Background : Sexual orientation is comprised of three dimensions: identity (how a person identifies their sexual orientation), behavior (the sex or gender of a person’s sexual partners), and attractions (the sex or gender of individuals that a person feels attracted to). The most frequently used sexual orientation measures do not account for transgender people as objects of desire or sexual behavior. We introduce a newly designed measure inclusive of transgender people and describe sexual orientation identity, behavior, and attractions in a representative sample of the U.S. transgender population.
Methods : We use data from TransPop, a U.S. national probability sample of transgender adults. Individuals identifying as transgender and/or having a gender identity different than the sex assigned to them at birth were eligible to participate and complete a self-administered survey. We assessed sexual identity (straight/ heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, same-gender loving, other). We revised sexual behavior and attraction measures, assessing sexual behavior in the past 5 years with: women, non-transgender; men, non-transgender; transgender women/male-to-female[MTF], transgender men/female-to-male[FTM], or did not have sex in the last 5 years. We assessed current sexual attraction to women, non-transgender; men, non-transgender; transgender women/MTF; transgender men/FTM; females at birth, genderqueer[GQ]; males at birth, GQ. Unweighted descriptive statistics were calculated and sexual orientation differences by gender identity groups were estimated using bivariate comparisons. 148 participants were included in the study.
Results : Among respondents (mean age=36.6, SD=17.8), 54 were transgender women (TW), 38 transgender men (TM), and 56 gender non-binary (GNB). The most frequently endorsed sexual orientation identity was “Other” (27.0%), followed by “queer” (23.7%), “bisexual” (17.6%), and “straight” (13.5%). Respondents reported diverse sexual partners in the 5 years prior to survey: 53.4% with cisgender women, 41.2% with cisgender men, 12.2% with TW, and 20.3% with TM. Among transgender and GNB respondents, 25.7% did not have sex in the 5-year period. Among respondents, 77.7% were “somewhat” or “very” attracted to cisgender women, 59.5% to cisgender men, 57.4% to TW, 54.7% to TM, 48.0% to females at birth GQ, and 39.2% males at birth GQ. The distribution of sexual orientation identity, behavior, and attractions significantly differed by gender identity for TW, TM, and NB (p<0.05).
Conclusions : An inclusive measure of sexual behavior and attraction captured diversity of sexual partners and desires among transgender people. Future research is needed to cognitively test and validate these sexual orientation measures, especially with cisgender respondents, and to assess the relation of sexual orientation and health for transgender people.