WVU faculty selected as first recipient of the Spectrum LGBTQ+ Award

Morgantown, W. Va – Dr. Lisa Platt, assistant professor in the Department of Counseling, Rehabilitation Counseling and Counseling Psychology at the West Virginia University College of Education and Human Services, was selected as the first recipient for the SPECTRUM LGBTQ+ Award from the Association for Women in Psychology.

The SPECTRUM Award is an award that recognizes research focused on addressing the psychology of gender and sexual minorities, including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer.  

The research which led to this award focused on studying romantic partner relationships among transgender individuals, providing a more complete understanding of their unique challenges and experiences.

“I started this research at my previous job in Minnesota. From personal experiences, I was motivated to learn more about transgender people in partner relationships and the issues they faced,” said Platt.

Platt began to have an interest in transgender relationships when pursuing her Ph.D. in educational psychology at Pennsylvania State University.

“I worked at the Penn State LGBTQ Center. There was a transgender student who had transitioned from male to female, but had been married to a woman for about five years,” said Platt. “There were so many things that interested me about her story and I had so many questions. Are they still legally married? Her wife had changed identifiers to be married to her husband, but now that ‘he’ was a ‘she,’ did this change things? How would they be able to stay together? How hard was it to be a partner or a transgender individual in a partner relationship?”

These questions are what initially drove Platt to begin her research on transgender relationships. Her first study was a qualitative study surveying 38 transgender participants. They were recruited mainly from transgender social media sites.  The survey asked questions relating to the participants experiences within transgender relationships.

Five themes surfaced from the interviews: (1) the oppressive gender binary system, (2) coming out and disclosure decision, (3) emotional and physical sexuality concerns, (4) healthy relationships are work, and (5) living an authentic life.  

“Through our first survey, we found the main issues that surfaced were focused around disclosure,” stated Platt. “Our participants were most concerned about when, where, and how to talk about their relationships. They also expressed concerns in navigating the changes in their sexual orientation.”

During the study, participants began asking Platt if their partners could participate.  As a result, Platt introduced a second part to the study.

Through the second phase of this study, with a sample of 21 participants, Platt again identified five important themes: (1) considerations with physical, sexual and emotional intimacy, (2) changing sexual orientation labels, (3) safety concerns, (4) marginalization and feelings of isolation, and (5) new appreciation for the gender spectrum.

Platt’s research continues to focus on studying multicultural psychology, specializing in gender diversity and sexual orientation, having most recently implemented a research study focused on analyzing public perceptions of transgender people, which was motivated by the “bathroom bill” legislation in North Carolina.

“I’m excited and honored to have been chosen for this award,” stated Platt.  “I identify as an ally and advocate for the marginalized populations under the LGBTQ umbrella.  I know that psychological research looking into the important considerations for this population is important.  I look forward to being able to continue my multicultural research and bring the knowledge back to the field of counseling psychology.”     

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