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Transgender Hiring Discrimination and the Role of Mental Illness Stigma

Andrew B Jeon, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Transgender and gender diverse (TGD) people experience discrimination in many settings, including in employment. Laws and policies protecting TGD individuals from workplace discrimination offer a patchwork of protections on the federal, state, and local levels. Whether Title VII’s protections against sex-based discrimination should be expanded to protect TGD people is debated across the federal circuits of the Court of Appeals. Models of marginalization stress for TGD people suggest employment discrimination may affect mental health and well-being. Research on prejudice toward TGD find that false associations with TGD identity and mental illness may play a role. Attitudes towards TGD people and people living with mental illness are likely formed and expressed on the level of implicit associations and explicit attitudes, which in turn influence employment decisions. Dual process models of attitudes formation outline how attitudes towards individuals rely on separate, but related types of cognition. It was hypothesized that implicit associations and explicit attitudes of mental illness affect the influence transgender associations and attitudes have on desired social distance and hiring ratings. An online sample of 336 people completed the Go/No-go Association task for positive and negative words associated with mental illness and transgender words and self-report prejudice scales measuring transgender and mental illness prejudice. Participants were randomly assigned to review one of eight job applications varied on sex, gender identity, and whether or not the person was living with a mental illness. Implicit associations for both mental illness and transgender prejudice predicted respective explicit, self-report results. Explicit, mental illness prejudice mediated the influence of explicit transgender prejudice on how much social distance participants wanted from transgender applicants. However, these results were not reproduced for implicit associations nor for hiring ratings. This is one of the few studies conducted that examines implicit and explicit associations for transgender and mental illness concepts. Results also explored the association that people may have between TGD people and those living with mental illness in the context of discrimination. Implications for TGD job applicants, organizations seeking to reduce discrimination towards TGD individuals in their hiring processes, and law and policy are discussed.

Subject Area

LGBTQ studies|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Jeon, Andrew B, "Transgender Hiring Discrimination and the Role of Mental Illness Stigma" (2019). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI13860262.