UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Transgender information seeking : a collaborative approach to supporting the information needs of transgender people Miller, Shelby


The purpose of this thesis is to explore the information behaviour of transgender people, related to the process of coming to discover or better understand one’s gender identity. The information seeking habits of transgender people is an area of the transgender experience that has been largely unexplored in research, and existing research has particularly neglected the information behaviour related to developing an understanding of one’s transgender identity. Additionally, this thesis seeks to amplify the voices of trans participants through a methodology inspired by the community-based participatory action research framework. Participants acted in a dual role as research participant and researcher. In the first of two online interview sessions, participants had an open-ended discussion about the information behaviours that helped them come to a better understanding of their gender identity. In the second session, participants analyzed their earlier discussion, looking for common themes and takeaways. This discussion was used as the basis for an evaluation of a transgender health resource from British Columbia’s Provincial Health Service Authority to determine ways that it could be improved to better meet the information needs of transgender people. The results of this thesis suggest that serendipitous discovery of information about transgender identities, as well as information that is affirming, emotionally supportive, and personally relatable are important in many transgender individuals’ information journeys. Social media platforms were identified as a good platform for this type of content due to the low barrier to entry for creating content, and their tendency to host more personal content, although these platforms generally host content with a negative view of transgender people as well. The research identified a noticeable lack of affirming and emotionally supportive information in the provincial health resource we reviewed, and suggested ways for that site to better support the needs of transgender users without compromising its core purpose as a health resource. While this thesis has limitations in terms of its recruitment strategy and participant demographics, it provides important insight into an underexplored area of the transgender experience, information behaviour related to forming identity, and suggests a template for performing equitable research that centers participants’ voices.

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