Gender essentialism and the mental representation of transgender women and men: A multimethod investigation of stereotype content

Natalie M. Gallagher*, Galen V. Bodenhausen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

The growing visibility of transgender women and men in the US challenges a dominant cultural model of gender in which dichotomous sex assigned at birth gives rise to dichotomous gender identity in adulthood. How are these groups – verbally marked as atypical relative to their cisgender counterparts – stereotyped? Moreover, how do gender essentialist beliefs predict the content of such stereotypes? Across four studies with diverse methods of stereotype measurement, we assessed characteristics that cisgender people associate with transgender women and men, comparing these to their stereotypes of cisgender women and men. In our final study, we directly assessed how cisgender people mentally position transgender groups relative to cisgender groups. Across these studies, transgender categories were characterized in less positive ways than cisgender ones, and there was as a lower level of consensus about transgender than cisgender stereotypes. On average, transgender groups were de-gendered relative to cisgender groups, such that transgender women and men were not strongly differentiated on traditionally-gendered stereotype dimensions. Finally, we showed that participants higher in gender essentialism (relative to participants lower in gender essentialism) evaluated cisgender groups more positively and were more likely to stereotype transgender groups based on their sex assigned at birth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104887
JournalCognition
Volume217
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Gender diversity
  • Gender identity
  • Psychological essentialism
  • Stereotypes
  • Transgender

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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