The T in LGBT

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You have probably heard the acronym LGBT before, and this refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. Although commonly used, this grouping is a curious one. L,G, and B refer to one’s sexual orientation, while T, or transgender, refers to a person’s gender identity and expression.

Not only are sexual orientation and gender identity and expression different constructs, but recent research shows that persons in the LGBT grouping do not have common experiences.

Drew Pickett and I collected data from college students in 2007 and again in 2014, asking them, among other things, about their prejudice toward lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender individuals. We investigated differences in ratings among the different group members and potential changes over time.

We observed that people’s attitudes toward lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals are similar, and they are reliably more positive than sentiments toward transgender persons.

We also observed changes over time. Attitudes toward both groups improved from 2007 to 2014, but the changes were less pronounced for transgender individuals.

Together, these findings have a number of important implications. First, attitudes improved over time, suggesting they are malleable. Therefore, interventions, educational activities, and cultural events all have the potential to reduce prejudice.

Second, while we did observe changes from 2007 to 2014, the effects were less strong for transgender individuals. Instead, people routinely expressed more prejudice toward trans persons than they did toward LGB individuals. These findings serve as a reminder that experiences of LGBT individuals are not uniform. Instead, people who represent the T in the acronym are more likely than their peers to face prejudice and discrimination—a problem that has and continues to persist.