National Institute of Health grant awarded to collaborative research team studying experiences of resilience in transgender communities

October 11, 2022 - Emily Jodway

In the past, research has failed to include the many different ways that transgender people experience resilience in their lives, and the team sees this study as having the potential to strengthen future studies by addressing this gap and developing and validating a new measure for these experiences to be more accurately assesed and described. The grant will allow them to follow the experiences of participants over two years to find out if the resilience factors measured accurately predict better health outcomes for transgender individuals, while also providing a buffer for potential stressors and oppression on health outcomes.

“Many transgender people talk about their resilience in terms of self-defining their own gender experience, resisting oppressive gender norms, developing critical consciousness about the systems they are living in, and developing hope for the future,” Puckett explained. “However, there are no resilience scales currently that measure this more expansive conceptualization of resilience that are actually based on the lived experiences of transgender people.”

Puckett is an Assistant Professor of Psychology in the College of Social Science at Michigan State, while Matsuno is an Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology at Arizona State and Galupo a Professor of Psychology at Towson. The trio is conducting this research as a collaboration across their research teams: Dr. Puckett is Director of Trans-ilience: The Transgender Stress and Resilience Research Team, Dr. Matsuno directs the Empowerment Lab, and Dr. Galupo directs the Queer/Trans Collective for Research on Equity and Wellness.

The grant, titled Modeling Resilience as a Multidimensional Protective Factor for Transgender Health Disparities: Measure Development and Longitudinal Evaluation of Resilience, seeks to provide a useable scale to measure individual experiences of resilience among transgender people. Their approach to research will build upon existing qualitative data by adding a community-engaged element to the study that better reflects the real-life experiences of trangender people.

Researchers like Puckett, Matsuno and Galupo explain that the transgender community will continue to be an overlooked group when measuring resilience without the addition of this measure. “Resilience is often viewed as an individual trait without acknowledgement of the interpersonal and contextual factors that also impact resilience and wellbeing,” Dr. Matsuno said. “Our project aims to measure the ways that trans people resist oppressive systems as well as community-based and systemic factors that promote resilience.”

Drs. Puckett, Matsuno and Galupo will also be utilizing an intersectional approach to examining resilience among these communities, recognizing that experiences may vary among differing groups. “It was important for us to ensure that the experiences of trans and nonbinary folx of color were considered at every level of project development,” said Dr. Galupo. “We made an intentional decision to evaluate the psychometric properties of our scale for trans people of color and not just assume that findings from white participants would generalize to all people.”

The study will be launching this fall and will be conducted until summer 2026. The team will be starting by developing the items for their resilience measure in collaboration with community members and other experts in the field. After which, they’ll be launching the long-term portion of their study and validating the measure, as well as evaluating the ways that resilience may promote better health outcomes for transgender communities.

For more information, you can visit the teams’ research pages: 

Trans-ilience: The Transgender Stress and Resilience Research Team

Empowerment Lab

Queer/Trans Collective for Research on Equity and Wellness.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute On Minority Health And Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01MD018051. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.