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  • Thursday, February 2, 2017

    February 05, 2017 8:43 AM - February 05, 2017 8:56 AM


    • Mirella Flores, B.S. ;
    • Laurel Watson, PhD ;
    • Luke Allen, MA ;
    • Mudiwa Ford, B.S. ;
    • Christine Serpe, MA ;
    • Ping Ying Choo, MA ;
    • Michelle Farrell, MA

    Whereas cisgender women’s experiences have been the primary focus of existing research on sexual objectification (SO; Moradi & Huang, 2008), cisgender men (Parent & Moradi, 2011) and women of Color (Watson, Ancis, White, & Narazi, 2013) have garnered some attention. SO occurs when an individual is treated as a body (or body parts) that exists particularly for others’ use and pleasure (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997). Generally, SO experiences and environments are associated with negative mental and behavioral health outcomes (Szymanski, Moffit, & Carr, 2011). Notably, the SO experiences of transgender people and transgender People of Color (TPOC) have yet to be explored. Grant et al. (2011) reported that TPOC are at a greater risk for sexual violence, physical assaults, and hate crimes. Perhaps the confluence of gender and racial identity experiences may affect TPOC life experiences and outcomes. Crenshaw’s (1991) intersectionality theory, which proposes that people with intersecting marginalized identities are particularly vulnerable to discrimination, may enhance our understanding of TPOC’s SO experiences.

    Using intersectionality and objectification theories, this grounded theory study examined SO experiences among TPOC. Questions explored include: 1. What are the SO experiences of TPOC? 2. How are TPOC affected by experience SO? 3. How do TPOC cope with SO?

    Materials and Methods:

    Grounded theory methodology was used (Charmaz, 2006; Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Participants were required to be at least 18-years-old and to self-identify as English-speaking TPOC. Participation was also limited to individuals not currently experiencing significant psychological distress. Fifteen TPOC participants engaged in one-time semi-structured interviews raging from 30- to 90-minute.


    Participants’ experiences of SO took the form of fetishization, racialized SO, genital- and transition-based comments, body policing, sexualized gaze and body objectification, and sexual violence. SO experiences seem be affected by systematic discrimination, and the privileged and marginalized aspects of participants’ identities. SO experiences affected participants intra- and interpersonally, and included: psychological distress, hypergivilance and physical safety anxiety, self-doubt, gender dysphoria, self-objectification, increased relatedness to others, isolation, material gain, and rejection sensitivity/anticipation. TPOC use multiple coping strategies for coping with SO. These included asserting self and establishing boundaries, avoidant methods, cautionary/protective measures, social support, self-care, advocacy/education others, (re)defining gender, counseling, self-harming, and survival responses.

    Conclusion: Consistent with intersectionality theory, we expected participants to be particularly vulnerable to experience SO due to them holding interesting marginalized identities. Our findings supported this expectation, as participant’s SO experiences were shaped by the intersection of transprejudice and racism. Although TPOC experienced some similar forms of SO as cisgender women (i.e., racialized SO, sexual violence, and sexualized gaze and body objectification), they also experienced more distinct forms of SO. These distinct forms of SO were fetishization, body policing, and genital- and transition-based comments. In recreating a story about SO experiences from the perspective of TPOC, we noticed how power and privilege influence SO experiences. Societal devaluation of TPOC and the lack of policies that protect minority groups enables environments and people to sexually objectify TPOC.
    Category: Ethnic/Racial Diversity