Abstract: Midwestern Trans Young People and Conceptualizations of Community and Community Climate (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

283P Midwestern Trans Young People and Conceptualizations of Community and Community Climate

Friday, January 17, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Megan Paceley, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
Patricia Sattler, MSW, Doctoral Student/Graduate Research Assistant, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
Jacob Goffnett, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Background: Transgender youth are at risk of marginalization and victimization which can affect their physical and mental health (Marshall et al., 2016). These experiences may vary by the communities and region of the U.S. in which transgender youth are situated (Palmer et al., 2012). Community climate is the level of support in a community for LGBTQIA individuals (Oswald et al., 2010) and is related to well-being among SGM youth (Duncan at el., 2014; Hatzenbuehler, 2011). Given this important association between community and well-being, developing interventions at the community level to promote acceptance and reduce marginalization may improve outcomes for transgender young people. However, little research has explored the experiences of transgender youth in the Midwest and what factors influence their perceptions of their local community climate toward transgender people. This study responds to these gaps and needs for social change by examining how transgender young people in the Midwest conceptualize their geographic community (e.g. town, city, neighborhood) and the factors they associate with a hostile or supportive community climate.


Methods:  Qualitative interviews were conducted with 19 transgender youth (42% transgender boys/men, 16% transgender girls/women, and 42% non-binary individuals) ages 13-24 (M=18) in two Midwestern states. Participants were 74% white, 16% multiracial, 5% Black, and 5% Latinx. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in-person or via video conferencing and explored youth’s perceptions of their community, factors that relate to the climate of their community, and aspects of their community they wished to see changed. All youth received a $20 gift card for their time. Data were analyzed using thematic coding (Braun & Clarke, 2006) by three coders. A transgender youth advisory board assisted with recruitment for the study, as well as provided feedback on interview questions and emerging findings.  

Results: Emerging findings from this study include transgender youth’s 1) conceptualizations of community and 2) perspectives on hostile and supportive aspects of their communities. Conceptualizations of community reveal that youth do not restrict their notion of community to the immediate geographic setting; rather, they include their school climate and online presence in how they conceptualize community. Factors related to climate include the behavior and characteristics of individuals in the community (e.g. attitudes, trans-inclusive language, political ideology, religious beliefs), community characteristics (e.g. safe spaces, inclusive policies, public awareness and visibility, healthcare access, and religious messages), and factors related to the local LGBTQIA community (e.g. the presence of LGBTQIA groups and visibility of other trans people).

Conclusions and Implications: Findings suggest important potential implications to engage in social change at the community level to promote the well-being of transgender young people (e.g. increasing trans visibility, enacting trans-inclusive policies). Findings also suggest a need to attend to regional and community factors when studying the experiences of trans youth.