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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. These communities are highly socially isolated from each other and are more connected to their ethnocultural contexts than to an abstract and shared transgender identity. Whereas research either has viewed male-to-female transgender people as one monolithic group or has separated them into abstract racial unconnected to their communities and lifestyles, this article positions them within specific social networks, cultures, neighborhoods, and lifestyles. With regard to HIV vulnerabilities, violence, and rape, House Ball community members seemed to engage in the riskiest form of survival sex work, whereas Asian sex workers seemed to engage in moderate-risk survival sex work.
White cross-dressers seemed to engage in very low-risk recreational sex work. This article charts new territory by mapping ethnocultural communities and connecting HIV risk behaviors within a nexus of racial, ethnic, cultural, social, and economic factors.
Findings from our study of three ethno-cultural transgender communities demonstrate the fundamental roles of economics and marginalization in determining identities and HIV risk behaviors. Some of this population is also transient Sterling et al. research either has viewed transgender people as one monolithic group or has separated them into abstract racial unconnected to communities and lifestyles Bockting et al. This article, however, maps some of the different communities comprising the MTF population in New York City and positions them within specific social networks, cultures, neighborhoods, and lifestyles.
These communities not only are stigmatized and, in some cases, marginalized from general society but also are often isolated from each other. Furthermore, they frequently experience their transgender status as an additional stigma that exacerbates and intersects with specific vulnerabilities and characteristics already found within a given ethnocultural context, such as poverty, homelessness, joblessness, and high HIV seroprevalence. literature has already documented the concept of multiple jeopardy for those who experience intersecting perils and risks due to ethnocultural and socioeconomic status factors King, ; Valle, — For those of lower socioeconomic status especially, transgender identity adds another hazardous layer to an already existing complex of racial, cultural, and socioeconomic status perils that lead to a particular brand of transgender-inflected multiple jeopardy.
Within the realm of sexual and gender minorities, certain MTF groups have extremely high HIV seroprevalence and exhibit higher seroprevalence than men who have sex with men, women who have sex with women, and female-to-male FTM transgender people.
Sex workers, including MTF sex workers, are vulnerable to unprotected coerced sex through violence and rape. Many MTF groups appear to be greatly isolated from each other based on race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and language. Asian and Pacific Islander data may not be conclusive, however, because many studies on MTF people have not translated their instruments into Asian languages, thereby often inadvertently excluding immigrant and undocumented Asian and Pacific Islanders who may be at high risk Nemoto, Operario, Keatley, Han, et al.
Although studies have been undertaken with MTF people, including MTF people of color, in urban settings, there has never been a public health study identifying MTF groups and comparatively analyzing them as distinct communities by situating transgender groups within their lifestyles and what we term ethnocultural community contexts.
In fact, researchers often deate races as separate, abstract according to HIV seroprevalence and behavioral indicators, with little or no ethnosocial context Clements-Nolle et al. This article maps ethnocultural communities and examines both the behavioral and sociostructural factors that contribute to risk of HIV infection. In the terrain of gendered social and political contexts, these risk factors may be connected to different forms of racial marginalization, which in turn may lead to differential access to resources and institutions for a given ethnocultural transgender community.
By using the term ethnocultural communities, we wish to emphasize the ificant impact of ethnicity, race, and communities on cultural formations, identities, and lifestyles in the United States. Michael Omi and Howard Winant stated that race is a fundamental element in structuring and representing the social world, in which racial formations organize and distribute resources along particular racial lines. Thus, racialization is not only a fundamental cultural structure but also the foundation for class structure. Thus, racial segregation in the working class is also a class difference Martinot, At present, U.
Within the hierarchy, individuals participate differentially along a scale of graded power Martinot, The ethno in ethnocultural communities, then, may have a profound impact on where communities are located along the scale of graded power within the social hierarchy. Because the stratification of U. In addition, according to Michael Marmotan individual's health is affected not only by her or his own position in society, but also by the characteristics and experiences of other people within the same community.
Therefore, it is important to analyze how individuals, as well as their respective communities, participate differentially along a scale of graded power within the White corporate hierarchy of U. For developed countries that are above the threshold of absolute deprivation—that is, are rich enough to provide the basic resources for life for its citizens—what determines health is actually the relative position 10 of an individual or community within the hierarchy.
Even minor differences in income, status, and power will manifest in health disparities for which those of relatively greater privilege typically exhibit much better health than those of lesser privilege Marmot. An analysis of ethnocultural communities versus individuals detached from communities may thus reveal how the positions of these communities in society correlate to risk of HIV infection and STIs for the respective members of those communities. Because no public health study to date has identified transgender groups as distinct communities and undertaken a comparative analysis of these communities, this research addressed the following questions: a Are there differences among MTF communities in terms of social inequities?
The first author deed and implemented the qualitative study; the second author is principal investigator for the Transgender Project. Ethnographic data were systematically compiled using participant-observation, along with qualitative formal and informal interviews. Data collection for this article consisted of hours of participant-observation conducted over 12 months, from January through December ; 35 informal interviews; and 15 formal, semistructured in-depth interviews.
We conducted 12 formal interviews with MTF research participants from ethnocultural communities and 3 formal interviews with nontransgender key informants on the Transgender Project research team, and had hundreds of interactions with MTF people in New York City.
The in-depth interviews with transgender participants lasted from 60 to 90 minutes and started with questions about each participant's general background, including race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, and immigration or citizenship status. Further questions were asked about gender, family, and work history, followed by specific questions about social networks, intimate partners, body modifications, history of drug use, discrimination, and violence. Participants who were or had been involved with sex work answered additional questions about their initial involvement in sex work, solicitation, negotiating power with clients, and their attitudes toward intimate partners versus clients.
These participants were also asked to provide information about the drug use and sexual behaviors of those in their social groups and communities. The in-depth interviews with nontransgender participants also lasted from 60 to 90 minutes, with questions focusing on how they viewed MTF people in relation to social networks, drug use, discrimination, violence, and sex work.
For all in-depth interviews, the core set of questions remained the same but the structure was flexible: The order in which questions were asked varied so that participants could speak freely with minimal interruptions. During this period, we recorded field notes on either a weekly or biweekly basis.
Participant-observation data from 12 quantitative interviews from the Transgender Project were also incorporated into the analysis. Data that were not captured by the survey instrument were recorded in field notes. In addition, we reviewed a total of baseline, retest, and follow-up survey instruments from the Transgender Project to inform the direction of this study; we did not use the data from the quantitative study directly in the analysis. Further reproduction is prohibited without written permission from William A. Bowen, California Geographic Survey.
Line-by-line analysis of field notes and interview transcripts produced a set of open codes that were then organized into. From theseprevailing themes emerged that we then incorporated into the structure of this article. We examined and integrated negative cases through inductive analysis Becker, This research was also informed by the first author's own personal experience and observations. The first author identifies as an FTM person and has been involved in transgender social, political, and cultural organizing and academic research on both local and national levels since Because of this engagement with both transgender and Asian and Pacific Islander communities, the first author came into this study with some rudimentary conceptual frameworks on transgender communities based on experience and observation.
This study reinforced some of the first author's initial concepts while also contradicting or complicating other ly held concepts. With respect to mapping differences, the aforementioned three ethnocultural communities will be the main focus of this article. The House Ball and Asian communities were both low-income populations; House Ball members were mostly in their teens and 20s, and Asian sex workers were mostly in their 20s and 30s.
Members of the White cross-dressing community were middle-class and mostly in their 40s and 50s. The study also identified additional groups, including the following: low-income, immigrant Latina o sex workers of Central and South American origin who solicited in Queens; low-income, immigrant Latina o sex workers who solicited in Manhattan; and low-income, immigrant South Asian transvestites in Manhattan, Queens, and New Jersey.
Not enough data had been gathered at this writing, however, for detailed analyses of these other populations. Some study participants did not fit any of these ethnocultural contexts but did not constitute large s and were thus considered outlier data.
They often referred to themselves as fem queens, nu womenor girlsand usually did not use terms such as transvestite, transgenderor transsexual. Scene from inside a Ball in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, during a vogueing competition. Members of this community congregated in their own neighborhoods at after-work events organized by these transgender people in private homes, at sex work solicitation clubs in Manhattan, and at deated areas in Manhattan and Queens at places such as diners. They often referred to themselves either as transvestites, womenor girls.
Asian MTF sex worker solicitation bar in Manhattan. Note the sleek, modernist aesthetic. Asian MTF sex work bars were usually deed in this modernist style or decorated with kitschy Asian ornamentation. They tended to congregate at local meeting places such as motel conference rooms for events organized by local chapters of organizations such as Tri-ESS, the Mid-Hudson Transgender Association, and Long Island Femme Expression, as well as at clubs in Manhattan such as Silver Swans and Karolyn's.
They often used terms such as t-girls, cross-dressers, dressing up in femmeor girls to refer to themselves. White cross-dressers' bar in the Gramercy neighborhood of Manhattan. Note the European-Parisian aesthetic of this bar situated in an economically privileged district. These disparate communities revealed vastly different relationships to legal employment, sex work, financial pressures, and drug use—differences that resulted in the House Ball community experiencing a high risk of HIV infection, the Asian sex workers being at moderate risk, and the White cross-dressers having the lowest risk see Table 1.
We elaborate further on these relationships in upcoming sections of this article. Members of the House Ball community often participated as streetwalkers and engaged in sex work in cars, on the streets, and in abandoned parking lots.
As marginalized transgender members of an ethnocultural community with very little economic capital, many of the transgender people in the House Ball community felt compelled to go into sex work. Similar to participants in a study on African American nontransgender female sex workers in Detroit, Michigan Baker et al. Because of the long history of extreme stigma experienced by members of the House Ball community, sex work, along with drug use as a coping mechanism for sex work, has become internalized within the community as a rite of passage.
Young MTF members of the House Ball community must go through this rite of passage because of the perception that there is no alternative for them other than sex work and drug use—a finding similar to that of a study conducted in San Francisco on MTF people of color Nemoto, Operario, Keatley, Han, et al.
Because of the type of sex work they were involved in, House Ball members appeared to have the lowest negotiating power in relation to safe sex with sexual partners. As indicated by the normalization of multiple rapes and drug use voiced by several members in this community, House Ball members were more vulnerable to random acts of violence as streetwalkers, and these harsh conditions seemed to push many into drug use.
Members gave s of numerous deaths occurring regularly in this community through overdose and homicide. A House Ball member related:. I never had an experience but I know a lot of the girls that have, where they've been cut in the face, [the clients] give them the money, then they drive them away somewhere and then they beat them and take the money back.
The authors confirmed the racial mix of these clients with participant-observation. In describing her experiences as a sex worker, another member stated that many of her clients were married and lived public lives as heterosexual, monogamous men. What really surprised her was that many of the clients wanted to be anally penetrated.
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