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Pilot Test of a Nervous System Informed Intervention to Increase Embodied Affirmation of Nonbinary People

Research Team


Principal Investigator: Katelyn Coburn

Funding Information

Funding Agency: Office of Research and Economic Development—Layman Award

Award Date: Aug 1, 2023

End Date: Jul 31, 2024


Research suggests nonbinary youth and adults experience bias and discrimination more frequently than cisgender and binary transgender people, contributing to negative mental health outcomes for this population. One study revealed that 71% of transgender and nonbinary youth reported having experienced discrimination, and 46% of transgender and nonbinary adults reported being verbally harassed because of their gender identity.

Bias and discrimination toward nonbinary people are often tied to beliefs about the “normality” of cisgender identities, and that is a necessity for individuals to have a binary gender identity (e.g., to be either man or woman). Existing research suggests that such opinions are often rooted in religious beliefs and a lack of education about gender identity. 

This study is designed to help reduce health disparities that result from bias and discrimination faced by nonbinary people in all contexts, including experiences rooted in marginalizing Christian religious discourse. Researchers will pilot the Embodied Nonbinary Affirmation (ENA) workshop, an education-based, group experiential learning intervention rooted in understanding the autonomic nervous system’s role in contributing to both bias and affirmation. 

The ENA intervention is designed to enhance Christian religious leaders’ affirmation of nonbinary people through nervous system-informed regulation and embodiment practices that increase inclusive attitudes, beliefs and behaviors toward nonbinary people. Gathered data from this pilot project will be used for the efficacy and acceptability of the ENA workshop, which will inform future large-scale implementation projects of the ENA intervention.

Social, Emotional and Behavioral Well-being

Katelyn Coburn, assistant professor of child, youth and family studies, is leading a project to help reduce health disparities that result from bias and discrimination faced by nonbinary people.
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