Date of Award

8-1-2015

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Swanson, Jane

Abstract

Despite the recent attention to the LGBT community in the mainstream media as well as psychological research, few resources have been channeled toward the “T” in this acronym. The trans community, and gender diversity in general, have been an afterthought in research claiming to study gender and sexuality. Research on sexual minorities has been assumed to capture the experiences of this population, despite its quite distinct needs and experiences, as well as alarmingly high rates of violence and suicide. This project is a qualitative analysis of the processes and strategies trans and gender non-conforming individuals use to communicate their identity to others, and how they address barriers they face in their everyday lives. Participation was open to all trans or gender non-conforming individuals. Five individuals who identified as trans or genderqueer volunteered to participate in individual semi-structured interviews about their experiences in communicating their gender identity to others. All participants were White university students at a local mid-sized university in a rural Midwestern setting. Interviews were analyzed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), using the process outlined by Smith and Osborn (2008). Six themes in total were pulled from the data: (1) Gender identity, (2) Barriers to communication, (3) Strategic responses, (4) Individual impacts, (5) Community politics, and (6) Coping. These results emphasized the complexity and irreducibility of trans individuals’ daily lives, demonstrating simultaneously the tremendous harm of transphobic discrimination and the strength and insight of these individuals into their own experiences. Findings supported the use of the Minority Stress Model (Meyer, 1995) in the trans population and further underscored the need for continued research on all trans individuals’ experiences, especially those who identify as non-binary, trans people of color, and trans women.

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