Journal of Adolescence 37 (2014) 927e935

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Influences of peers, teachers, and climate on students' willingness to intervene when witnessing anti-transgender harassment Laura J. Wernick a, *, Alex Kulick b, M.H. Inglehart c a

Graduate School of Social Service, Fordham University, 113 West 60th Street, New York, NY 10023, United States Women's Studies, University of Michigan, United States c Sociology, Columbia University, United States b

a b s t r a c t Keywords: Gender identity Transgender School climate Bullying Role models

Transgender young people are at increased risk for bullying, harassment, and negative mental health and academic outcomes compared to the general population as well as compared to other members of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and similarly identified (LGBTQQ) communities. To inform interventions to support transgender students, the present study investigates students' willingness to intervene when witnessing anti-transgender harassment, using data collected from a participatory action research project investigating school climate. Multi-step linear regression was used to test the impacts of hearing transphobic language and witnessing teachers and others students intervene, while controlling for demographics and school. Hostile climate negatively predicted intervention intentions while witnessing peer intervention positively predicted likelihood to intervene. Witnessing teacher intervention did not significantly predict the outcome. These findings suggest that youth-led interventions in peer networks might be effective in diminishing transphobic bullying and supporting the healthy development of transgender young people. © 2014 The Foundation for Professionals in Services for Adolescents. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

A growing body of research has established that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and similarly identified (LGBTQQ) young people are disproportionately victims of bullying in schools (Birkett, Espelage, & Koenig, 2009; D'Augelli, Pilkington, & Hershberger, 2002; Kosciw, Greytak, Bartkiewicz, Boesen, & Palmer, 2012; Rivers, 2001). LGBTQQ students are also at increased risk for negative mental health outcomes (Robinson & Espelage, 2011), findings partially explained by exposure to various forms of homophobic and transphobic bullying and negative climate (Birkett et al., 2009; Espelage, Hong, Rao, & Low, 2013; Poteat & Espelage, 2007). This harassment can be particularly severe for gender nonconforming students (Baams, Beek, Hille, Zevenbergen, & Bos, 2012; D'Augelli, Grossman, & Starks, 2006; Skidmore, Linsenmeier, & Bailey, 2006; Toomey, McGuire, & Russell, 2012). Trans* (i.e., transgender, genderqueer, and other individuals who do not identify with or normatively enact the gender assigned to them at birth) students have been found to experience harassment in schools at higher rates than both straight/ cisgender (those who feel their gender matches the one assigned at birth) and LGB students (Grant et al., 2011; Kosciw,

* Corresponding author. E-mail address: [email protected] (L.J. Wernick). 0140-1971/© 2014 The Foundation for Professionals in Services for Adolescents. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


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Greytak, et al., 2012; McGuire, Anderson, Toomey, & Russell, 2010). However, research and support programs often focus on issues facing LGBQ students, or LGBTQQ students generally, without consideration of the needs, strengths, and contexts that trans* students face (Kosciw, Bartkiewicz, & Greytak, 2012; McGuire & Conover-Williams, 2010). A recent review of research on the health of LGBTQQ young people indicated that less than 10% of studies included transgender respondents (Toomey, 2014). Even when transgender young people are included in research on LGBTQQ people, studies focusing on LGBTQQ students as a whole generally focus on issues related to sexual orientation rather than those related to gender identity/ expression (Moradi, Mohr, Worthington, & Fassinger, 2009). Trans* students experience particular forms of violence in school; for instance, gendered facilities (bathrooms, locker rooms) may not be safe for trans* students, especially if students are required to use the bathroom associated with their sex assigned at birth. As well, transphobia and trans-negativity among LGBTQQ communities may discourage trans* students from accessing resources and support through programs and services that focus on issues related to sexual orientation. Bullying experiences among young people have been linked to outcomes such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, self-injurious behaviors, suicidal ideation, lower academic performance, and school avoidance (D'Augelli et al., 2006; Hay & Meldrum, 2010; Haynie et al., 2001; Klomek, Marrocco, Kleinman, Schonfeld, & Gould, 2007; Menesini, Modena, & Tani, 2009; Walls, Freedenthal, & Wisneski, 2008). Research has shown the association between bullying and negative mental health outcomes, including suicide, remains when examining specific forms of transphobic harassment (Clements-Nolle, Marx, & Katz, 2006; Grant et al., 2011; McGuire et al., 2010; Toomey, Ryan, Diaz, Card, & Russell, 2010; Yunger, Carver, & Perry, 2004). For trans* students, these experiences have potential to negatively impact their experiences in schools and are compounded by other manifestations of genderism (i.e., the system that oppresses trans* people and privileges cisgender people) at organizational, institutional, social, and cultural levels. In and of themselves, experiences of bullying and harassment can impede healthy development (Strøm et al., 2013). As well, the resultant mental health issues and other confounding impacts of systemic oppression can further impede positive psychosocial development (Meyer, 2003). Schools have a responsibility to address homophobic and transphobic bullying (Poteat & Espelage, 2007); however, further research is needed to provide empirically grounded frameworks for understanding and working against genderism (Espelage & Swearer Napolitano, 2008; McGuire & Conover-Williams, 2010). To support the development of programs that decrease transphobic bullying and build safe and inclusive climates for trans* people in high schools and middle schools (Birkett et al., 2009; Poteat, Espelage, & Koenig, 2009; Robinson & Espelage, 2011, 2012, 2013), the present study examines the influences of exposure to negative climate as well as teacher and peer role models in predicting high school students' willingness to intervene when witnessing anti-trans* harassment. Trans* students in the school environment Securing accurate estimates of the number of trans* students in schools is difficult; only recently have some nationally representative studies begun to inquire about sex or gender beyond “male” and “female.” Even when more inclusive options are included in surveys, there is not consensus about how to most effectively inquire about transgender identities (Moradi et al., 2009). A few studies have indicated that less than 1% of the adult (0.3%) and adolescent (0.5%) populations in the United States identify as transgender and undergo a physical transition (Gates, 2011; Toomey, 2014). A relatively larger group, estimated up to 2% of the general as well as adolescent populations, identify as trans* but do not necessarily undergo a physical transition e for instance, folks who identify as genderfluid, questioning their gender (Toomey, 2014) or who report “strong feelings of being transgender” (Gates, 2011, p. 5). The term genderism has been used to describe the distinct form of oppression that targets trans*-identified individuals (Hill & Willoughby, 2005). Trans* individuals face widespread violence and discrimination both in and outside of educational institutions (Bryant & Schilt, 2008; GenderPac, 1997; Grant et al., 2011; Lombardi, 2009; Lombardi, Wilchins, Priesing, & Malouf, 2002). These systems of violence also interact with sexism, racism, and heterosexism. For example, while all trans* people experience genderism, people who are assigned male at birth and express themselves femininely experience transmisogyny; the sexist devaluation of femininity intersects with transphobia to cause particularly negative reactions to trans* people who were assigned male at birth (Barker-Plumber, 2013; McAvan, 2011; Serrano, 2007). For instance, one study investigating the experiences of young transgender women in Detroit found that acceptance of one's gender identity was contingent on successfully performing highly scrutinized versions of femininity related to one's appearance and dress (Graham, Crissman, Tocco, Hughes, Snow, & Padilla, in press). The high rate of violent hate crimes against this population shows the particular danger that this confluence of forces can cause (Chestnut, Dixon, & Jindasurat, 2013). Trans* people of Color also face particularly high rates of violence and discrimination (Bith-Melander et al., 2010; Chestnut et al., 2013), related to the high level of scrutiny for the gender performances of people of Color in general. Gender norms in the United States are based in part on standards that are racialized as White; and therefore, people of Color may have their gender identities challenged as not sufficiently masculine or feminine enough, as seen through racialized and gendered tropes, such as the effeminate Asian American man or the domineering masculine Black woman (Donovan, 2011; Hill, 2002; Lui, 2002; Morris, 2007). Accordingly, trans* people of Color assigned male at birth face exposure to the highest rates of physical violence and comprise the majority of the victims of deadly hate crimes affecting trans* people in the United States (Chestnut et al., 2013; McAvan, 2011). Within these complex systems of genderism, heterosexism, sexism, and racism, anti-trans* harassment serves as a potent means of policing gender expression and reinforcing binary gender norms (Graham et al., 2014; Kimmel & Mahler, 2003; Nadal & Griffin, 2011; Nadal, Skolnik, & Wong, 2012; Poteat & DiGiovanni, 2010).

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Although trans* students report high levels of harassment, reported rates of transphobic language in the school environment have been found to be lower than those of, for instance, homophobic language (Kosciw, Greytak, et al., 2012). However, it is unlikely that this is due to comparatively positive attitudes toward trans* people. Norton and Herek (2013), drawing from a probability sample of the general heterosexual population in the United States, found that attitudes toward LGB people (with no specified trans* identity) were more positive than attitudes toward trans* people. In their study, only 20% held positive attitudes toward trans* people, suggesting that while the relative prevalence of anti-trans* language might be lower than anti-LGBQ language and discrimination, experiences of discrimination and harassment can be just as, if not more, severe for trans* young people. Trans* students' experiences in schools are marked by both a lack of visibility and high rates of violence and harassment. Harassment and interventions Scholars have demonstrated that research and interventions addressing harassment in schools benefit from considering the complex social environment in which harassment and violence are perpetuated. Aggression and violence are learned behaviors, which young people often adopt through social-observational learning in peer networks (Low, Polanin, & Espelage, 2013). Observing violence has been correlated with later violent acts (Guerra, Rowell Huesmann, & Spindler, 2003), while studies on microaggressions (subtle forms of discrimination) have shown that climates that devalue certain individuals' identities can contribute to a culture conducive to further violence (Nadal & Griffin, 2011). Students' likelihood of engaging in bullying behaviors has been associated with perceptions that similar behaviors are common among peers (Hinduja & Patchin, 2013), suggesting that students may not only learn such behaviors from their social environments, but also that those environments affect how they later enact them. These behaviors can then be reinforced by messages in media and through positive and negative sanctions by authority figures (Kuntsche et al., 2006; Wernick, Kulick, & Inglehart, 2013). With regards to anti-trans* harassment, these processes intersect with systems of genderism and transphobia, as well as other systems of oppression. Transphobic attitudes and behaviors are similarly learned from peers, family, authority figures, and reinforced through cultural messages (Nadal et al., 2011). A myriad of messages condone and promote violence as a way to subjugate others and increase the status of one's self, based on factors such as race, appearance, nationality, and sexuality; transphobic message builds into these systems an indication that trans* students are permissible targets for violence. Greater research is needed that brings together the systemic understanding of harassment and aggression as well as transphobia and genderism (Horn, 2007; Swearer, Espelage, Vaillancourt, & Hymel, 2010). Critical youth theorists assert that solutions for problems that affect marginalized youth must be focused on and driven by those young people themselves (Cammarota & Fine, 2008; Solorzano & Delgado Bernal, 2001; Wernick, Kulick, et al., 2013; Wernick, Woodford, & Siden, 2010) and highlight the ways in which young people resist oppressive structures, whether by avoiding those structures, succeeding despite them, or organizing their communities to resist them (Cammarota & Fine, 2008). One important aspect of youth-led resistance is actively shaping the social environment through educating peers and motivating them to take action (Schindel, 2008; Wernick, Dessel, Kulick, & Graham, 2013; Wernick, Kulick, & Woodford, in press). In line with this framework, the present study focuses on intervention behaviors by high school students when witnessing anti-trans* harassment. Research aim In our previous research regarding harassment based on sexual orientation, we found that observing intervention behaviors by peers and adults in schools both positively predicted students' self-reported likelihood to intervene, but witnessing peer intervention had a notably higher impact (Wernick, Kulick, et al., 2013). As well, we did not find that the overall climate significantly predicted intervention behaviors related to sexual orientation harassment. However, as noted above, given the differences between heterosexism and genderism, we seek to test these findings in the context of gender identity. Building on this research and others that suggest that harassment and peer victimization are shaped by the peer relationships, authority figures, and overall climate, we investigate how each of these factors impacts student intervention behaviors when witnessing transphobic harassment. Methods Data for this paper are drawn from an anonymous paper-based survey collected as part of a participatory action research (PAR) project led by Riot Youth, a community-based LGBTQQ youth organization in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The project began as a result of a partnership between Riot Youth and a local Gay Straight Alliance of one of the sampled schools. As a response to experiences of bullying, marginalization, and oppression in schools, LGBTQQ and allied youth leaders designed a climate survey investigating issues of bullying, harassment, and student intervention related to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, race, and appearance, as well as issues related to curriculum and safety. The project was guided by a youthdriven, youth-led model, in which young people actively shaped and conducted the project, including designing the survey items and planning and implementing data collection procedures (Wernick et al., in press). This process served as an intervention in and of itself, educating peers while promoting the development of empowerment, confidence, and self-


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efficacy among marginalized young people (Wernick et al., in press). As well, adult advisors were involved throughout the process as advisors, bringing expertise in participatory action research methodologies and survey design (Wernick et al., 2010). Further, two of the authors are alumni of the program. In addition to collecting and disseminating their findings (Riot Youth, 2009), Riot Youth has incorporated their PAR project with their work to shape their schools and communities to be safe, welcoming, and just spaces for LGBTQQ young people. Further description of the PAR project, including findings, process, strategies, and outcomes have been published elsewhere (Riot Youth, 2009, 2013; Wernick et al., 2010; Wernick, Dessel, et al., 2013; Wernick, Kulick, Dessel, & Graham, 2014; Wernick, Kulick, et al., 2013; Wernick et al., in press; Wernick, Woodford, & Kulick, 2014). In regards to the present study, using participatory action research methods allowed for a greater depth of inquiry by drawing on the theoretical sensitivity rrez, 2001). Given the paucity of both empirical research developed by LGBTQQ students' lived experiences (Alvarez & Gutie and psychometrically validated measures that investigate the experiences of trans* young people, these methods enabled a depth of inquiry that might not have been otherwise possible. Procedure The Riot Youth Climate Survey (RYCS) collected data from four public high schools in Ann Arbor, Michigan (referred to herein as A, B, C, and D). Distribution procedures varied slightly by school due to negotiated agreements with administrators. In the two smaller schools (A and D, N ¼ approximately 200 and 450, respectively), surveys were distributed in all homeroomtype classes. In School B (N ¼ approximately 2000), surveys were distributed in a subset of English classes distributed over three periods on one day; nearly all students at this school were enrolled in an English class. In the largest school (C), surveys (N ¼ approximately 2500) were distributed in a subset of required health classes. Although the survey was voluntary, the high number of returned surveys indicated that students with a diverse range of knowledge, awareness, and attitudes about LGBTQQ communities completed and returned the survey. In each school, teachers administered surveys, using an oral script describing the survey and that participation was both voluntary and confidential. Informed consent forms were included in the survey, as well as definitions for terms used in the surveys. In three of the four schools (A, B, and D), Riot Youth participants were available while respondents completed the surveys to answer any questions; in school C, administrators requested Riot Youth not be present. To protect respondents' confidentiality, teachers collected informed consent forms and surveys in sealed envelopes. The survey was approved by the district school board and each school principal. The data from this study was shared with the authors as anonymous secondary data, and the University of Michigan Institutional Review Board approved its use as exempt from oversight. Sample For a complete report of sample (n ¼ 1171), including comparisons by school, see Table 1. The majority of respondents selfidentified as White (58%) and cisgender women/girls (53%). Less than 2% identified as trans* (transgender, genderqueer, or questioning), mirroring similar findings of earlier studies that broadly define trans* identities (Gates, 2011; Toomey, 2014). Using publicly available data on the demographics of each school, we found no significant differences between our sample and the school population by race; however, there were significant differences by gender in two schools, where cisgender men/boys were underrepresented: School B (48% vs. 53%; z ¼ 2.66, p < .01) and School D (24% vs. 44%; z ¼ 2.56, p < .01). The school district did not collect data on trans* identities. Significant demographic differences were present between the

Table 1 Descriptive statistics for sample in total and by school. Categorical variables

Gender Cisgender men Cisgender women Trans* Race White People of Color LGBTQQ identity LGBTQQ Straight/cisgender Continuous variables Age Frequency of hearing transphobic language Witnessing teachers intervene Witnessing other students intervene Likelihood to intervene

School D (n ¼ 40) n (%)

Total (n ¼ 1171) n (%)

School A (n ¼ 308) n (%)

School B (n ¼ 560) n (%)

School C (n ¼ 263) n (%)

130 (43.5) 161 (53.9) 8 (2.7)

252 (46.8) 282 (52.3) 5 (0.9)

127 (51.0) 120 (48.2) 2 (0.8)

9 (24.3) 28 (73.0) 1 (2.7)

518 (46.1) 590 (52.5) 16 (1.4)

215 (74.4) 74 (25.6)

248 (47.2) 277 (52.8)

165 (67.9) 78 (32.1)

7 (23.3) 23 (76.7)

635 (58.4) 452 (41.6)

53 (18.0) 241 (82.0)

32 (6.1) 496 (93.9)

9 (3.7) 235 (96.3)

6 (17.6) 28 (82.4)

100 (9.1) 1000 (90.9)

M (SD) 16.04 2.11 1.76 1.83 3.50

(1.19) (0.99) (1.70) (1.29) (1.27)

M (SD) 16.10 2.44 1.81 1.68 2.68

(1.25) (1.13) (1.41) (1.20) (1.31)

M (SD) 15.90 2.47 1.79 1.62 2.64

(0.81) (1.03) (1.42) (1.01) (1.27)

M (SD) 17.70 3.21 2.21 1.94 3.09

(1.09) (1.34) (1.27) (1.32) (1.42)

M (SD) 16.09 2.38 1.80 1.71 2.91

(1.18) (1.10) (1.49) (1.19) (1.35)

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samples of the four schools by gender c2 (df ¼ 3, n ¼ 1120) ¼ 10.73, p < .05, race c2 (df ¼ 3, n ¼ 1087) ¼ 81.58, p < .001, LGBTQQ identity c2 (df ¼ 3, n ¼ 1100) ¼ 45.9, p < .001, and age, F(df ¼ 3, n ¼ 1010) ¼ 22.12, p < .001. Measures All measures in the survey were developed by youth leaders using language that was accessible for high school respondents and relevant to the local context. Riot Youth leaders developed original survey items by reflecting on their lived experiences as well as the stories and experiences of their peers. The first author, who has training in survey design, served as a consultant throughout this process. Youth leaders also consulted and adapted items the national Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) bi-annual climate survey (Kosciw, Diaz, & Greyatk, 2008). Finally, the survey was reviewed and piloted among other LGBTQQ teens in Riot Youth who provided additional feedback and revisions. Frequency of hearing transphobic language was measured with the question, “Sometimes people use phrases such as “it” or “he-she” that are derogatory toward transgender people. How often do you hear phrases like the above in school?”. To assess witnessing teacher intervention and witnessing student intervention when transphobic harassment occurred, the survey asked: “When present, how often do teachers or other school staff [other students] intervene when phrases like the above are made?”. These three items were measured on a 5-point Likert-type scale (1 ¼ never, 5 ¼ frequently). The dependent variable, students' likelihood to intervene, when witnessing transphobic bullying/harassment was measured with the question: “How likely are you to intervene if you saw or heard harassment based on: Gender identification?” (1 ¼ not likely, 5 ¼ likely). Analytic plan Exploratory analyses were conducted to assess frequencies, distributions, and bivariate associations between study variables. The research question was tested using a five-step multiple linear regression model. The first step included demographic and control variables (age [in years], gender [cisgender women/cisgender men/trans*], LGBTQQ identity [yes/no], race [White/POC], and school [A/B/C/D]). In the second step, frequency of hearing transphobic language was entered. In order to separately test the impact of witnessing other students intervene and witnessing teachers intervene, in the third and fourth steps, we added these variables separately. Finally, the final step included all control and independent variables. Results Exploratory results Results indicate that, on average, respondents reported hearing phrases like “it” or “he-she” that are derogatory toward trans* people “sometimes” to “rarely” (M ¼ 2.38, SD ¼ 1.10). Hearing this phrase was significantly associated with age (b ¼ .08, Table 2 Multiple linear regressions with OLS estimators predicting respondents' likelihood to intervene when witnessing anti-trans* bullying/harassment. Demographics and controls

Age Gender Cis-women v. cis-menb Cis-men v. Trans*a Cis-women v. Trans*a LGBTQQ identity (ref. yes) Race (ref. White) School (ref. school A) School B School C School D Independent variables Frequency of hearing transphobic language Witnessing teachers intervene Witnessing other students intervene Model statistics R2 Intercept a Intercept b

Model 1 (n ¼ 980)

Model 2 (n ¼ 959)

Model 3 (n ¼ 937)

Model 4 (n ¼ 934)

Model 5 (n ¼ 931)











0.35*** 0.68þ 1.03** 0.75*** 0.07

0.34*** 0.68þ 1.02** 0.77*** 0.04

0.36*** 0.66þ 1.02** 0.77*** 0.05

0.35*** 0.68þ 1.03** 0.77*** 0.05

0.36*** 0.67þ 1.03** 0.76*** 0.06

0.72*** 0.74*** 0.56*

0.70*** 0.73*** 0.50þ

0.72*** 0.74*** 0.50þ

0.65*** 0.67*** 0.42

0.66*** 0.68*** 0.42


0.09* 0.05

0.11** 0.13***

0.12** 0.02 0.14***

.14 3.20*** 3.89***

.14 3.23*** 3.91***

.13 3.15*** 3.83***

.13 3.35*** 4.03***

þ p < .10 * p < .05 **p < .01 ***p < .001. Notes. Cis- ¼ cisgender; LGBTQQ ¼ lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer, questioning. a Trans* used as base. b Cis-women used as base.

.14 3.38*** 4.04***


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p < .01) with younger students hearing these phrases more frequently and with race (b ¼ .16, p < .05) with respondents of Color more likely to report hearing this type of language. There were no significant differences by LGBTQQ identity or gender in the frequency of hearing transphobic language, suggesting that trans* students do not “over-report” the prevalence of verbal harassment in school settings. On average, respondents were “somewhat likely” to intervene when witnessing anti-trans* bullying/harassment (M ¼ 2.91, SD ¼ 1.35). Respondents indicated that, on average, they between “never” and “rarely” witnessed teachers and other students intervene (teachers: M ¼ 1.80, SD ¼ 1.45; other students: M ¼ 1.71, SD ¼ 1.19). They also reported that they were significantly more likely to witness teachers intervene than other students, t ¼ 2.24, p < .05. Regression analysis For a full report of the regression models, see Table 2. In the regression model predicting frequency of self-reported intervention when witnessing transphobic harassment, significant demographic differences emerged. In the first step, which included only the demographic variables and school, cisgender women were significantly more likely to intervene compared to both cisgender men (b ¼ .35, p < .001) and trans* respondents (b ¼ 1.03, p < .01). Further, cisgender men were marginally more likely to intervene compared to trans* respondents (b ¼ .68, p < .10). However, in general, straight/cisgender respondents were less likely to intervene than LGBTQQ respondents (b ¼ .75, p < .001). All of these significant associations persisted in subsequent steps of the model. In the second step, a significant negative association emerged between frequency of hearing transphobic language and respondents likelihood to intervene when witnessing harassment based on gender identity (b ¼ .08, p < .05). Higher rates of hearing transphobic language were associated with lower rates of self-reported intervention behaviors, while controlling for demographics and school. Similarly, this significant association persisted in the subsequent steps of the model. The third step demonstrated that while controlling for demographics, school, and frequency of hearing transphobic language, there was no significant association between witnessing teachers intervene and students' own self-reported intervention behaviors. In the fourth step, when witnessing teacher intervention was removed and witnessing other student intervention was entered, this independent variable was significant (b ¼ .13, p < .001), with higher rates of witnessing other students intervene associated with higher rates that respondents themselves would intervene when witnessing antitrans* harassment. In the final model, in which all control and independent variables were entered, the significant positive association between witnessing other students intervene and self-reported likelihood to intervene persisted (b ¼ .14, p < .001), while witnessing teacher intervention remained non-significant. Discussion Our findings suggest that high school students' willingness to intervene when witnessing anti-trans* harassment is shaped by the social context and in particular, the prevalence of hostile climate and modeling of intervention behaviors by peers. In some ways, these findings mirror our earlier research examining harassment based on sexual orientation (Wernick, Kulick, et al., 2013): the impact of peer modeling of anti-bullying behaviors appears to be more salient for students than adult modeling. However, in regards to anti-trans* harassment, we found that witnessing teachers intervene was not a significant predictor at all. One possible explanation may be that adults are less knowledgeable about and/or openly hostile to trans* students and might interrupt anti-trans* bullying but not address identity-based components. These findings are somewhat troubling, given that teacher intervention was reported significantly higher than student intervention. Also differing from our findings with regards to harassment based on sexual orientation, we found that the prevalence of negative climate was significant in predicting students' willingness to intervene. These findings are likely related to the relative hostility and overt nature of transphobia and anti-trans* harassment in schools and the low visibility of trans* students' identities and networks of support. In an overtly hostile climate, frequency of witnessing harassment might hamper students' ability to feel safe to intervene when witnessing anti-trans* harassment. Finally, our results suggested significant demographic differences in both witnessing and intervening in instances of transphobic harassment. Students of Color were more likely to report hearing transphobic harassment, likely related to the unique ways that gender expression among people of Color are stringently policed by society in general (Bith-Melander et al., 2010; Chestnut et al., 2013). Because evaluations of the gender expression of people of Color are used in racialized tropes, people of Color may be compelled to navigate strict binary conceptions of gender, resulting in an increased rate of transphobic and binary-enforcing harassment. Further, cisgender women/girls were more likely to intervene than cisgender men/boys and trans* respondents, and LGBTQQ people were more likely to intervene than cisgender/straight students. The increased likelihood of intervention among members of the broader LGBTQQ community is noteworthy when considering the history of transphobia in gay and lesbian spaces (Stone, 2009). These findings suggest that although transphobia and trans-negativity exist among LGBQ communities (Moradi et al., 2009), LGBTQQ students as a whole appear to be motivated to support a positive climate for trans* students. Future research should investigate the motivations and effectiveness of cisgender LGBQQ students working in alliance with trans* students against genderism. The differences along gender lines are not entirely surprising given the ways that masculinity is strictly enforced through homophobia and transphobia and the pervasive unsafe climate for trans* students, making intervention potentially more costly for cisgender men/boys and trans* respondents (Kosciw, Greytak, et al., 2012; Pascoe, 2005; Riot Youth, 2009).

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Implications for practice Given the negative impacts of bullying and harassment on students' wellbeing and academic success (D'Augelli et al., 2006; Hay & Meldrum, 2010; Haynie et al., 2001; Klomek et al., 2007; Menesini et al., 2009; Strøm et al., 2013; Walls et al., 2008), and the widespread existence of negative climate, bullying, and harassment against trans* people (Grant et al., 2011; Kosciw, Greytak, et al., 2012; McGuire et al., 2010), this study provides critical insights to inform interventions to decrease bullying and harassment based on gender identity/expression. Our findings affirm previous suggestions of the need to address the multi-level manifestations of transphobia in schools (Greytak, Kosciw, & Boesen, 2013; Kopels & Paceley, 2012). These strategies might include enumerating protections for trans* students in anti-discrimination and anti-bullying policies, as well as implementing education and training to support a positive climate in schools and decrease bullying and violence (Kopels & Paceley, 2012; Kosciw, Bartkiewicz, et al., 2012). Our findings suggest that peer-to-peer programmatic interventions might be most effective in increasing intervention behaviors in instances of anti-trans* bullying and harassment. We recommend that these efforts be led by trans* young people who can speak to their own experiences and identities (McGuire & Conover-Williams, 2010; Schindel, 2008; Wernick, Dessel, et al., 2013; Wernick, Kulick, et al., 2014). These interventions should focus on increasing student intervention, as well as encouraging active role modeling (Wernick, Kulick, et al., 2013). In addition, these interventions should also attend to issues of race, gender, and masculinity/femininity in addressing trans* harassment in schools (Wernick, Dessel, et al., 2013; Wernick, Kulick, et al., 2014). Concurrent efforts should focus on increasing safety for trans* students and visibility of trans* issues. Strategies that cultivate platforms for trans* students to share stories and lead structured dialogues about identity, bullying, and intervention behaviors might be effectual in accomplishing these goals simultaneously (Wernick, Dessel, et al., 2013). A notable body of literature has recognized the potential positive impacts of bystander intervention, particularly as it relates to sexual assault (e.g., Banyard, Moynihan, & Plante, 2007; Burn, 2009). These studies suggest that interventions that increase positive attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors related to oppressive behaviors can encourage prevention of violence. Peers are uniquely situated to intervene, particularly given the ways that transphobic harassment can frequently occur in spaces where adults are not present (e.g., in bathrooms). However, respondents indicated that adults were more likely to intervene during instances of anti-trans* harassment. Teachers and other adults should be encouraged to continue and increase their intervention behaviors; however, trainings for teachers should help them also cultivate supportive attitudes toward trans* people and motivating students to intervene. These types of training might be most effective if they are led by trans* students and include education about the complexity of different trans* identities (Schindel, 2008). The leadership of trans* students in interventions to address genderism might greatly increase the effectiveness of these interventions. However, given prevailing trans-antagonistic attitudes, increased visibility of trans*-identified students might also result in violence and harassment. Support must be built up around trans* students working to transform their schools. Participating in activism can provide a protective effect against genderism and heterosexism resulting from a supportive community of similarly-identified peers, as well as developing a sense of agency and hope through effecting positive social change (Wernick et al., in press). As well, cisgender students might be responsive, in some situations, to others they perceive as part of their in-group. It is also important than cisgender students act in alliance with trans* students to promote positive climate, while also maintaining accountability to the trans* students whom they seek to support. Finally, our findings showed that predictors for intervention behaviors around anti-trans* harassment differed notably from our earlier research on sexual orientation bullying intervention (Wernick, Kulick, et al., 2013). The specific mechanics of transphobia and genderism must be considered when developing programs and interventions to support LGBTQQ students as a community, including creating additional interventions focused specifically on trans* issues (Greytak et al., 2013). Some preliminary research has begun to document the “gender activism” of students (Schindel, 2008, p. 56). Effective strategies might include: educating students about the complexities and possibilities of gender identity; enacting and enforcing comprehensive anti-discrimination policies; and, building connections between the experiences of transgender students and other marginalized students (Graham et al., 2014; Schindel, 2008; Wernick, Dessel, et al., 2013). Limitations, strengths, and future research This study has a number of methodological strengths and limitations. The primary strength is the use of participatory action research in collecting survey data inquiring about marginalized identities in schools. Participatory action research is a rrez, powerful tool that can be develop empowerment and leadership among marginalized young people (Alvarez & Gutie 2001) and bring their voices into school decision-making processes (Dymond, 2001). In this case, the use of participatory action research allowed for the production of locally-relevant measures and the inclusion of trans* student voices in the process of the research design and analysis. The participatory action research project also enabled data collection related to school climate in public high schools among a relatively random and representative sample. However, the related limitation is the focus on a single school district and the use of multiple sampling frames across schools. As well, single-item measures were used to measure complex constructs; further research should test and validate measures that are appropriate and effective for use among this population. Also, because the survey was intended to be an intervention in it of itself, including the question where particular phases were defined as “derogatory toward transgender people,” some social desirability may have impacted how respondents' reports of hearing these phrases. Further research should control for social desirability.


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Influences of peers, teachers, and climate on students' willingness to intervene when witnessing anti-transgender harassment.

Transgender young people are at increased risk for bullying, harassment, and negative mental health and academic outcomes compared to the general popu...
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