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Multiculturalism and Social Work | San Francisco State University

Enigmatic ensemble: Narrative accounts of gender identity and gender expression from a transgendered perspective.

Author: Brooks, Gina (Regina) Diane
Author Background: U Tennessee, US
Date 7/2000
Type Dissertation
Journal Title: Dissertation-Abstracts-International:-Section-B:-The-Sciences-and-Engineering
Volume/Pages Vol 61(1-B): 522
Subject Matter Gender-Identity; Life Experiences; Transsexualism, Research
Abstract The purpose of this study was to describe the life experiences of those who self-identify as transgendered and to describe what it uniquely means to each participant to be transgendered. To describe the life experiences of those who are transgendered, phenomenological in-depth interviews were conducted with each participant. Participant observation was another method employed to gather data at transgendered convention meetings and numerous transgendered support group monthly meetings. A qualitative research approach was chosen for its core assumption that multiple, dynamic realities exist and for its emphasis on understanding the meaning one has constructed around the events in his/her life. The meaning of transgenderism from the transperson's perspective was sought by asking the question: 'Tell me about your life as a transgendered person.' Other questions followed to assist the researcher in understanding what the participant said during the course of the interview. Also, in conjunction with the qualitative research paradigm, the researcher is considered here to be the instrument of the research, so that as the data builds, the researcher's purpose has been to continually discern the unfolding, prevalent aspects of transgenderism as basis for theory. Participants in this study consisted of fifteen self-identified transpersons. One to two interviews were conducted with each participant and lasted approximately two hours each. Four major themes emerged from the interviews: (1) Personal Definitions of Being Transgendered, (2) Fitting In, (3) Relationships, and (4) Transformations. The Personal Definition of Being Transgendered, i.e., the meaning of being transgendered, was prevalent throughout the informants' narratives. Subthemes of Fitting In included Role-Playing, Being Ostracized (Not Fitting In), and A Longing for Self-Healing and Wholeness. Subthemes of Relationships consisted of Absence of Guilt/Facilitation of Transgenderism and Guilt/Inhibition of Transgenderism. The major theme of Transformations included Psychological Transformations (e.g., epiphanies and psychotherapy experiences), Hormonal/Surgical Transformations, and Transformation Through Relationships. The psychological and relational aspects of transgenderism were discussed. Specifically, the range of meanings of being transgendered were related in an analysis that proposes that the origins and processes of transgenderism have essential relational/interpersonal aspects. Implications for psychologists working with transpersons and future research were discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2000 APA, all rights reserved)