X.105.3.440.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Akerlof, G. A., & Kranton, R. E. (2000). Economics and identity. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 3, 715–753.  https://doi.org/10.1162/003355300554881.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brewer, M. B., & Lui, L. N. (1989). The primacy of age and sex in the structure of person categories. Social Cognition, 7, 262–274.  https://doi.org/10.1521/soco.1989.7.3.262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bridges, T., & Tober, T. L. (2017). Masculinity & violence, and the violence of masculinity. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/masculinity-violence-and-the-violence-of-masculinity_us_5a0d2d59e4b023a796fed40c.
  5. Burdge, B. J. (2007). Bending gender, ending gender: Theoretical foundations for social work practice with the transgender community. Social Work, 52, 243–250.  https://doi.org/10.1093/sw/52.3.243.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Burke, P. J. (1991). Identity processes and social stress. American Sociological Review, 56, 836–849 www.jstor.org/stable/2096259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burke, P. J., & Stets, J. E. (2009). Identity theory. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Burn, S. M., Aboud, R., & Moyles, C. (2000). The relationship between gender social identity and support for feminism. Sex Roles, 42, 1081–1089.  https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007044802798.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cavanagh, S. L. (2010). Queering bathrooms: Gender, sexuality, and the hygienic imagination. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  10. Cooper, B., Cox, D., Lienesch, R., & Jones, R. P. (2016). Majority of Americans oppose laws requiring transgender individuals to use bathrooms corresponding to sex at birth. Retrieved from https://www.prri.org/research/poll-lgbt-transgender-bathroom-bill-presidential-election/.
  11. Crary, D. (2017). Killings of transgender people hit a record high in 2017, advocacy groups say. Time Magazine. Retrieved from http://time.com/5029561/transgender-murders-2017/.
  12. Davis, H. F. (2017). Beyond trans: Does gender matter? New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Druckman, J. N. (2004). Political preference formation: Competition, deliberation, and the (ir)relevance of framing effects. American Political Science Review, 98, 671–686.  https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003055404041413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Elischberger, H. B., Glazier, J. J., Hill, E. D., & Verduzco-Baker, L. (2016). ‘Boys don’t cry’—or do they? Adult attitudes toward and beliefs about transgender youth. Sex Roles, 75, 197–214.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-016-0609-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ely, R. J. (1995). The power in demography: Women’s social constructions of gender identity at work. Academy of Management Journal, 38, 589–634. http://www.jstor.org/stable/256740.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Enloe, C. (2017). Exposing and challenging the persistence of patriarchy. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  17. Erikson, R. S., & Tedin, K. L. (2015). American public opinion: Its origins, content and impact (9th ed.). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Fasteau, M. F. (1974). The male machine. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  19. Flores, A. (2015). Attitudes toward transgender rights: Perceived knowledge and secondary interpersonal contact. Politics, Groups, and Identities, 3, 398–416.  https://doi.org/10.1080/21565503.2015.1050414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Flores, A., Herman, J. L., Gates, G. J., & Brown, T. N. T. (2016). How many adults identify as transgender in the United States? Retrieved from https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/How-Many-Adults-Identify-as-Transgender-in-the-United-States.pdf.
  21. Gadarian, S. K., & Van der Vort, E. (2017). The gag reflex: Disgust rhetoric and gay rights in American politics. Political Behavior, 23, 1–23.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-017-9412-x.Google Scholar
  22. Geller, W. W. (1991). Attitudes toward gays and lesbians: A longitudinal study. Eric Documents, ED 340970. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/ERIC_ED340970/ERIC_ED340970_djvu.txt.
  23. Gillig, T. K., & Murphy, S. T. (2016). Fostering support for LGBTQ youth?: The effects of a gay adolescent media portrayal on young viewers. International Journal of Communication, 10, 3828–3850. Retrieved from http://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/5496.Google Scholar
  24. Gillig, T. K., Rosenthal, E. L., Murphy, S. T., & Langrall Folb, K. L. (2017). More than a media moment: The influence of televised storylines on viewers’ attitudes toward transgender people and policies. Sex Roles. Advance online publication.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-017-0816-1.
  25. Goldberg, L. R. (1992). The structure of phenotypic personality traits. American Psychologist, 48, 26–34.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.48.1.26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Haider-Markel, D., Miller, P., Flores, A., Lewis, D. C., Tadlock, B., & Taylor, J. (2017). Bringing “T” to the table: Understanding individual support of transgender candidates for public office. Politics, Groups, and Identities, 5, 1–19.  https://doi.org/10.1080/21565503.2016.1272472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Haines, E. L., & Kray, L. J. (2005). Self-power associations: The possession of power impacts women’s self-concepts. European Journal of Social Psychology, 35, 643–662.  https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Harrison, B. F., & Michelson, M. R. (2017). Listen, we need to talk: How to change attitudes about LGBT rights. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Heise, D. R. (2007). Expressive order: Confirming sentiments in social actions. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  30. Herek, G. M. (1984). Attitudes toward lesbians and gay men: A factory-analytic study. Journal of Homosexuality, 10, 39–51.  https://doi.org/10.1300/J082v10n01_03.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Iyengar, S., & Kinder, D. R. (1987). News that matters: Television and American opinion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  32. James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The report of the 2015 U.S. transgender survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality Retrieved from http://www.transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/usts/USTS%20Full%20Report%20-%20FINAL%201.6.17.pdf.Google Scholar
  33. Karner, T. (1996). Fathers, sons, and Vietnam: Masculinity and betrayal in the life narratives of Vietnam veterans with post traumatic stress disorder. American Studies, 37, 63–94. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40642783.Google Scholar
  34. Kimmel, M. (1996). Manhood in America: A cultural history. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  35. Kimmel, M. (2012). Masculinity, mental illness, and guns: A lethal equation? Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/19/living/men-guns-violence/.
  36. 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, 17–34.  https://doi.org/10.1080/19317610802434609.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Klar, S. (2013). The influence of competing identity primes on political preferences. Journal of Politics, 75, 1108–1124.  https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022381613000698.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Krosnick, J. A., & Brannon, L. A. (1993). The impact of the Gulf war on the ingredients of presidential evaluations: Multidimensional effects of political involvement. American Political Science Review, 87, 963–975.  https://doi.org/10.2307/2938828.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lazarsfeld, P. F., Berelson, B., & Hazel Gaudet, H. (1948). The people’s choice: How the voter makes up his mind in a presidential campaign (2nd ed.). New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Maass, A., Cadinu, M., Guarnieri, G., & Grasselli, A. (2003). Sexual harassment under social identity threat: The computer harassment paradigm. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 853–870.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.85.5.853.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Macmillan, R., & Gartner, R. (1999). When she brings home the bacon: Labor-force participation and the risk of spousal violence against women. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 947–958.  https://doi.org/10.2307/354015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mananzala, R., & Spade, D. (2008). The nonprofit industrial complex and trans resistance. Sexuality Research & Social Policy, 5, 53–71.  https://doi.org/10.1525/srsp.2008.5.1.53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Martin, C. L., & Ruble, D. N. (2010). Patterns of gender development. Annual Review of Psychology, 61, 353–381.  https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.093008.100511.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  44. McBride, S. (2017). HRC & Trans people of color coalition release report on violence against the transgender community. Retrieved from https://www.hrc.org/blog/hrc-trans-people-of-color-coalition-release-report-on-violence-against-the.
  45. McCall, C., & Dasgupta, N. (2007). The malleability of men’s gender self-concept. Self and Identity, 6, 173–188.  https://doi.org/10.1080/15298860601115328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. McDermott, M. L. (2016). Masculinity, femininity, and American political behavior. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. McLeish, K. N., & Oxoby, R. J. (2008). Social interactions and the salience of social identity. Journal of Economic Psychology, 32, 172–178.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joep.2010.11.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Miller, P. R., Flores, A. R., Haider-Markel, D. P., Lewis, D. C., Tadlock, B. L., & Taylor, J. K. (2017). Transgender politics as body politics: Effects of disgust sensitivity and authoritarianism on transgender rights attitudes. Politics, Groups, and Identities, 5, 4–24.  https://doi.org/10.1080/21565503.2016.1260482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Moyer, J. W. (2015). Why Houston’s gay rights ordinance failed: Fear of men in women’s bathrooms. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/11/03/why-houstons-gay-rights-ordinance-failed-bathrooms/.
  50. Nagoshi, J. L., Adams, K. A., Terrell, H. K., Hill, E. D., Brzuzy, S., & Nagoshi, C. T. (2008). Gender differences in correlates of homophobia and transphobia. Sex Roles, 59, 521–531.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-008-9458-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. National Center for Transgender Equality. (2016). Frequently asked questions about transgender people. Retrieved from http://www.transequality.org/issues/resources/frequently-asked-questions-about-transgender-people.
  52. Norton, A. T., & Herek, G. M. (2013). Heterosexuals’ attitudes toward transgender people: Findings from a national probability sample of U.S. adults. Sex Roles, 68, 738–753.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-011-0110-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Nownes, A. J. (2015). Interest groups and transgender politics: Opportunities and challenges. In J. K. Taylor & D. P. Haider-Markel (Eds.), Transgender rights and politics: Groups, issue framing, & policy adoption (pp. 83–107). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  54. Roughgarden, J. (2013). Evolution's rainbow: Diversity, gender, and sexuality in nature and people. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  55. Rudman, L. A., & Phelan, J. E. (2010). The effect of priming gender roles on women’s implicit gender beliefs and career aspirations. Social Psychology, 41, 192–202.  https://doi.org/10.1027/1864-9335/a000027.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Schlit, K., & Westbrook, L. (2015). Bathroom battlegrounds and penis panics. Contexts, 14, 26–31.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1536504215596943.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Schmader, T. (2002). Gender identification moderates stereotype threat effects on women’s math performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 38, 194–201.  https://doi.org/10.1006/jesp.2001.1500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sinclair, S., Hardin, C. D., & Lowery, B. S. (2006). Self-stereotyping in the context of multiple social identities. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 529–542.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.90.4.529.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Starr, C. R., & Zurbriggen, E. L. (2017). Sandra Bem’s gender schema theory after 34 years: A review of its reach and impact. Sex Roles, 76, 566–578.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-016-0591-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Tadlock, B. L., Flores, A. R., Haider-Markel, D. P., Lewis, D. C., Miller, P. R., & Taylor, J. K. (2017). Testing contact theory and attitudes on transgender rights. Public Opinion Quarterly.  https://doi.org/10.1093/poq/nfx021.
  61. Tajfel, H. (1981). Human groups and social categories. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  62. Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1986). The social identity theory of intergroup relations. In S. Worchel & W. G. Austin (Eds.), Psychology of intergroup relations (pp. 7–24). Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall.Google Scholar
  63. Taylor, C. (2004). Modern social imaginaries. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  64. Tobin, D. D., Menon, M., Menon, M., Spatta, B. C., Hodges, E., & Perry, D. G. (2010). The intrapsychics of gender: A model of self-socialization. Psychological Review, 117, 601–622.  https://doi.org/10.1037/a0018936.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  65. Tourjée, D. (2015). Why do men kill trans women? Gender theorist Judith Butler explains. Broadly. Retrieved from https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/z4jd7y/why-do-men-kill-trans-women-gender-theorist-judith-butler-explains.
  66. Tupes, E. C., & Christal, R. E. (1961). Recurrent personality factors based on trait ratings. No. ASD-TR-61-97. Personal Research Lab, Lackland AFB, Texas. Retrieved from http://www.dtic.mil/get-tr-doc/pdf?AD=AD0267778.
  67. Wade, L. (2016). The hypermasculine violence of Omar Mateen and Brock Turner. New Republic. Retrieved from https://newrepublic.com/article/134270/hypermasculine-violence-omar-mateen-brock-turner.
  68. Westbrook, L., & Schilt, K. (2014). Doing gender, determining gender: Transgender people, gender panics, and the maintenance of the sex/gender/sexuality system. Gender & Society, 28, 32–57.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243213503203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. White, J. B., & Gardner, W. L. (2009). Think women, think warm: Stereotype content activation in women with a salient gender identity, using a modified Stroop task. Sex Roles, 60, 247–260.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-008-9526-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Willer, R., Rogalin, C., Conlon, B., & Wojnowicz, M. T. (2013). Overdoing gender: A test of the masculine overcompensation thesis. American Journal of Sociology, 118, 980–1022.  https://doi.org/10.1086/668417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Wood, W., Christensen, P. N., Hebl, M. R., & Rothgerber, H. (1997). Conformity to sex-typed norms, affect, and the self-concept. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 523–535.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.73.3.523.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceMenlo CollegeAthertonUSA

Personalised recommendations