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Completed Studies

Sub-Fems: An Exploration of the Intersectionality of Empowerment Through Submissive Identity, Grounded in Feminist Theory

Kathryn Jones, PsyD - Researcher

The BDSM/kink community has recently entered into mainstream consciousness and conversation through books and films such as Fifty Shades of Grey and other media portrayals. While this representation may have sparked a general conversation about alternative sexual practices, it remains a controversial topic. In a modern-day world where sexual liberation and empowerment are on the rise, it can be difficult to grasp how and why women of a modern society would willingly relinquish power within the BDSM/kink play scene. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to explore and understand the participants’ perspectives on submission, within a Dominant and submissive relationship, as well as their motivation to engage in such actions. Results are analyzed through a feminist lens. Furthermore, a discussion of implications for clinicians working with individuals within this community is explored.

Father Knows Best: Exploring How Fathers Approach Sex Education with their Daughters

Brittany Nelson, PsyD - Researcher

This study aimed to explore fathers' perceived comfort, knowledge, and responsibility in addressing sexual health topics with their adolescent daughter(s) in relation to their own opinions and beliefs regarding their role as a male figure in their daughter's life in the context of Urie Bronfenbrenner's bioecological systems theory and Nancy Chodorow's feminist relational theory. Six fathers participated in the study. Data was collected using the Father Sexual Comfort, Knowledge, and Responsibility Scale and an open-ended interview. Results showed fathers consider themselves to be comfortable, responsible, and knowledgeable in comprehensive sex education topics. In large, fathers consider themselves to be important male figures in guiding their daughter's relational development and decreasing stigma in female sexuality. These results challenge preconceived ideas of the paternal role and provide rationale to continue researching the relational and social implications of the father-daughter relationship. 

The Dynamic Relationship Between Transman Identity Embodiment and Sexuality

Natalie J. Coffin, PsyD - Researcher

Through individual interviews, the study sought to explore and examine the experiences of seven transmen who were assigned female status at birth and have transitioned and now self-identity as male. The study asked participants about their experience of transitioning as well as how their sexuality and sexual practices reinforce their male identity. The study hypothesized that the interviewed transmen would demonstrate the need to challenge the binary gender identity construct as well as highlight how fluid sexuality is, which cannot always simply be quantified into gay, straight, or bisexual categories. The study proposes a more dynamic and intertwined relationship between transgendered embodiment of identity and sexual practices. Their experiences as female and male help shape the concept that gender does not have to be binary. Sexuality is a major component of identity as well, but it does not solely reinforce gender. Sexuality is fluid and evolving. It is more accurate to describe sexuality as a platform for gender expression and affirmation. Implications for mental health providers provide a more compassionate and deeper understanding of transgender treatment needs. Mental health providers can assist transgendered individuals in normalizing and validating differences in gender identity and expression (American Psychological Association, 2015). The role of the mental health professional is crucial in helping advocate and develop policy that is inclusive in practice and research for transgendered individuals.

Relationship Satisfaction in Long-Term, Non-monogamous, Heterosexual Relationships

Heather Tahler, PsyD - Researcher
Leesa Contorino, MA and Olivia Ellis, MA - Research Assistants

This study was designed to explore questions examining relational satisfaction in long-term non-monogamous heterosexual couples in comparison to relational satisfaction in long-term sexually monogamous heterosexual couples, as well as gain insight into whom those involved in non-monogamous relationships disclose to and the potential stigma felt by this disclosure. Demographic variables were also explored to see if any prediction of marital satisfaction occurred. Both long-term sexually monogamous and long-term sexually non-monogamous participants responded to a secure online survey. The survey consisted of informed consent, inclusion criteria, ENRICH marital satisfaction scale (Fowers and Olson 1993) items, and open-ended questions for items not assessed by the ENRICH scale alone. After checking for univariate normality and outliers and assessing missing value patterns, results show that both the Marital Satisfaction and Idealistic Distortion scales were reliable. The findings in the study revealed that relationship type did not have a significant impact on marital satisfaction or idealistic distortion, with similar levels of satisfaction and idealistic distortion in both monogamous and non-monogamous couples. The results also demonstrated, through linear regression for demographic variables, that only income level significantly predicted marital satisfaction. After qualitative data was coded, there were many themes found within both monogamous and non-monogamous couples. Data supports the original hypothesis that there was very little difference in marital satisfaction between monogamous and non-monogamous heterosexual couples. With these results, non-monogamy is a more viable relationship option than previously recognized for couples that are interested, and it is necessary to create models to work with these couples. Developing further research within this population specifically is also necessary for the future.

Is the Mechitza Permeable? An Exploratory Study on Navigating Jewish and Transgender Identities

Nicole Thalheimer, PsyD - Researcher
Jerrod Handy, MA and Michael Jones, MA - Research Assistants

Identifying as a Jewish transgender woman can come with a plethora of stigma and challenges. Compounded by the ongoing existence of microaggressions and violence, a 2009 survey found individuals who identify as transgender are 40 times more likely to have attempted suicide than the national average. The invalidation of an already marginalized group is exacerbated by clinical invisibility and lack of empirical research. Participants took part in 90- minute semistructured qualitative interviews using a questionnaire created based on Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory. After transcription, the researcher and two assistants ascertained eight major themes and four minor themes: (a) Family (spouse, parent, or sibling) Interactions; (b) Dynamics of Sexual Orientation; (c) Professional Help and Bureaucratic Red Tape; (d) Stealth and Disclosure of Transgender Identity; (e) Education; (f) What Does It Mean To Transition; (g) Changes to Community Interactions; and (h) Transgender Jewish Interactions. The four minor themes were: (a) Interactions with and Views of Israel, (b) Naming and Language, (c) Not Fitting In, and (d) Reaction of Children. The meaning and construction of the participants’ transgender and Jewish identities varied greatly. Access to support and resources both in the Jewish and gender contexts either aided or hindered the participants’ identity growth. Resilience and humor played roles in all participants’ narratives. This study supports and validates the idea that there is no one right way to be a transgender Jewish woman.

Just Say I Love You - A Phenomenological Approach to Understanding the Impact of Attachment on Lesbian Adoptees’ Experiences of Coming Out to Adoptive Parents

Alissa M. Irwin - Researcher

An appreciable body of research has been published on adoption and on sexual identity development; however, there remains a critical lack of information available to help us understand the lived experiences of people who were adopted and who have come out as a sexual minority. This phenomenological study sought to explore the impact of attachment on the coming out experiences of lesbian adoptees when self-disclosing their sexual orientation to their adoptive parent(s). Eight cisgender women, 18 years of age and older, who self-identified as lesbians and who were legally adopted between the time of birth and 12 months of age were the focus of this study. Participants took part in 60- to 90-min qualitative interviews wherein they responded to three main open-ended questions (and subsequent queries) pertaining to the adoptee experience, identification as a lesbian, and the coming out process. Using the modified Stevick- Colaizzi-Keen method of phenomenological data analysis, the researcher ascertained six major themes and four minor themes following transcription of the interviews. The six major themes were: (a) Identity Confusion; (b) Influence of Upbringing and Fundamental Beliefs; (c) Fear of Detection; (d) Rejection Fantasies; (e) Desire for Authenticity and Connectedness; and (f) Shifting Family Dynamics. The four minor themes were: (a) Intersectionality of Core Identities; (b) Attribution of Blame; (c) Impact of Situation and Environment on Disclosure; and (d) Need for Repeated Self-Disclosure. Results indicate the influence of attachment seemed most significant on the experience of rejection fantasies and on relationships to primary attachment figures following self-disclosure when compared to both the LGBTQ+ population and to nonadopted lesbians. The clinical implications of these findings, as well as a discussion of the limitations and directions for future research, are discussed.

Sex Education for All?
Exploring Parental Views on the Sex Education Needs of Children with Autism

Courtney Hansen, MA - Researcher

Although there is a greater percentage of parents and professionals agreeing that individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) need more, and better, sex education, there remains a lack of comprehensive sex education targeting children with ASD. This study seeks to gain an understanding of how parents of children with ASD view their child’s sex education needs and how parents want mental health professionals to support them and their child in terms of sex education. Parents with a child with ASD took part in 60- minute semi-structured qualitative interviews using a questionnaire created by the researcher with feedback from mental health professionals working with children with ASD. After transcription of the interviews, the researcher ascertained six major themes and three minor themes: 1) Knowledge and Comprehension; 2) Important Topics; 3) Seeing the Big Picture; 4) Safety Concerns; 5) Benefits of Intervention; 6) Looking for Guidance. The three minor themes were: 1) The “Talk”; 2) Masturbation and Privacy; 3) Romantic Relationships. The lived experiences of the participants’ perspectives on the sex education needs of their children demonstrated a general interest in their child receiving sex education and a desire for mental health professionals to be proactive in providing support in this area. This study supports and validates the fact that parents are aware of their children’s need to learn information and skills related to puberty, sexual activities, consent, and romantic relationships. Findings indicate that parents are looking for guidance and support from clinicians and therapists in addressing the sex education needs of their child with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Preparedness of Doctoral Clinical Psychology Program Faculty to Integrate Topics of Human Sexuality into Academic Training

Eliana Swislow, MA - Researcher

Sexuality is a fundamental aspect of the human experience. Despite the intersection between psychological and sexual wellbeing, the majority of doctoral clinical psychology programs do not require, nor offer, courses in human sexuality. Whereas past research has widely focused on graduate student competency, little research has surveyed faculty competency in topics of human sexuality. This study measured the extent to which educators of graduate students are knowledgeable in topics of sexuality, and how comfortable they feel integrating sexual topics into their courses. This study surveyed 52 licensed clinical psychologists who teach in accredited doctoral programs nationwide. Participants were surveyed utilizing a previously developed competency questionnaire to measure knowledge, and a newly created measure to examine levels of comfort discussing sexuality with students. Participants demonstrated greater knowledge of sexual dysfunction than of healthy sexual development. Additionally, participants reported higher levels of comfort when asked to discuss sexuality in general, but reported relatively lower levels of comfort when asked to discuss certain specific sexually related topics with students.

Ab bas: Resiliency and Cultural Factors in South Asian Women Survivors of Sexual Assault

Ashley Jacob, MA - Researcher

Women within South Asian communities experience high rates of sexual violence. According to the National Crime Bureau, there were 36,735 reported occurrences of rape in India in 2014. Approximately 41.7% of women in India will experience physical and psychological abuse from their families, (e.g. kidnapping, sexual and physical assault, and acid throwing), in addition to abuse as a result of her family's inability to make dowry payments. According to the previous research, these statistics are impacted by several cultural factors including: patriarchal society, perception of women, stigma associated with violence, and limited access to mental health resources.

A total of 38 individuals participated in the online, confidential survey, and were screened for eligibility by completing the demographic questions. Of these participants, 19 women (50%) met the inclusion criteria and consented to participate in the study, and 16 women (42.1%) completed the remaining 10 questions. On average, participants reported a strong association to their cultural identity, and considered it to be an important factor in their recovery process. Additionally, responses indicated that family and community is a culturally-bound resiliency factor, as many women emphasized the importance of their family as a key factor in their process of healing. Consistent with the literature, responses suggested that occurrences of victim blaming, fear of damaging reputation and image, stigma associated with sexual violence, and discomfort with disclosure contributed to culturally-bound barriers to healing.

Is there room for pride? Exploring the impact of high school climate on LGB young adults

Gabrielle Patton, MA - Researcher

The present study investigated the impact of high school climate on young adult functioning in sexual minority individuals. School climate is the overall culture and atmosphere of an educational system, including local and national government policies, teaching styles, expectations, and community values (Espelage et al., 2014). The climate, in which adolescents spend a total of 3600 hours, influences their sense of self, values, and skillset that they use to function as young adults. The present study utilized the theoretical frameworks of Erick Erickson and Anthony D’Augelli to conceptualize identity development. Erickson (1963) depicted development as dependent on how supportive the individual’s environment is for their unique needs. Thus, signifying the importance of surroundings with regards to healthy and adaptive identity development (Erickson, 1963). Erickson (1963) also outlined that the experiences, crises, and exploration encountered during adolescence impact identity development and formation later in life. D’Augelli (1994) created a framework that specifically outlines the identity formation process of sexual minority individuals. D'Augelli (1994) highlighted the impact social and environmental factors have on identity acceptance in this population. Schools with more nurturing components (e.g., supportive teachers as role models, meaningful studies, cultivation of the whole student) and positive school climates are associated with enhanced identity development (Rich & Schachter, 2011). Conversely, schools that are deemed unsafe for LGBTQ+ students are associated with higher rates of being bullied, lower GPAs, future drug use, and suicidal behaviors (Kosciw et al., 2016). Schools within the United States are currently lagging in creating inclusive curriculums and practices to support LGBTQ+ students. It is the school's job to protect their students, but empirical evidence suggests this population of students is being left behind.

Just a Swipe Away: Navigating the Motivations Behind Downloading and Using Mobile Dating Applications During a Global Pandemic

Blake Klinsky, MA - Researcher

The purpose of this study was to explore the underlying motivations behind downloading or reopening mobile dating applications (MDAs) during a global pandemic. Additional objectives of this study were to explore the lived experiences of heterosexual, cisgender women mobile dating application users, investigate how mobile dating has changed since March of 2020, and analyze research from dating before COVID-19 compared to dating during COVID-19. At the time of the study, there was little research that addressed the motivations of using MDAs during a pandemic, as well as the experiences of women who were navigating dating in a socially distant world. For these reasons, this study aimed to (1) analyze the motivations behind downloading MDAs during the COVID-19 pandemic, (2) explore the lived experiences of women who used MDAs during the COVID-19 pandemic, (3) investigate how mobile dating has changed since March 2020, and (4) compare pre-COVID-19 and current COVID-19 dating experiences. This study employed a qualitative method of phenomenology and investigated the lived experiences of eight women, 20 to 29 years old, who used mobile dating applications during COVID-19. The results of the coding process produced nine areas of focus, 22 major themes, and three minor themes. Furthermore, a discussion of implications for clinicians and mental health professionals working with individuals who have used MDAs were explored.

Holding Multiple Identities: A Phenomenological Look at Intersectionality and Identity Conflict for Bisexual Black Women

Elizabeth Fynn, MA - Researcher

Identity can be discussed in a number of contexts (McLean & Syed, 2015). There is a scarcity of research that explores the intersectional development of identities. Most research focuses on one aspect of identity with little exploration of other parts of one’s identity. However, there are several factors that influence identity and its development. Though there has been more research that focuses on the experiences of the LGBTQ+ community, it rarely focuses on bisexual people, and it is even more rare for there to be a focus on the experiences of Black women that are bisexual. The present study aimed to explore the experience of holding multiple identities for cisgender bisexual Black women. Therefore, the research was done from an intersectional lens by considering all parts of participants’ identities. Transcendental phenomenology was used to analyze semi-structured interviews of four bisexual Black women. Analysis of transcribed interviews revealed five commons themes: Family, Ridicule and Jokes, Bi-negativity, Religion and Church, and Self-Pride. Clinical implications include a need for clinicians to explore the complicated and invisible nature of what it means to be a cisgender bisexual Black woman, assess clients’ identity formation, and sources of conflict that might occur due to holding several identities. Ultimately, these participants revealed the importance of pride in their intersections and all of the ways in which they interact.

Examining the Impact of Age on Social Support Received by Same-Sex Married Individuals

Danielle Zohrob, PsyD

The focus of this study was to examine the impact of age on social support received by gay and lesbian married individuals, particularly support received from friends and family. The purpose of this study was to further the research on the impact of systemic influences on individuals’ experiences of support around their marriage. This mixed methods online study investigated the support received from friends and family in a sample of 65 individuals. The data were collected using an adaptation of Procidano and Heller’s social support scale, adjusted to address support received specifically around marriage. Quantitative results were interpreted using Pearson’s correlations and Univariate Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) tests. Participants were divided into age cohorts based on patterns in responses to qualitative questions. Qualitative data were collected via a qualitative questionnaire and the qualitative analysis included 62 participants. Qualitative data were analyzed through thematic coding and the use of a second coder to cross analyze and verify emerging themes. Results suggest a strong correlation between age and support received from family. Older adults receive less marital support from family than do younger adults. Age did not impact the support received by friends. Thematic analyses shed light on the experience of making the choice to marry one’s partner, the impact this decision had on relationships with one’s social network, and the impact one’s social network had on this decision.

Black & Gay Today: Experiences with Perceived Racial and Sexual Orientation Microaggressions in Predominately White Colleges and Universities

Jerrod L. Handy, PsyD
Michael Jones and Thomas (Ryan) Maher - Research Assistants

More salient than ever before are the many inequities in education due to lowered expectations, stereotypes, and microaggressive environments. There is limited literature which explores Black gay males’ experiences with the intersections of race, gender, and sexual identity in institutions of higher education. This study explored the intersection of racial and sexual orientation identity, racial and sexual orientation microaggressions, and academic persistence among Black gay cisgender male graduate students at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs). This study also detailed the perceived impact of microaggressions on Black gay cisgender males in higher education. The research questions considered were (1) to what extent do Black gay male graduate students at a PWI experience racial and sexual orientation microaggressions while on campus or in the classroom, and (2) is there a relationship between microaggressive experiences and academic persistence. After transcription, coding, and analysis, nine major themes emerged: (1) Microaggressive Experiences, (2) Isolation, (3) Interactions with School Administration, (4) Mentors and Role Models, (5) Interactions with Peers, Staff, and Faculty of Color, (6) Interactions with White Peers, Staff, and Faculty, (7) Role as an Educator, (8) Intersectionality, and (9) Self-Awareness and Self-Perception. The five minor themes also emerged: (1) Connectedness, (2) Code Switching, (3) Support and Guidance, (4) Not Meeting Preconceived Notions, and (5) Impact on Academic Performance.

Families in Transition: A Program for Youth with a Trans* Sibling

Erica Aten, PsyD - Researcher

One’s family system plays important roles throughout one’s lifespan. Of all the potential familial relationships, siblings share a unique, and oftentimes, life-long bond. When one person in a siblingship is experiencing hardship, it impacts both siblings and the family system as a whole. Because of the gap in the literature surrounding the experiences of youth with a trans* sibling, a needs assessment was conducted to determine the necessity, interest, feasibility, components, and potential benefits of group programming. Based on the needs assessment survey results, a group program was developed for 14 to 18-year-olds who have a trans* sibling. The goal of the program is to help participants identify their thoughts and feelings, develop coping skills, share their story, and feel a connection with other adolescents based on their shared experiences. Pre and post measures will be completed to assess the efficacy of the program.

Intimate Partner Violence in Lesbian Relationships: A Review and an Intervention Program

Ann M. Diamond, PsyD - Researcher
Alisha Chan, MA - Research Assistant

Intimate partner violence (IPV) refers to emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse within a romantic relationship. The majority of research and program interventions focus on IPV in heterosexual relationships, often dichotomized with the male as the perpetrator and the female as the victim. Less research exists regarding IPV within the LGBT community. Specific research dedicated to lesbian IPV is even rarer. Due to a lack of recognition within research and the LGBT community, intervention programs to assist self-identified lesbian women who have abused their intimate partners have historically been absent. An intervention program specifically tailored to the unique experiences of lesbians that have abused their intimate partners resulting in IPV is proposed.

The Selection and Utility of Sexual Identity Labels in Youth

Ashley Molin, PsyD - Researcher
Erica Aten, MA - Research Assistant

Adolescence is a time when individuals begin to figure out who they are and how they fit into the world. One of the many areas for exploration during this time is sexual identity. Adolescents’ use of self-labeling in describing their sexual identity was explored using a nationwide Internet survey. Participants were adolescents and young adults ages 18 to 22 of diverse racial and geographical backgrounds. Three hundred youth participated in the study, yielding 207 complete data sets. Quantitative data showed no relationship existed between the types of labels youth chose and their geographical location or their self-identification of being religious, spiritual, or neither. Additionally, qualitative data was analyzed to determine themes in how youth chose and made use of sexual identity labels.

Monogamously-Partnered Bisexual Women’s Experiences of Prejudice and Support

Elizabeth A. Clark, MA - Researcher

Although narrative accounts of bisexual individuals suggest that others’ reactions to their sexuality differ depending on whether they are involved in same- or opposite-sex relationships, virtually no empirical studies have considered partner’s gender as a variable in bisexuals’ experiences. Additionally, bisexuals report mental health concerns at higher prevalence than their heterosexual and gay/lesbian peers, and most researchers have suggested this is due to the “double discrimination” bisexual individuals face; however, additional empirical support for this claim is needed. The present study adds to the growing body of literature on bisexuals’ experiences by comparing the amount, type, and source (heterosexuals versus gay/lesbian individuals) of prejudice experienced by bisexual women in current same- versus opposite-sex relationships. Outness, depressive symptoms, and experiences of support were also assessed. The effect of partner’s gender on prejudice was non-significant on its own but significant in combination with outness. As predicted, prejudice was positively correlated with depressive symptoms. Additionally, high-outness participants experienced significantly less depressive symptoms than low- or middle-outness participants. The middle-outness group were at highest risk, reporting the highest scores on both prejudice and depression, suggesting that “strategic outness” (Orne, 2011), taking contextual factors and anticipated support into account, is crucial for bisexuals considering coming out. Implications for clinicians and policy makers are discussed.

The Individual Under the Transgender Umbrella: An Exploration of Themes in Nonbinary Gender Identity Development

Shelley Eisenberg, MA- Researcher

Currently in the West, we categorize sex and gender on a binary system. This results in the common gender identity categories of cisgender, someone whose birth sex aligns with their gender identity, and transgender, someone who identifies their gender as the opposite of their birth sex. Research has shown that sex and gender are in fact complex and multidimensional, leaving our traditional binary system inadequate in capturing the various sex and genders that exist (Keener, 2015). Additionally, the number of individuals identifying as nonbinary is increasing, and these identities are becoming more visible (Barr et al., 2016; James et al., 2016; Mikalson et al., 2012). Despite the increase in awareness and visibility of nonbinary gender identities, there is still widespread confusion about varying gender identities accompanied by a lack of representation of these identities in society, the media, and research. The purpose of this study was to explore the identity development experiences of those who hold a nonbinary gender identity through a narrative inquiry. Participants within the study engaged in 90- to 120-min semistructured qualitative interviews using a questionnaire created based on a narrative inquiry guide. An analysis of the interview transcripts revealed 11 themes of nonbinary gender identity development and four themes related to other considerations. Although themes emerged, each participant’s experience of their gender identity was nonlinear, complex, and unique. Similarly, the limiting nature of our current binary system and the difference between binary transgender identity development and nonbinary gender identity development was apparent.

Factors Associated with Sexual Satisfaction among Lesbian Women Throughout the Duration of a Long Term Relationship

Leesa Contorino, MA
Marcos Flores, MA - Research Assistant

This study was designed to explore factors contributing to sexual satisfaction among lesbian women in long term romantic relationships throughout the length of the relationship as well as gain insight into definitions of sex and sexual satisfaction among lesbians. Demographic variables were also explored for predictive factors for sexual satisfaction. Lesbians in romantic relationships for at least 6 months responded to a secure online survey. The survey consisted of informed consent, inclusion criteria, and 12 open-ended questions related to domains of a woman’s life that potentially influence the phenomenon of sexual satisfaction. Responses were categorized into the length of time a woman reported being in her current relationship and responses were coded using factors within Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model of development. Data supported the hypothesis that factors within the romantic relationship as well as outside the romantic relationship influence experiences of sexual satisfaction for lesbians. The dominant theme of mutuality, or attunement to the physical and emotional needs of a partner and herself, were present regardless of the length of the relationship. Subthemes related to mutuality in a relationship were also identified in definitions of sex and sexual satisfaction, feeling free from gender roles in sexual activities, mental and physical health experiences, and hearing about the dissatisfaction of peers. Related to the length of the relationship, mental and physical health problems became more prominent in the narrative responses of women in longer term relationships, but did not affect satisfaction levels at the time of the study. Women in shorter term relationships were more likely to focus on sexual functioning and physiological experiences when describing sexually satisfying experiences while women in longer term relationships emphasized intimacy and quality of sexual experiences as satisfactory. Developing further research within this population regarding fostering mutuality for couples and how specific demographic information such as monogamy and cohabitation influence sexual satisfaction are necessary for the future.

#ITHRIVED: A Phenomenological Exploration of Recovery from Intimate Partner Violence Among Gay Men

Dempsey Young, MA - Researcher

Intimate partner violence (IPV) has been identified as a significant public health issue in recent years and efforts have been made to understand the phenomenon and help those impacted by IPV. The majority of research conducted and interventions targeting IPV have been largely focused on heterosexual relationships with the male as the perpetrator and the female as the victim. However, IPV has been found to be a significant problem within relationships among gay men with nearly 26% of gay men experiencing IPV in their lifetime. IPV has been found to occur in LGBT relationships at the same rate or even higher to their heterosexual counterparts. Recent research has been conducted around the prevalence, risk factors, minority stress impact, and dynamics in relationships regarding IPV. However, there is little to no research on how gay men who experience IPV recover after separation from their abuser. This study uses a phenomenological approach to better understand the recovery process for gay male IPV survivors. The results yield a rich description of themes within the recovery process for gay male survivors. The themes found within the road to recovery included the following: the need for total separation, a range of emotional difficulties experienced throughout the process, various forms of coping mechanisms, re-establishment of a sense of self concept or self-identity, and barriers to recovery linked to minority stress such as discrimination, social bias, and perceptions of gay men and relationship violence. It is hoped that the results from this study can inform intervention efforts, future research, public awareness, and give a basis for the specific needs for services necessary for survivors to work toward recovery.

The Incarceration of Transgender Women: A Narrative Perspective of Life Before, During,
and After Involvement With the Correctional System

Mindy Siegert-Horgeshimer, MA - Researcher

The transgender population experiences ongoing marginalization in a multitude of settings. From their experiences at home to their encounters in general society, transgender individuals face continual adversity. The U.S. prison system is one area in which transgender people have endured nearly relentless discrimination. From being forced into gender-based facilities that are incongruent with their identified gender and experiencing difficulty procuring gender-affirmative medical treatment to enduring a multitude of abuses and maltreatment, transgender individuals face extreme hardship while incarcerated. The central topic of exploration in this study was how incarcerated transgender women experience life and develop meaning in a correctional setting while surviving in the situation both as imprisoned individuals and as members of a marginalized population. In this project, the aim was to gain insight through a narrative journey with a transgender woman who had been recently incarcerated in a U.S. prison. After recruiting a participant through a popular social media site, a semistructured interview with the participant was conducted via an online platform. Information about her childhood, adolescence, and adulthood was collected. Her life experiences before, during, and after incarceration were viewed through the lens of Bronfenbrenner's ecological model and social justice theory. Results indicated and substantiated the literature submitting lifelong difficulties such as discrimination, physical/sexual/emotional abuse, mental health issues, and substance abuse/dependence are frequently experienced by the transgender community, both in and out of the penal system

Schrödinger's Sexuality: A Dynamic Model of Bisexual Identity Development for Self-Identifying Bisexual Cisgender Women

Kirstin Elliott-Noon, MA - Researcher
Erica Aten, MA - Research Assistant

Research studying the identity development of bisexual individuals is limited and often depends on stage models that do not address intersectionality or fluidity. The existing research has also been dependent on the experiences of lesbian and gay individuals, with most being cisgender and white. The current study looked at identity formation in bisexual cisgender women, with emphasis on their bisexual identity and an in-depth look at how their gender identity formed as well. The core research question was what is the process by which bisexual cisgender women develop their sexual identities? This question was answered by utilizing a grounded theory methodology and implementing qualitative, semi-structured interviews. The conceptualization of interview questions, the interviews themselves, data organization, and results were informed by queer and feminist frameworks. Interviews were conducted with 12 bisexual, cisgender women who were audio-recorded over Zoom. Throughout the continuous coding process, external (social and geographical environment, interpersonal experiences, and other identities) and internal (conceptualization of identity and expression of identity) experiences were found that cultivated identity formation, as relayed by the participants. Recent data shows a growing number of individuals who identify as bisexual, which has implications for how heterosexual and gay communities, clinicians, academics, and bisexuals themselves view the phenomenon of bisexuality. The ability for research, clinical work, education, and awareness to remain open to deconstructing binaries and empowering differences in sexual and gender identities will be important for how we move forward to lessening the impact of oppression.

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