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“The labels don't work very well”: Transgender individuals' conceptualizations of sexual orientation and sexual identity

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The conceptualization and measurement of sexual orientation for transgender individuals is uniquely complicated by the way sexual orientation is rooted in dichotomous notions of sex and gender. The present research investigates the conceptualization of sexual orientation among transgender individuals by exploring the sexual identity labels they choose, the descriptions they provide for these labels, and their general descriptions of their sexuality. Participants included 172 adult U.S. residents, ranging in age from 18 to 65, who self-identified as transgender, transsexual, gender variant, or having a transgender history. Participants individually completed an online survey. Qualitative responses were analyzed via thematic analysis. Six themes were identified related to transgender individuals' descriptions of their sexuality: (1) trans sexuality as complex; (2) shifts in trans sexuality; (3) focus on beloved; (4) relationship style and status; (5) sexuality, bondage & discipline / domination & submission / sadism & masochism (BDSM), and kink; and (6) separating sexual and romantic attraction. Discussion focuses on the ways that transgender individuals' descriptions of sexuality fall outside the traditional research frameworks that problematize transgender experience, conflate gender identity and sexual orientation, and inherently define transgender experience in both cisnormative and heteronormative terms.
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International Journal of Transgenderism
ISSN: 1553-2739 (Print) 1434-4599 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/wijt20
“The labels don't work very well”: Transgender
individuals' conceptualizations of sexual
orientation and sexual identity
M. Paz Galupo, Shane B. Henise & Nicholas L. Mercer
To cite this article: M. Paz Galupo, Shane B. Henise & Nicholas L. Mercer (2016) “The
labels don't work very well”: Transgender individuals' conceptualizations of sexual
orientation and sexual identity, International Journal of Transgenderism, 17:2, 93-104, DOI:
10.1080/15532739.2016.1189373
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15532739.2016.1189373
Published online: 27 Jun 2016.
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The labels dont work very well: Transgender individualsconceptualizations of
sexual orientation and sexual identity
M. Paz Galupo, Shane B. Henise, and Nicholas L. Mercer
Psychology Department, Towson University, Towson, MD, USA
ABSTRACT
The conceptualization and measurement of sexual orientation for transgender individuals is
uniquely complicated by the way sexual orientation is rooted in dichotomous notions of sex and
gender. The present research investigates the conceptualization of sexual orientation among
transgender individuals by exploring the sexual identity labels they choose, the descriptions they
provide for these labels, and their general descriptions of their sexuality. Participants included 172
adult U.S. residents, ranging in age from 18 to 65, who self-identied as transgender, transsexual,
gender variant, or having a transgender history. Participants individually completed an online
survey. Qualitative responses were analyzed via thematic analysis. Six themes were identied
related to transgender individualsdescriptions of their sexuality: (1) trans sexuality as complex; (2)
shifts in trans sexuality; (3) focus on beloved; (4) relationship style and status; (5) sexuality, bondage
& discipline / domination & submission / sadism & masochism (BDSM), and kink; and (6) separating
sexual and romantic attraction. Discussion focuses on the ways that transgender individuals
descriptions of sexuality fall outside the traditional research frameworks that problematize
transgender experience, conate gender identity and sexual orientation, and inherently dene
transgender experience in both cisnormative and heteronormative terms.
KEYWORDS
Gender identity; sexual
identity; sexual orientation;
transgender
Sexual orientation is a multidimensional construct
that encompasses identity, attraction, and behavior
(Lauman, Gagnon, Michael, & Michaels, 1994) and is
understood as an internal mechanism that directs sex-
ual and romantic interests (Diamond, 2003; Rosario &
Schrimshaw, 2014). The present research investigates
the conceptualization of sexual orientation among
transgender individuals by exploring the sexual iden-
tity labels they choose, the descriptions they provide
for these labels, and their general descriptions of their
sexuality.
Framing an understanding of sexual orientation
among trans individuals
Sexual orientation research in the United States has
historically reected two dominant trends, one
stemming from a premise of sickness and pathol-
ogy and the other from a framework of minority
identity (Hammack, Mayers, & Windell, 2013).
Research on transgender sexuality has been simi-
larly shaped from within these trends. Although
only a few studies have focused directly on under-
standing the sexual orientation of transgender indi-
viduals, research from both of these perspectives
has profound implications for the way in which
transgender sexuality has been conceptualized. In
particular, sexual orientation is conceptualized for
transgender individuals from each of these perspec-
tives in a way that contributes to the overall cona-
tion of sexual orientation and gender identity.
There is a general failure of sexuality researchers to
treat gender identity and sexual orientation as inde-
pendent constructs (Fassinger & Arseneau, 2007)or
to systematically explore the intersections of the
two (Galupo, Bauerband, et al., 2014; Galupo,
Davis, Gynkiewicz, & Mitchell, 2014). This general
conation of gender identity and sexual orientation
often leads researchers focused on sexual minority
experience to conceptualize sexual orientation
based on cisgender assumptions (Galupo, Davis,
et al., 2014) and researchers focused on transgender
experience to conceptualize gender identity based
on heterosexual assumptions (Galupo, Bauerband,
CONTACT M. Paz Galupo pgalupo@towson.edu Psychology Department, Towson University, 8000 York Road, Towson, MD 21252-0001, USA.
© 2016 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF TRANSGENDERISM
2016, VOL. 17, NO. 2, 93104
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et al., 2014). This conation distorts our under-
standing of sexual orientation and identity among
transgender individuals.
Transgender sexuality: Medical framework
Transgender experience has been consistently pathol-
ogized in the medical and psychological literature.
From this perspective the focus on transgender experi-
ence has been on classifying transgender types and
diagnosing gender identity. The sexual orientation of
the individual has been central to the way this litera-
ture has approached an understanding of transgender
identity and experience. The centrality of sexual orien-
tation in the conceptualization of gender identity is
illustrated in Blanchards highly contested model of
male-to-female (MtF) transgenderism (1989a). In this
model same-sex desire is hypothesized to be the rea-
son behind gender dysphoria where homosexual trans-
sexuals see themselves as women attracted to men.
Similarly Blanchardsautogynephilic transsexuals are
considered nonhomosexualindividuals who are not
attracted to men but are instead are sexually aroused
by the thought of themselves as women. The way this
theory connects two constructssexual orientation
and gender identitythat are now generally under-
stood to be distinct has not gone uncriticized in the
academic literature (Coleman, Bockting, & Gooren,
1993; Moser, 2010; Serano, 2010).
Blanchard (1989b) further suggested that sexual ori-
entation for transgender individuals should be deter-
mined on the basis of chromosomal sex regardless of
gender presentation or surgical status and classied
into four categories: homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual,
and analloerotic. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
of Mental Disorders Third Edition (DSM-III;American
Psychiatric Association, 1980) similarly denoted indi-
vidualspredominant prior sexual history as a subclassi-
cation of transsexualism with options of asexual,
homosexual (same anatomic sex), heterosexual (other
anatomic sex), or unspecied. In the DSM-IV the diag-
nosis of Gender Identity Disorder was accompanied by
designations that recharacterized sexuality outside of
the traditional sexual orientation labels that require a
sex designation of self in relation to other (i.e. hetero-
sexual, homosexual); instead subclassication options
were attraction to females, males, both, and neither
(American Psychiatric Association, 2000). No such sub-
classication based on sexual orientation is included in
the DSM-5 Gender Dysphoria diagnosis (American
Psychiatric Association, 2013).
Psychomedical perspectives of gender identity
based on heteronormative assumptions of sexual ori-
entation have led to a narrow interpretation of trans-
gender experience and a narrow denition of
transgender sexuality. As such, this classication does
not always resonate with the diversity of experience
among transgender individuals (Rowniak & Chesla,
2013; Serano, 2010; Veale, Clarke, & Lomax, 2012). In
fact, as much of the research on sexual orientation
among transgender individuals focuses on attraction,
more emphasis is needed to understand the role of
self-identication (Bockting, Benner, & Coleman,
2009; Bockting & Coleman, 1991; Devor, 1993).
Transgender sexuality: Minority identity framework
Transgender sexuality has also been conceptualized
from within the larger LGBT minority framework. Sex-
ual minorities (lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer) and gender
minorities (transgender and gender nonconforming
individuals) are often discussed as a unied group
based on shared stigma and community. However,
transgender persons often experience more stigmatiza-
tion than sexual minorities (Weiss, 2004) and a unique
form of prejudice/transphobia (Hill & Willoughby,
2005;Nadal,Skolnik,&Wong,2012; Nagoshi et al.,
2008) and do not always feel connected to the LGBT
community (Fassinger & Arseneau, 2007). Transgender
concerns have historically been minimized within the
larger LGBTQ community where issues surrounding
sexual orientation and LGBQ experience often take
precedence (Hill & Willoughby, 2005).
Research focused on understanding transgender
experience and inuenced from a minority stress
framework provides a wider understanding of sexuality
among transgender individuals. Instead of sexual orien-
tation dening transgender experience, sexual orienta-
tion has been used in these studies as a way to describe
the diversity of transgender experience and is reported
based on participant self-identication or stated attrac-
tion. This research broadens our understanding of
transgender sexuality by emphasizing sexual diversity;
for example, this research suggests that transgender
individuals report a range of current sexual identities
(Dargie, Blair, Pukall, & Coyle, 2014;Diamond,Pardo,
& Butterworth, 2011;Hines,2007), a range of sexual
identities prior to transition (Rowniak & Chesla, 2013),
94 M. P. GALUPO ET AL.
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andthatitiscommonfortransgenderindividualsto
endorse nonbinary/plurisexual sexual identities such as
bisexual, pansexual, and queer (Dargie et al., 2014;
Galupo,Davis,etal.,2014; Kuper, Nussbaum, & Mus-
tanski, 2012). In addition, transgender individuals
sometimes experience a shift in their sexuality following
social or medical transition (Devor, 1993; Galupo,
Mitchell, Grynkiewicz, & Davis, 2014; Kuper et al.,
2012; Meier, Pardo, Labuski, & Babcock, 2013).
Transgender sexuality: Measures of sexual
orientation and sexual identity labels
Sexuality measures typically assess sexual orientation
on a single continuum with heterosexual on one end
and lesbian/gay on the other (e.g., Kinsey scale;
Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, 1948; Savin-Williams,
2010). Designed with the intent of better characteriz-
ing the multidimensional aspects of sexuality, the
Klein Sexual Orientation Grid (KSOG) expanded the
measurement of sexual orientation by prompting indi-
viduals to rate their behavior, attraction, and fantasies
on a continuum of same- and other-sex attracted or to
rate their community and political afliation as falling
somewhere between heterosexual and lesbian/gay
(Klein, Sepekoff, & Wolf, 1985).
The way that sexual-orientation labels and meas-
urements require participants to gauge their desire
by making individual sex/gender designations in
relation to the individual/group of interest is partic-
ularly complicated by transgender identity or his-
tory (Dozier, 2005;Lev,2004; van Anders, 2015).
Recent qualitative research has focused on the sub-
jective evaluation of typical measures of sexual ori-
entation (i.e., Kinsey, KSOG). When asked how
well these measures capture their experience, sex-
ual- and gender-minority participants raised a
number of concerns surrounding the way sexual
orientation is conceptualized and measured
(Galupo, Mitchell, et al., 2014). For example, par-
ticipants questioned whether a single continuum
scaleisabletocapturethecomplexityanduidity
of their sexuality. Many participants challenged the
conceptualization of sexual orientation as anchored
on binary dimensions of sex and gender. This was
particularly true for transgender, bisexual, and
other plurisexual
1
individuals (Galupo, Davis, et al.,
2014) who were most likely to express that their
sexuality could not be represented accurately within
the connes of these traditionalsexualorientation
scales.
Recent research has documented parallel ndings
for sexual identity; transgender and plurisexual
individuals were less likely to feel that their sexual
identity could be captured in a single sexual-orien-
tation label (Galupo, Mitchell, & Davis, 2015).
Transgender and plurisexual individuals were more
likely than their cisgender and monosexual coun-
terparts, respectively, to endorse multiple sexual
identity labels and more likely to provide additional
context for their identity labels than were individu-
als with normative identities. It is likely that by
analyzing the descriptors provided by transgender
individuals, we can gain insight into the way they
conceptualize their sexuality. Given that current
conventions in sexual orientation measurement and
identity labeling do not resonate with transgender
individualsexperiences, additional research focused
onthesubjectiveexperienceoftransgenderindivid-
uals is necessary. In addition to providing a fuller
characterization of transgender sexuality, this
approach may also inform alternative ways of con-
ceptualizing sexuality in general, as Hammack,
Mayers, and Windell (2013) suggest that a subject-
focused investigation of sexuality is needed to dis-
rupt the assumptions of the dominant frameworks.
Statement of purpose
The present research investigates transgender sexual-
ity by analyzing the sexual identity labels transgender
individuals choose, the descriptions they provide for
these labels, and the individualsgeneral descriptions
of their sexuality. By recentering on the lived experien-
ces of transgender individuals and removing the theo-
retical frameworks of past research that conate
sexual orientation and gender identity, our thematic
analysis focuses on identifying the aspects most salient
to transgender sexuality. In addition, because past
research has mostly investigated transgender sexuality
separately for MtF (e.g., Moser, 2010; Veale, Clarke,
Lomax, 2008) and FtM (e.g., Devor, 1993; Dozier,
2005) individuals, we include a diverse nonclinical
sample including transgender individuals who identify
with both transfeminine and transmasculine spec-
trums. In addition, to better reect the diversity of the
transgender community we also include individuals
who self-identify as gender variant and agender.
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Method
Participant demographics
Participants were 172 adults who self-identied as
transgender, as transsexual, as gender variant, or as
having a transgender history. Participants ranged in
age from 18 to 65 (MD32.29, SD D11.62). All partic-
ipants were U.S. residents representing all 50 United
States and Washington, DC. Table 1 includes partici-
pant demographics with regard to racial/ethnic diver-
sity, highest level of education, and socioeconomic
status. There was limited racial/ethnic diversity within
the sample, with 75.0% of participants identifying as
White/Caucasian and 19.8% identifying as a racial/
ethnic minority, with another 5.2% identifying as
other.
Participants self-identied with a range of gender
identity labels including female/woman, male/man,
trans, trans woman, trans man, MtF, FtM, genderqueer,
bigender, gender nonconforming, and agender, with
many participants utilizing multiple labels simulta-
neously. For the purpose of describing our participant
demographics and ensuring diversity of trans identities
within our sample we asked participants to group
themselves in one of four gender categories, provided
by the researchers, that best describes their experience.
Participants chose transfeminine (nD47), transmascu-
line (nD84), gender variant (nD31), and agender (n
D10). Several demographic characteristics differed
across these four groups (age, sex assigned at birth, and
primary sexual orientation identity), and we provide
this information in Table 2. Transfeminine participants
were older, most likely to be assigned male at birth
(98.8%), and most likely to endorse bisexual (25.5%)
and lesbian (25.5%) as their most frequent primary sex-
ual-orientation labels. Transmasculine (97.6%), gender
variant (74.2%), and agender (80%) participants, in
contrast, were most likely to be assigned female at
birth. Transmasculine participants were most likely to
endorse queer (28.6%) and heterosexual (26.2%) as
their most frequent primary sexual-orientation labels.
Gender variant participants were most likely to endorse
queer (48.4%), bisexual (12.9%), and pansexual (12.9%)
labels while agender participants were most likely to
endorse queer (50.0%) and asexual (30.0%) labels.
Recruitment
Recruitment announcements, including a link to the
online survey, were posted on social media sites,
online message boards, and emailed via transgender
listservs. Some of these resources were geared toward
specic transgender communities (e.g., nonbinary, gay
FtMs, Two Spirit), while others served the transgender
community more generally. Participants heard about
the study primarily through online means, including
Facebook (76.8%), Tumblr (7.7%), Twitter (0.5%),
research-oriented websites/message boards (4.3%),
and receiving a forwarded email through an acquain-
tance or listserv (5.3%). Other participants were
directed to the survey by a friend or signicant other
(4.8%), and one participant (0.5%) did not provide an
answer to this question.
Measures and procedure
The present study focused on information obtained
from a demographic section of a larger online study
Table 1. Participant demographics.
(n)%
Gender identity
Transfeminine 47 27.3
Transmasculine 84 48.8
Gender variant 31 18.0
Agender 10 5.8
Sex assigned at birth
Female 116 67.4
Male 49 28.5
Intersex 4 2.3
No answer 3 1.7
Sexual orientation
Queer 48 27.9
Heterosexual 30 17.4
Pansexual 28 16.3
Bisexual 23 13.4
Lesbian 14 8.1
Gay 8 4.7
Asexual 6 3.5
Fluid 4 2.3
Other 11 6.4
Race/ethnic identity
White/Caucasian 129 75.0
Bi/multiracial 12 7.0
Black/African American 8 4.7
Hispanic/Latino 5 2.9
American Native 4 2.3
Asian American 3 1.7
Other 9 5.2
No answer 2 1.2
Education
High school 88 51.2
College 43 25.0
Graduate school 30 17.4
No answer 11 6.4
Socioeconomic status
Working class 58 33.7
Lower-middle class 35 20.3
Middle class 29 16.9
Upper-middle class 22 12.8
Upper class 2 1.2
Dont know 16 9.3
No answer 10 5.8
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investigating gender identity and transgender experi-
ence. A structured sexual orientation question was pre-
sented to participants where they chose their primary
sexual orientation from discreet options: heterosexual,
gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, uid, queer, asexual,
and other. All participants were then asked to describe
their sexual orientation and to list any other sexual
identities they use via free response.
Data analysis
Thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006)wasusedto
consider how participants described their sexual orien-
tation and how they dened and used sexual identity
labels. Analysis began with the second and third author
independently coding data, looking for themes related
to each category of identity. The research team met
and discussed the coding categories and agreed upon
an initial set of codes. The second and third authors
then coded and sorted the data set using the initial set
of codes and provided the rst author (who served as
external auditor) with a list of themes and sorted
quotes based on theme. There was signicant overlap
in the ratings across the two coders; only three discrep-
ant codes needed to be resolved via consensus of the
entire research team. All three members of the research
team agreed upon the nal coding structure and met
several additional times to discuss and solidify which
quotes would t under each theme. Final quotes were
chosen to simultaneously exemplify each theme and to
ensure that the table of quotes best represented the
diversity of trans
2
identities endorsed by the sample.
Several checks were included in our data analysis
process to increase the credibility of our results. First,
at the end of the survey we provided participants with
the opportunity to reect upon how our questions
captured (and failed to capture) their individual expe-
riences. Participants were also asked to provide feed-
back to improve the present and future studies.
Responses obtained were incorporated into our analy-
sis. Second, throughout the data analysis process we
discussed the themes and made decisions via consen-
sus. Because of the range of our collective experiences
across sexual orientation, gender identity, gender pre-
sentation, and relationship experiences we came to
these discussions with different perspectives. Our
research team includes a professor of psychology who
self-identies as a bi/pansexual cisgender woman (rst
author), an advanced undergraduate student of psy-
chology and LGBTQ studies who self-identies as a
pansexual trans man (second author), and an
advanced undergraduate student of family studies and
community development and LGBTQ studies who
self-identies as a gay cisgender man (third author).
Results and discussion
Six major themes emerged in participantsdescrip-
tions of their sexuality: (1) trans sexuality as complex;
(2) shifts in trans sexuality; (3) focus on beloved; (4)
relationship style and status; (5) sexuality, BDSM, and
kink; and (6) separating sexual and romantic attrac-
tion. All participant responses in the data set are rep-
resented in the coding structure and reected at least
one of the themes. Quotations are used throughout
the paper to illustrate the themes and are accompa-
nied by the gender identity label provided as a free
response by the participant.
Table 2. Demographics across gender identity.
Transfeminine
(nD47)
Transmasculine
(nD84)
Gender variant
(nD31)
Agender
(nD10)
Age
M(SD) 41.36 (14.85) 29.12 (9.73) 30.0 (9.50) 23.5 (4.72)
Sex assigned at birth (%)
Male 98.8 19.4
Female 97.6 74.2 80
Intersex 1.2 6.5 10
No answer 2.1 1.2 10
Sexual orientation (%)
Asexual 1.2 6.5 30
Bisexual 25.5 8.3 12.9
Fluid 2.1 3.6 ——
Gay 2.1 7.1 3.2
Heterosexual 12.8 26.2 3.2 10
Pansexual 17 17.9 12.9 10
Queer 8.5 28.6 48.4 50
Lesbian 25.5 6.5
Other 6.4 7.1 6.5
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Its complicated: Trans sexuality as complex
When asked to describe their sexual orientation, trans-
gender participantsresponses can be summed up by
the main sentiment, Its complicated.Many partici-
pants described their sexual orientation using a series
of labels, as illustrated by the following quotation: Its
complicated. Graysexual, autosexual, questioning les-
bian but so far pansexual(genderqueer, trans
). The
complexity is exemplied further by the following par-
ticipantssimultaneous endorsement of labels that are
conceptualized in the literature as mutually exclusive
(e.g., gay/straight; homo/bi): Queer, Gay. Straight, Bi,
Pan, Homo(genderqueer). The use of multiple labels
is consistent with recent quantitative research nding
that sexual minority individuals who are also trans-
gender are more likely than cisgender sexual minority
individuals to endorse multiple sexual orientation
labels (Galupo et al., 2016). The present ndings sug-
gest that for trans individuals, sexuality is not easily
captured in a single label. Multiple labels, then, are
used to attempt to capture the complexity of trans
individualssexuality. Even when choosing a single
label, participants described choosing broader
umbrellaterms while acknowledging their choice as
a way to reduce the confusion or complexity of their
sexuality. This is exemplied in the following three
quotations:
I often dene myself as gay to simplify my sexuality.
(male)
I like the term queer. As a bisexual trans person, I like
using queer to sum up the otherness of it all. (female)
I am primarily asexual, but I think queermay apply, as
things get complicated sometimes. (genderqueer/FtM)
In addition to providing their preferred sexual ori-
entation labels, transgender participants often quali-
ed their responses by including in their descriptions
their sex/gender assigned at birth, their gender iden-
tity (present and past), the status of their bodies or
body parts, and/or the way in which others classify
them.
I feel heterosexual based on my birth gender, but lesbian
based on my gender-identity. I feel like I am a lesbian,
but lesbians do not accept me as such. (female)
I tick queer because although I have come out as
attracted to women, as I dont ID as a woman, lesbian
doesnt work for me. Also I am still married to a man.
(genderqueer/trans
)
Calling myself heterosexual doesnt feel quite right
because I still have some female parts. (transgender)
Consistent with past research, trans participants
understandings of their sexuality was complicated by the
way sexual orientation is anchored on binary conceptual-
izations of sex and gender (Galupo, Mitchell, et. al, 2014)
and the way sex and gender is often tied to gendered
notions of the body (Spade, 2011). Despite medical per-
spectives on transgender sexuality that have traditionally
rooted denitions of sexual orientation solely on natal
sex (Blanchard, 1989b; DSM-III; American Psychiatric
Association, 1980), biological notions of sex/gender were
not the sole consideration in our trans participants
understanding of their sexuality though it was sometimes
one consideration of many that informed the way sexual
orientation was regarded.
When discussing the complexity of their sexual ori-
entation, participantsgeneral conclusion was that the
current system of labeling doesnt quite capture their
experience.
In the past, I was a man, attracted exclusively to
womenaka heterosexual. Then I was in transition,
expressing an appearance of being a womenwhile
retaining male sexual partsand I was attracted to
womenaka Bisexual. Now, Im expressing being a
women, and having female sexual parts-and am
attracted to womenaka Lesbian. The labels dont work
very well. (transgender woman)
My orientation ipped: Shifts in trans sexuality
A central theme to the way our trans participants dis-
cussed their sexuality was by noting the shifts in their
sexual orientation. Most often this shift was discussed
in terms of their gender identity. Sometimes this was
on the basis of their coming out to themselves or
others, I identied as a straight woman before com-
ing to terms with being trans; now I identify as a gay
man(FtM or male). Often the shift in sexual orienta-
tion was based on social or medical transition: Cur-
rently I would be Gay, but after MTF-SRS I will be
Hetero(female) and My orientation ipped on
HRT, but still straight(female). This shift of sexual
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orientation is consistent with past research that has
documented sexuality shifts among trans men follow-
ing testosterone use (Meier et al., 2013; Rowniak &
Chesla, 2013). Our participants, however, saw the shift
as relevant to their overall descriptors of sexuality.
In addition to gender-identity-specic attributions
for shifts in trans sexuality, some participants
described their sexuality as changing across context
and time.
It changes and depends on the context. I sometimes say I
am gay, fag queer, bi but lean towards men, that I dont
have an orientation, gray asexual for stretches of time,
periods of time when I fantasize about cis women then I
lose interest so queer. But gay. Basically, I dont know
and Ive given up trying to tie myself down, but my
attraction to men is a part of my identity and I think
people assume Im more interested in women as a trans
guy if I say Im queer. Im much more immersed in gay
male culture than queer culture. (male)
These general shifts in sexuality are consistent with
multidimensional measurements of sexual orientation,
such as the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid, which
allows for measurement of attraction in the past, the
present, and ideal contexts (Klein et al., 1985). These
shifts are also reective of general theories of sexual
uidity and exibility (Diamond, 2008; Zinik, 1985).
Who Im attracted to,”“like,and date: Focus on
beloved
Many of our participants described their sexuality in
ways that avoided the use of traditional sexual orienta-
tion labels and favored instead descriptions that
focused on the characteristics that guide their attrac-
tion. Sometimes the descriptions focused on the iden-
tity of whom they were attracted toI like girls
(transgender) and Tri-sexual (I like male female and
trans) (female). Sometimes descriptions included gen-
der and gender expression:
Im attracted to feminine, and/or females and/or androg-
ynous (other) or body parts I only like vaginas
gender expression is moot. (genderqueer)
People usually read me as a guy, which is close enough
for comfort in most situations. People rarely read me as
genderqueer. Re sexual identities, I mostly date trans-
masculine genderqueers, sometimes trans men and
occasionally non-trans men. (genderqueer FTM)
This focus on the beloved(Weinrich, 2014)
approach taken by our participants reduces sexual orien-
tation from two parameters (requiring a match of identity
or characteristic of the individual to that of the beloveds)
to one (characteristic of the beloved). These ndings sup-
port Kuper et al.s(2012) contention that some trans
individuals may wish to represent their attractions in
ways that do not specically reference their own sex or
gender, which may be in transition, uid or not fully cap-
tured by gay, lesbian, or heterosexual identity labels.(p.
251). This approach has also been shown to resonate
with transgender individuals in the context of sexual ori-
entation measurement (Galupo, Lomash, & Mitchell,
2016) as this system of classication is seen as more inclu-
sive of trans individualsidentity and experience. For
example, Galupo et al. (2016) describe a novel sexual ori-
entation measure, the Gender-Inclusive Scale, that
assesses attraction to masculinity, femininity, androgyny,
and gender nonconformity (in addition to attraction to
the same- and other-sex in the original version of the
scale). Transgender individuals felt this measure better
captured their experience of sexuality than do traditional
measures of sexual orientation. The authors offer a slight
modication to address the wording of the same- and
other-sex dimensions. The suggested version of the scale
includes attraction to women, men, masculine individu-
als, feminine individuals, androgynous individuals, and
gender nonconforming individuals (Galupo et al., 2016).
This modication allows all six dimensions to be assessed
without requiring individuals to describe their attractions
in reference to their own sex or gender designation.
Monogamy,”“polyamory,relationship style and
status
Relationship style and status was an important context
for many of our trans participants when describing
their sexual orientation: Technically I am bi, but I
often just say gay since I am engaged to another man
(male) and Queer. Polyamorous. Submissive
(agender). For some, it was the central factor or only
label provided by trans participants when describing
their sexuality.
In a committed non monogamous relationship (poly-
amorous) for 18 years with a cis-gendered woman who
has identied as straight, bi, and queer. (transfeminine)
Polyamorous. (transmasculine)
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This nding is consistent with recent research that
has suggested that relational status and relationship
type play a role in some individualsconceptualization
of sexual orientation (Galupo, Mitchell, et al., 2014),
and these relational factors may account for shifts in
sexuality across time and context (Manley, Diamond,
& van Anders, 2015).
Power exchange friendly: Sexuality, BDSM, and
kink
Another theme that emerged from the way our
participants described their sexuality included ele-
ments of BDSM and kink. Sometimes this was indi-
cated with single labels, (BDSM), or in reference
to particular roles (submissive,Switch boi, pan-
sexual,and demisexual submissive). Others pro-
vided more context regarding this aspect of their
sexuality.
I am orientated to people based on their heart and not
their genitals. My sexuality is also sensitive to power and
kinky dynamics. (female to guy)
Im into bdsm and the daddy Cboy dynamic. (ftm/
genderqueer)
Power exchange friendly. (m2f transsexual pre-op)
I am a sex worker and heavily into BDSM. (nonbinary)
Our participantsresponses regarding BDSM and
kink go beyond framing their involvement as an indi-
vidual or community experience. Rather, these nd-
ings suggest that for some transgender individuals
BDSM and kink are seen as relevant to the core of
their sexual orientation and identity. These ndings
resonate with emerging theories of BDSM as inform-
ing sexual identity (Bauer, 2014) and even of being a
type of sexual orientation (Gemberling, Cramer, &
Miller, 2015).
I feel about sex the way most people feel about
bowling: Separating sexual and romantic attraction
Many participants described their sexuality in ways
that made distinctions between sexual and romantic
attraction. Sometimes this was indicated by using one
label: Aromantic,”“Gray-A,”“autosexual,and
demisexual.Sometimes two separate labels were
used to document the discordance between romantic
and sexual attraction: homoromantic asexual,and
panromantic greysexual.
Others provided more detail in their descriptions
regarding the way sexual/romantic attraction may be
more or less important to their experience.
I also consider myself grey-asexual, in the sense that I
seem to feel about sex the way most people feel about
bowling. On occasion, I am attracted to people, but I
dont seem to be as interested in that whole area of life
as most people. (male side of neutral)
While I am gay and attracted 99% to men (I only want to
have romance with men, only strongly desire or go out
of my way for relationships with men) sexually I am
more exible and would fuck a girl, although I wouldnt
want to commit to her etc. I dont have interest in spe-
cic females the way I do with males. (male)
Im not attracted to much of anyone these days. On the
other hand, my interest in having sex (with any gender)
is rather high. (mtf but a little nonbinary)
Gray a, almost asexual in addition to being pan.
(agender)
Pan-romantic, The idea that you can be romantically
involved with out being lustful, so you can have two
straight men dating they may have sex, but its because
of the proximity they have together and the amount
they care for another not because of the lust. (agender)
Asexual due to end stage cancer. (male)
The disaggregation of sexual and romantic
attraction is often highlighted in the asexuality lit-
erature. Consistent with the way asexual individu-
als often endorse dual identity labels to make the
distinction explicit (Flore, 2014;Przbylo,2013)it
is important to note that even nonasexual/verisex-
ual individuals nd the distinction meaningful
(Galupo, Lomash, & Mitchell, 2016). This was
made clear in our trans participantsresponses
where sexual and romantic attraction were
described in discordant ways.
Conclusions
The present research focuses on understanding trans-
gender sexuality from the perspective of trans individ-
uals by exploring the sexual identity labels they
choose, the descriptions they provide for these labels,
100 M. P. GALUPO ET AL.
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and their general descriptions of their sexuality. In
addition to providing a fuller characterization of
transgender sexuality it has been suggested that a sub-
ject-focused investigation of sexuality is needed to dis-
rupt the assumptions of the dominant frameworks of
sexuality (Hammack, Mayers, & Windell, 2013). As
such, this approach may also inform alternative ways
for conceptualizing sexuality in general. In particular,
by centering on transgender experience, the present
research allows a conceptualization of transgender
sexuality outside of the traditional research frame-
works that problematize transgender experience, con-
ate gender identity and sexual orientation, and
inherently dene transgender experience in both cis-
normative and heteronormative terms.
Limitations and directions for future research
We recruited participants who identify as transgender,
transsexual, gender variant, or having a transgender
history, which we used as broad terms intended to
encompass many different gender identities. Because
our recruitment strategy emphasized recruitment
through transgender community resources, individu-
als who see their trans experience as more of a history
or status may be underrepresented within our sample.
Although our intention was to recruit broadly within
the transgender communities, it is important to note
that the use of transgender as an umbrella term is
rooted in White middle- to upper-class conceptualiza-
tions of gender and can function to erase distinct sub-
groups (Valentine, 2007), which may partially account
for why less than 25% of our participants identied as
racial minorities.
Our sample demographics may have also been
impacted by our choice to recruit our participants
online. Participants represented a convenience sample
collected online. Although online sampling is useful
for LGBTQ research, where privacy and access issues
are unique from the general population (Riggle,
Rostosky, & Reedy, 2005), online samples have been
shown to disproportionately represent educated, mid-
dle class, White individuals (Dillman, Smyth, & Chris-
tian, 2008). Because our sample demographics reect
this trend, interpretation of our ndings should be
done within the noted demographics. This is particu-
larly important given that recent research has
highlighted the way gender and sexuality may be
uniquely experienced among people of color (Kuper,
Wright, & Mustanski, 2014; Levitt, Horne, Puckett,
Sweeney, & Hampton, 2015). Additional research is
necessary to evaluate whether the themes identied in
the present research related to transgender sexuality
would resonate with transgender and gender-noncon-
forming people of color.
Despite the limitations of recruitment, we received
a geographically diverse sample with a strong repre-
sentation across gender identities. The present
research extends the current transgender sexuality
research by including individuals who endorse gen-
der-identity labels within both transfeminine and
transmasculine spectrums and also by including indi-
viduals who identify as gender variant/nonbinary and
agender. We did nd demographic differences across
transfeminine, transmasculine, gender variant, and
agender participants with regard to age, sex assigned
at birth, and primary sexual orientation identity.
Future research is needed, however, to consider how
the themes described in the present research might be
similarly or differently expressed across participants
gender identity.
Implications for research and theory
Participants described their sexuality in ways that
challenge traditional research frameworks for under-
standing transgender experience. The medical litera-
ture in particular has used biological/anatomicalsex
as a basis for classifying the sexual orientation of
transgender individuals (Blanchard, 1989b; DSM-III;
Hammack, Mayers, & Windell, 2013). However, our
participants did not use biological indicators of sex/
gender as the sole basis for describing their sexual ori-
entation, and in many cases it was not a factor at all.
Rather, individual (gender) identity was more likely to
guide sexual orientation self-identication. This nd-
ing was consistent with recent qualitative research on
critiques of sexual orientation measures where partici-
pantssexual and gender identities were central to the
way in which they viewed sexual orientation (Galupo,
Davis, et al., 2014). In addition to being more likely to
focus on gender identity (versus gender/sex) our par-
ticipants described their sexuality in ways that
highlighted uidity, relational factors, and a disaggre-
gation of sexual and romantic attraction. Participants
also described their sexual orientation in reference to
transgender-specic experiences. For example, partici-
pants described shifts in their sexual attraction and
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF TRANSGENDERISM 101
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sexual identities that they attributed to coming out as
trans to themselves or others and/or to transition-spe-
cic experiences (e.g., hormone therapy, gender afr-
mation treatments and surgeries).
These ndings have important implications for
sexual orientation researchers, who should note the
unique context in which transgender individuals
experience and dene their sexuality. This may be
particularly important when interpreting trans indi-
vidualsscores on traditional measures of sexual
orientation or when trans individuals are given
forced-choice labels and grouped based on sexual
identity for research purposes. Caution should also
be exercised when comparing sexual orientation or
identity labels across transgender and cisgender
individuals. Recent research has focused on the
development of sexual orientation measures that
better capture the experience of transgender indi-
viduals (such as the Gender Inclusive Scale
described earlier in this article). The Gender Inclu-
sive Scale may represent a measure of sexual orien-
tation that avoids cisgender assumptions present in
traditional scales (Galupo et al., 2016)whilestill
resonating with cisgender experience.
The present ndings also have important implica-
tions for transgender researchers, as they suggest a
need to expand our understanding of transgender sex-
uality in ways that better reect the lived experience of
trans individuals. In particular, these ndings point to
the need to conceptualize transgender sexuality in a
way that decenters models of sexual orientation from
exclusively focusing on gender/sex or from making
cisnormative assumptions. One such example is the
recent work of Tate (2012), who posits two lesbian
identity models that acknowledge trans identities. The
current identity model includes cisgender women,
transgender women, and genderqueer (female identi-
ed) individuals within the denition of lesbian; the
life-course identity model also includes transgender
men and genderqueer individuals of all identities as
long as they identied as female at some point in their
life. By allowing for the possibility of gender diversity,
Tate (2012) provides a way for conceptualizing lesbian
identity that does not assume a cisgender identity.
Van Anders (2015) provides a new and comprehen-
sive framework for understanding sexuality that
extends beyond traditional theories of sexual orienta-
tion. Sexual Congurations Theory (SCT) is a model
of partnered sexuality that is inclusive of diverse
sexualities and gender identities, while making distinc-
tions between eroticism and nurturance (which paral-
lels the way our participantsdiscuss sexual/romantic
attraction). Van Anderss model moves beyond a
focus on just gender or sex and adopts an integrated
gender/sex framework by including both socialization
and biology/evolution while also remaining sensitive
to identity.
The present ndings suggest that a reframe around
gender/sex is critical for making trans identities visible
in a model of sexuality. By including identities not
specically related to binary conceptualizations of sex
or gender, van Anderss(2015) gender/sex framework
is inclusive of multiple labels including woman, man,
trans woman, trans man, ciswoman, cisman, gender-
queer, intersex.By allowing for binary/nonbinary
and cisgender/transgender articulations of gender/sex,
the types of nuanced dimensions of sexuality provided
by our participants are able to come into view. Future
research is needed to consider the ways that transgen-
der individualsexperiences of sexuality directly map
onto these new ways of measuring or theorizing about
sexuality.
Notes
1. We use plurisexual to refer to identities that are not explic-
itly based on attraction to one sex and leave open the
potential for attraction to more than one sex/genderfor
example, bisexual, pansexual, queer, and uid. The term
plurisexual is used instead of nonmonosexual because the
former does not linguistically assume monosexual as the
ideal conceptualization of sexuality (see Galupo, Davis,
Grynkiewicz, & Mitchell, 2014).
2. When discussing the results of the present study and when
referring to our participants, we use the term trans as an
inclusive term to be sensitive to the range of gender identi-
ties endorsed by our participants.
Funding
This research was supported by a research grant from the
American Institute of Bisexuality awarded to the rst author.
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... Sexual and gender exploration is more difficult for those with diverse identities where representations of people like them are scarce. Previous studies have shown that TGD people face additional barriers to exploring their identity and expression (Arayasirikul & Wilson, 2019;Bates et al., 2020;Galupo et al., 2016). Research has also shown that non-binary youth tend to explore their identity later in life than other LGBTQ people, including those with a binary trans identity (Scandurra et al., 2019). ...
... Research has also shown that non-binary youth tend to explore their identity later in life than other LGBTQ people, including those with a binary trans identity (Scandurra et al., 2019). Consistent with previous literature, bisexual+ TGD young people experienced added challenges relative to cisgender youth, particularly in communicating their identity with families (Galupo et al., 2016;Mathers et al., 2018;Schudson & van Anders, 2019). Bisexual+ youth on the asexual + spectrum also experienced less visibility and more dismissal of their identity than other bisexual+ young people (McInroy et al., 2020;Van Houdenhove et al., 2015). ...
... There is a clear need for further dedicated research with bisexual+ young people that is inclusive of the diversity of the community. Consistent with previous research, many young people in this study used multiple sexual and gender identifiers, highlighting the limitations of single-categories identifiers when working with diverse youth (Galupo et al., 2016;Kuper & Mustanski, 2014). Future research must reflect the ways in which young people describe themselves and allow for multiple and free responses to sexual and gender questions. ...
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Multi-gender attracted (bisexual+) youth experience a high risk for suicide and mental health problems, but little is known about their protective factors. This study explored the challenges and supporting factors for wellbeing in a sample of diverse bisexual+ young people through semi-structured qualitative interviews. Participants (n = 15) were aged 17–25 years and were multi-gender attracted. The sample included young people who were transgender and gender diverse (TGD), culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD), Aboriginal, living in regional areas, and on the asexual spectrum. This research demonstrated unique challenges and protective factors for bisexual+ wellbeing compared to other sexual minority youth. In particular, the findings highlight the exclusion and stigmatization that many bisexual+ young people face, including from within the LGBTQIA+ community. These experiences were more pronounced for some bisexual+ youth, including TGD or CALD young people. Consequently, bisexual+ youth often had limited social support and a sense of belonging, which can buffer against the impact of marginalization among lesbian and gay youth. Despite these challenges, young people were resilient, empathetic and tolerant of others. Those who had access to supportive environments, visibility, and information on their diversity found these healing. Wellbeing in bisexual+ youth was impacted by a myriad of intersecting aspects of identity and experience, highlighting the importance of intersectional approaches in understanding minority experiences. The findings underscore the need for targeted and intersectional services for sexually diverse youth to address the wellbeing needs of this diverse group.
... Research considering the effects of gender affirmative genital surgeries often use a cisgenderist lens by measuring success based upon the ability to engage in penile-vaginal intercourse (Klein & Gorzalka, 2009). Yet among community-based samples, the majority of TFNB individuals do not identify as heterosexual (Bauer & Hammond, 2015;Galupo et al., 2016) and the most commonly engaged in sexual act is oral sex, not penile-vaginal intercourse (Bauer & Hammond, 2015). Therefore, the narrow focus on a singular sex act fails to capture how TFNB individuals experience their sexuality holistically. ...
... Subsequently, it has almost exclusively been utilized to track treatment outcomes at gender identity clinics, and (to our knowledge) has not been utilized in a community sample of both binary and nonbinary trans individuals. Fifth, in recognizing that TFNB individuals endorse a range of sexual identities (Galupo et al., 2016) and engage in a variety of sexual acts (Bauer & Hammond, 2015), the current study included a multidimensional measurement approach to sexual experience outcomes and did not rely solely on assessing engagement with penile-vaginal intercourse. From this more holistic standpoint, sexual experiences were assessed through asking about engagement with sexual experiences (e.g., receptive and insertive penetration) and global enjoyment (e.g., overall ratings of importance of sex, sexual pleasure, and sexual intimacy). ...
Article
Past research has constructed a medicalized model of trans women’s sexuality, where trans women are believed to be hyposexual and distressed by their bodies pre-transition, and are cured of their sexual dysfunction as a result of gender affirmative medical procedures. The current study engaged a community sample (N = 169) of trans feminine and nonbinary individuals assigned male at birth (TFNB) to investigate predictors of sexual experiences after addressing methodological biases of prior studies, including body satisfaction (using a modified Body Image Scale) and social contextual factors. Hierarchical regressions were conducted to test the hypothesis that after accounting for demographic variables and social contextual aspects (i.e., body satisfaction, social dysphoria, and fetishization), medical transition (i.e., hormone therapy) would not significantly predict five outcomes of sexual experience (i.e., receptive penetration, insertive penetration, importance of sex, sexual pleasure, and sexual intimacy). Across all models, medical transition was not a significant predictor of sexual experiences; however, sexual orientation, age, body satisfaction, and experiences of fetishization were frequent predictors. Results suggest that the sexual experiences of TFNB individuals do not align with the medicalized model and that demographic and contextual factors play an important role in the sexual outcomes for this population.
... Some also choose to not label their sexual orientation at all. In a study by Galupo et al. (2016), transgender participants reported that the perceptions of others and designations associated with their genitalia factored into their choice of descriptors, and highlighted the complexity of labeling themselves in the context of dominant understandings of sex and gender as binary and biological. Some participants chose to describe their sexuality only in terms of who they were attracted to rather than using conventional labels, removing the need to reference their own gender in the description (Fig. 2). ...
... Research on TGD people's relationships is lacking in racial and socioeconomic diversity (Lev, 2014); most of the studies reviewed above are based in the US and have samples that are over three-quarters white. Research is also complicated by the frequent conflation of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as binary or otherwise limited categorization of gender, which often excludes non-binary and other gender diverse people (Galupo et al., 2016;Iantaffi & Bockting, 2011;Pulice-Farrow et al., 2019b). Future research should address these gaps while moving forward in its focus on TGD people's experiences from TGD people's perspectives. ...
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People of color, women, and trans and gender diverse (TGD) people have often been overlooked in the literature on queer relationships. Eurocentric and heteronormative biases of sexuality have rendered various forms of intimacy among marginalized communities invisible. Research on TGD people of color is generally lacking, and like the bulk of research on men who have sex with men, often focuses on pathology. This chapter will begin with an overview of research on LGBTQ+ people of color’s sexual romantic relationships, and then shift to focus on TGD individual’s sexual and romantic relationships as a way of exploring issues in relationships for populations that have been underrepresented in the literature on queer relationships. We consider challenges faced by those who have been historically marginalized even within LGBTQ+ communities in navigating sexual and romantic relationships, and we also highlight the creative ways individuals negotiate their identities and cultivate sources of strength within the contexts of these relationships.
... Bisexual people are assumed to be less connected to a strict and binary idea of sexual identity and gender, and hence may not see gender as a significant element in their attraction, according to certain theories (Brown, 2009;Califia, 1997;Lev, 2004;Mitchell, 2001;Theron & Collier, 2013). Although these studies primarily focused on bisexuality, similar findings could be applied to pansexuals, as pansexuality is usually defined as attraction that spans the entire gender spectrum, and/or attraction that is gender-independent, as well as other sexual identities within the multiple-attraction spectrum (Galupo, Henise, & Mercer, 2016;Hayfield & Křížová, 2021;Haylock, 2021;Lapointe, 2017;Morgan, 2013). Another explanation is that people who are attracted to the gender their partner identifies with, both before and after they come out, are less affected by the sexual identity implications of their partner's coming out (Brown, 2009). ...
Article
This qualitative study explores the effects of being in a relationship with a transgender or non-binary (TGNB) person on an individual's sexual and/or gender identity. To this aim, the responses of 107 partners of TGNB individuals to the following open-ended question were collected: "What effect, if any, has having a relationship with a transgender person had on your gender and/or sexual identity?." Through thematic analysis, 4 overarching themes emerged from the participants' responses: 1) No reason to change; 2) Exploration and changes; 3) New perspective; and 4) Negative effects and confusion. Overall, this study suggests that being in a relationship with a TGNB person may prompt a reflection on the concept of sexual and gender identity, and an exploration of one's own identity, which is usually experienced as positive, but may also be a source of distress for the individual and/or the couple. Also, in many other cases, the relationship has been observed to have no effect on the partner's identity, due to a number of reasons. These findings constitute a relevant addition to the understanding of couple's dynamics in trans-including couples.
... Agreement on measurement and conceptualization of sex, gender, and sexual, romantic, and related orientation identities is still lacking [41,42]. This is complicated by the multidimensional and fluid nature of these identities [42][43][44], and several researchers have proposed multidimensional scales for assessing sexual, romantic, and related orientations [e.g. 45]. ...
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Queer identities are often ignored in diversity initiatives, yet there is a growing body of research that describes notable heterosexist and gender-normative expectations in STEM that lead to unsupportive and discriminatory environments and to the lower persistence of queer individuals. Research on the experiences of queer-spectrum individuals is limited by current demographic practices. In surveys that are queer-inclusive there is no consensus on best practices, and individuals with queer genders and queer sexual, romantic, and related orientations are often lumped together in a general category (e.g. LGBTQ+). We developed two queer-inclusive demographics questions and administered them as part of a larger study in undergraduate engineering and computer science classes (n = 3698), to determine which of three survey types for gender (conventional, queered, open-ended) provided the most robust data and compared responses to national data to determine if students with queer genders and/or queer sexual, romantic, and related orientations were underrepresented in engineering and computer science programs. The gender survey with queer-identity options provided the most robust data, as measured by higher response rates and relatively high rates of disclosing queer identities. The conventional survey (male, female, other) had significantly fewer students disclose queer identities, and the open-ended survey had a significantly higher non-response rate. Allowing for multiple responses on the survey was important: 78% of those with queer gender identities and 9% of those with queer sexual, romantic and related orientations selected multiple identities within the same survey question. Queer students in our study were underrepresented relative to national data. Students who disclosed queer gender identities were 7/100ths of the expected number, and those with queer orientations were under-represented by one-quarter. Further work developing a research-based queered demographics instrument is needed for larger-scale changes in demographics practices, which will help others identify and address barriers that queer-spectrum individuals face in STEM.
... Recently, there has been greater academic attention given to feminine trans individuals. This work has benefitted our understanding of feminine trans individuals' gender expression and sexuality, including, for example, their sexual orientation and gender identities (e.g., Galupo et al., 2016Galupo et al., , 2014Kuper et al., 2012;Nanda, 2014), sexual behavior (e.g., Bauer & Hammond, 2015;Laube et al., 2020;Poteat et al., 2017;Tsoi, 1990), sexual arousal patterns (Chivers et al., 2004;Lawrence et al., 2005), sexual partner preferences (e.g., Fein et al., 2018), feelings of sexual objectification (e.g., Sevelius, 2013), and sexual health (e.g., Baral et al., 2013;MacCarthy et al., 2017;Van Gerwen et al., 2020). Additionally, research on feminine trans individuals' sexuality has been conducted in numerous cultural settings. ...
Article
Feminine trans individuals (i.e., individuals who were assigned male at birth but who have a feminine gender presentation and identity) are present in many cultures. In some cultures, these individuals identify as (trans) women. Many of these individuals undergo medical treatments to feminize their bodies (e.g., breast augmentation), but most do not undergo vaginoplasties and therefore have penises. In many non-Western cultures, feminine trans individuals identify as a non-binary gender (i.e., neither man, nor woman). Many of these individuals do not surgically augment their bodies. Across cultures, some men express sexual interest in feminine trans individuals. Are manifestations of sexual interest in feminine trans individuals consistent across Western and non-Western cultural settings? Our review suggests that, across cultures, most of these men are also sexually attracted to cisgender individuals. Many are sexually attracted to cisgender women or to cisgender members of both sexes. A small subset is sexually attracted to cisgender men. Men who are sexually interested in feminine trans individuals commonly report being primarily insertive during anal sex. Additionally, they tend to report that their sexual interest in these individuals is motivated by attraction to femininity or to the combination female- and male-typical characteristics.
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In the absence of adequate measurement efforts, expansive gender and sexual identities will remain underexplored in quantitative social science and health research. We use primary survey data (N = 309) to identify factors associated with U.S.based social and health science faculty's attitudes toward inclusive gender and sexuality measures in participant-based research. Results suggest that political science faculty rated expansive gender and sexuality measures as less important to their own research, relative to psychology, sociology, and health sciences faculty. In addition, cisgender/heterosexual women and LGBTQ+ identifying faculty rate and apply these measures more positively compared to faculy who identify as cisgender/heterosexual men. Finally, faculty engaging in predominantly quantitative research, or in teaching-focused positions, had lower ratings of the importance of gender expansive measurement. Results suggest that while individual characteristics shape faculty's attitudes toward and use of inclusive gender and sexuality measures, disciplinary and academic contexts also matter.
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Background: This article is by a group of trans and nonbinary researchers and experts in the field of trans health who have conducted an analysis of trans health research needs. Aims: To highlight topics that need further research and to outline key considerations for those conducting research in our field. Methods: The first author conducted semi-structured interviews with all coauthors, and these were used to create a first draft of this manuscript. This draft was circulated to all authors, with edits made until consensus was reached among the authors. Results: More comprehensive long-term research that centers trans people’s experiences is needed on the risks and benefits of gender affirming hormones and surgeries. The trans health research field also needs to have a broader focus beyond medical transition or gender affirmation, including general health and routine healthcare; trans people’s lives without, before, and after medical gender affirmation; and sexuality, fertility, and reproductive healthcare needs. More research is also needed on social determinants of health, including ways to make healthcare settings and other environments safer and more supportive; social and legal gender recognition; the needs of trans people who are most marginalized; and the ways in which healing happens within trans communities. The second part of this article highlights key considerations for researchers, the foremost being acknowledging trans community expertise and centering trans community members’ input into research design and interpretation of findings, in advisory and/or researcher roles. Ethical considerations include maximizing benefits and minimizing harms (beneficence) and transparency and accountability to trans communities. Finally, we note the importance of conferences, grant funding, working with students, and multidisciplinary teams. Discussion: This article outlines topics and issues needing further consideration to make the field of trans health research more responsive to the needs of trans people. This work is limited by our authorship group being mostly White, all being Anglophone, and residing in the Global North.
Article
Psychological theories of gender and/or sex (gender/sex) have the capacity to shape people’s self-perceptions, social judgments, and behaviors. The institutional power of psychology to affect cognition and behavior—not just to measure them—necessitates a serious consideration of our social responsibility to manage the products of our intellectual labor. Therefore, I propose that psychological research should be understood as stewardship of gender/sex (and socially relevant concepts in general). In this issue, four articles collectively serve as a demonstrative slice of the diversity of current directions in psychological research on gender/sex. I use these articles as springboards for articulating key elements of psychologists’ stewardship of gender/sex and strategies for improving our stewardship. First, I examine how psychology’s historical stewardship of gender/sex has yielded both new methods for self-understanding and harmful consequences for marginalized people. Next, I explore promising current approaches that center minoritized perspectives. I also discuss roadblocks to effective stewardship, including narrowly disciplinary approaches. Finally, I consider strategies for improving psychology’s stewardship of gender/sex, such as mitigating gender/sex essentialism and employing generative theoretical frameworks built from interdisciplinary insights.
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Previous qualitative research on traditional measures of sexual orientation raise concerns regarding how well these scales capture sexual minority individuals' experience of sexuality. The present research focused on the critique of two novel scales developed to better capture the way sexual and gender minority individuals conceptualize sexuality. Participants were 179 sexual minority (i.e. gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, queer, asexual) individuals who identified as cisgender (n = 122) and transgender (n = 57). Participants first completed the new scales, then provided qualitative responses regarding how well each scale captured their sexuality. The Sexual-Romantic Scale enabled the measurement of sexual and romantic attraction to each sex independently (same-sex and other-sex). Participants resonated with the way the Sexual-Romantic scale disaggregated sexual and romantic attraction. Although cisgender monosexual (lesbian/gay) individuals positively responded to the separation of same- and other-sex attraction, individuals with either plurisexual (bisexual, pansexual, or fluid) or transgender identities found the binary conceptualization of sex/gender problematic. The Gender-Inclusive Scale incorporated same- and other-sex attraction as well as dimensions of attraction beyond those based on sex (attraction to masculine, feminine, androgynous, and gender non-conforming individuals). The incorporation of dimensions of sexual attraction outside of sex in the Gender-Inclusive Scale was positively regarded by participants of all identities. Findings indicate that the Sexual-Romantic and Gender-Inclusive scales appear to address some of the concerns raised in previous research regarding the measurement of sexual orientation among sexual minority individuals.
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The present research explores the range and complexity of sexual minority self-identification. Using a feminist intersectional approach, patterns of self-identification are considered across both sexual identity and gender identity. Participants represent an online convenience sample and included 448 sexual minority individuals. Participants endorsed monosexual (lesbian, gay) and plurisexual (bisexual, pansexual, queer, fluid) sexual identity labels and included both cisgender and transgender individuals. Participants answered a series of open- and closed-ended questions regarding their primary and secondary sexual identities. Monosexual participants were less likely to provide a definition for their primary sexual identity than were plurisexual individuals; and when they did provide a definition they used fewer words. Likewise, monosexual participants were less likely to report secondary sexual identities; and when they did, they provided fewer secondary identities than plurisexual individuals. Transgender individuals were more likely than cisgender individuals to provide a definition for their primary sexual identity and to indicate a secondary sexual identity. These findings suggest that individuals with non-normative identities (plurisexual and transgender) were less likely to endorse single identity labels, and more likely to provide additional context for their identity labels than were individuals with normative identities (monosexual and cisgender). The present findings support the notion that with regard to sexual identity normative identities go unexamined, and that both sexual identity and gender identity contribute to the normative conceptualization of sexuality. This is consistent with our finding that sexual orientation rumination is explained, in part, by primary sexual orientation identity and sexual orientation complexity. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
One less common and more stigmatized form of sexuality is BDSM, which is an umbrella term for consensual practices that involve, but are not limited to, bondage and discipline (B&D), dominance and submission (D&s), and sadomasochism (S&M). Focusing on one of many different conceptualizations, BDSM is comprised of a power dynamic between partners enacted through various activities (for an inclusive list, see Sandnabba et al., 1999; Weinberg et al., 1984). However, beyond being recently accepted as nonpathological, research has yet to reach consensus on BDSM’s nature and development. Specifically, although theories describing its origin abound, it remains unclear whether BDSM is best conceptualized as a sexual behavior, sexual attraction, sexual identity, and/or sexual orientation for those who practice for sexual purposes. Accordingly, the present paper outlines a common framework of sexuality while presenting an alternative yet complementary theory: Consistent with a sex-positive framework, BDSM may be best conceptualized as another form of sexual orientation for a percentage of practitioners.
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Although it is typically presumed that heterosexual individuals only fall in love with other-gender partners and gay-lesbian individuals only fall in love with same-gender partners, this is not always so. The author develops a biobehavioral model of love and desire to explain why. The model specifies that (a) the evolved processes underlying sexual desire and affectional bonding are functionally independent; (b) the processes underlying affectional bonding are not intrinsically oriented toward other-gender or same-gender partners; (c) the biobehavioral links between love and desire are bidirectional, particularly among women. These claims are supported by social-psychological, historical, and cross-cultural research on human love and sexuality as well as by evidence regarding the evolved biobehavioral mechanisms underlying mammalian mating and social bonding.
Book
This book is a major contribution to contemporary gender and sexuality studies. At a time when transgender practices are the subject of increasing social and cultural visibility, it marks the first UK study of transgender identity formation. It is also the first examination - anywhere in the world - of transgender practices of intimacy and care. The author addresses changing government legislation concerning the citizenship rights of transgender people. She examines the impact of legislative shifts upon transgender people’s identities, intimate relationships and practices of care and considers the implications for future social policy. The book encompasses key approaches from the fields of psychoanalysis, anthropology, lesbian and gay studies, sociology and gender theory. Drawing on extensive interviews with transgender people, “TransForming gender” offers engaging, moving, and, at times, humorous accounts of the experiences of gender transition. Written in an accessible style, it provides a vivid insight into the diversity of living gender in today’s world. The book will be essential reading for students and professionals in cultural studies, gender studies and sexuality studies as well as those in sociology, social policy, law, politics and philosophy. It will also be of interest to health and educational students, trainers and practitioners. Sally Hines is a lecturer in sociology and social policy at the University of Leeds. Her teaching and research interests fall within the areas of identity, gender, sexuality, the body and citizenship.