Internalized Stigmatization and Rejection Anxiety as Mediators Between Self-Monitoring and Transgender Identity Concealment

Internalized Stigmatization and Rejection Anxiety as Mediators Between Self-Monitoring and Transgender Identity Concealment poster

Audio Presentation:

Audio Transcript

Research Authorship:

Sara Carlton

Faculty Mentor:

Dr. Christopher Leone | College of Arts and Sciences | Department of Psychology


High self-monitors are more motivated and able than low self-monitors to conceal parts of their identity (Fuglestad & Snyder, 2010). Gay and lesbian individuals will sometimes conceal their identity due to rejection anxiety and internalized stigmatization (Mohr & Fassinger, 2003; Quinn & Earnshaw, 2013). However, these phenomena have yet to be studied for transgender individuals. The purpose of this study is to explore how self-monitoring may predict identity concealment in transgender individuals. Using MTurk, we will sample 100 transgender women and 100 transgender men. Participants will complete the 25-item Self-Monitoring Scale (Snyder, 1974) as well as modified versions of the Revised Internalized Homophobia Scale (Herek et al. 2009), Gay-Related Rejection Anxiety Scale (Pachankis et al., 2008), and the Nebraska Outness Scale (Meidlinger & Hope, 2014). Outness will be assessed for immediate family, extended family, friends/acquaintances, coworkers/classmates, and strangers. Using PROCESS (Hayes, 2013), we will evaluate a parallel mediation model. We will first assess the direct effects of self-monitoring on identity concealment. We will then asses the indirect effects of self-monitoring on identity concealment as mediated by rejection anxiety and internalized stigmatization. Limitations of this study include the use of a non-experimental design and a lack of temporal precedence preventing us from establishing a causal relationship. In addition, the online collection method may include individuals that are not actually transgender.

Hello, my name is Sara Carlton, and my research is about the direct and indirect effects of self-monitoring on identity concealment for transgender individuals as mediated by interalized stigmatization and rejection anxiety.

Firstly, I would like to introduce the concept of self-monitoring. Self-monitoring is a personality trait that indicates whether individuals rely on their own thoughts and feelings to guide their actions or if they cater to the beliefs and behavior of others to guide their actions. High self-monitors are motivated to be socially appropriate; low self-monitors are motivated to be self-congruent. Further, high self-monitors pay attention to how others are behaving in order to know how to behave; low self-monitors pay more attention to their own feelings. In terms of identity, research has shown that high self-monitors tend to root their identities in external sources while low self-monitors tend to root their identities in internal sources. These sources of identity may play a role in how certain individuals express such identity.

Next, I would like to discuss internalized stigmatization. Internalized stigmatization is the process by which someone takes stereotypes associated with their minority group and integrates those stereotypes into their own self-concept. Internalized stigmatization has been shown to be related to increased identity concealment, meaning those with high levels of internalized stigma tend to conceal their identities more often than those with low levels. Additionally, internalized homonegativity, which is internalized stigma associated with same-sex attraction, has been shown to be a mediator between instances of discrimination and psychological distress. Those with high internalized stigma tend to experience more psychological distress after discrimination compared to those with low internalized stigma.

Like internalized stigmatization, rejection anxiety is also related to how minority individuals experience discrimination. Rejection anxiety is a fear of being socially rejected due to some intrinsic aspect of your identity. Someone with high rejection anxiety may be more inclined to be a “people pleaser” in order to avoid being socially ostracized. For gay individuals, rejection anxiety predicts “outness,” or how willing someone is to disclose their sexual orientation to others. Along with internalized stigmatization, rejection anxiety also acts as a mediator between instances of discrimination and psychological distress.

This brings us to the issue of identity concealment. Some minority traits, such as race or perceived gender, are not readily concealed. However, other traits, such as sexual orientation or private gender identity, can be concealed. But the ability to conceal certain traits may do more harm than good. Research has shown that identity concealment for gay and lesbian individuals relates to poor mental and physical wellbeing. In fact, a study with gay men showed that those who more readily disclosed their sexual orientation had better health outcomes in HIV treatments compared to those that concealed their identities.

While there is research regarding the effects of identity concealment, rejection anxiety, and internalized stigmatization on gay and lesbian individuals, there is still little research regarding how these phenomena affect transgender individuals. Further, almost no research has been conducted considering how self-monitoring may factor into these relationships. The research questions I will address with my research are “Does self-monitoring relate directly/indirectly to identity concealment for transgender individuals?” and “Is this relationship mediated by internalized stigmatization and/or rejection anxiety?”

In order to test our research questions, we will be conducting a survey on MTurk of transgender individuals. Ideally, our sample will include 100 mtf and 100 ftm transgender individuals. To test self-monitoring, I will be using the 25 Item Self-Monitoring Scale. Additionally, the scale will be broken down into two subscales to test acquisitive and protective self-monitoring. To measure internalized stigmatization, I will be using a revised version of the Internalized Homophobia Scale. The scale was originally intended for gay/lesbian individuals, so for the purpose of our study, we replaced all instances of the word “gay” with the word “transgender.” To measure rejection anxiety, we will be using the Gay-Related Rejection Sensitivity Scale. Again, for the purposes of our study, the scale was modified by replacing “gay” and “sexual orientation” with “transgender” when applicable. Lastly, to measure identity concealment, we will use the Nebraska Outness Scale. The concealment subscale looks at identity concealment for 5 different audiences; immediate family, extended family, friends/acquaintances, classmates/co-workers, and strangers.

A parallel mediation model with self-monitoring as the predictor, rejection anxiety and internalized stigmatization as the mediators, and identity concealment as the outcome will be used to test our research questions. We will analyze the relationships between each variable to determine any direct or indirect effects of self-monitoring on identity concealment for transgender individuals. We will look at these relationships in regard to each of the five audiences previously mentioned.

As far as expected findings, it will be interesting to see whether or not self-monitoring is directly related to identity concealment. I am anticipating indirect effects through both internalized stigmatization and rejection anxiety. Since high self-monitors tend to act in ways that will garner them social approval, it would make sense for high self-monitors to have greater rejection anxiety and internalized stigmatization, and subsequently more identity concealment. The implications of our research would be that dispositional factors may be related to identity concealment for transgender individuals and that high self-monitoring transgender individuals may be at increased risk for the negative consequences associated with identity concealment. The limitations of our study are the lack of a non-experimental design, the lack of temporal precedence, limited control over third variables (such as religiosity and social support), and the use of an online sample. For future directions, we would like to attempt to find and use transgender-specific scales instead of modified scales. Additionally, the use of a longitudinal study should be used to establish temporal precedence. We should also control for the third variables mentioned previously. If any direct/indirect effects of self-monitoring on identity concealment are found, we would like to see how in turn identity concealment affects life satisfaction. Lastly, we would like to run analyses for both the protective and acquisitive styles of self-monitoring and determine if one style is more closely associated with identity concealment.

If you have any questions regarding my research, please email me at Thank you so much for listening!