UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Identity work across the gender spectrum : negotiations of membership, healthcare, and resilience in transgender and nonbinary populations Sutherland , David Kyle G. R.


The term transgender has emerged as a distinct and salient category of collective identity. For some gender scholars, activists, and organizations, the category of transgender serves as a broad umbrella term that does not delineate one particular identity or embodiment but rather represents a host of expressions that actively transcend and transgress cisnormative understandings of the gender/sex binary. Although the transgender umbrella is useful in the sense of inclusion, outsider recognition, and social activism for non-cisgender identities, often trans and nonbinary people hold radically different understandings of themselves and their relationship to one another. For my doctoral dissertation, I problematize past scholarly research that has generally conceptualized gender-diverse communities into a monolithic, singular term transgender. This amalgamation has unintentionally led to a de-emphasis and erasure of the complex and unique lived experiences found across trans men, trans women, and nonbinary identities, especially in relation to membership negotiations, healthcare experiences, and strategies of resilience. Drawing insights from the minority stress theoretical framework, across three empirical chapters I focus my analytic lens on examining how trans and nonbinary people are (i) challenging medicalized definitions of transness, and negotiating boundaries of membership and understandings of gender more broadly (Study One), (ii) perceptions of barriers to care that impede medical services for this population (Study Two), and (iii) reclaiming autonomy over their healthcare needs through the employment of resiliency strategies (Study Three). Across each empirical study, I employ a variety of qualitative methods to document the relational dynamics and experiences of those who take refuge under the broad and evolving category of transgender. My findings collectively offer unique insights into trans and nonbinary identities, and spotlight how within-group similarities and differences shape avenues of coping, self-esteem, and self-efficacy in relation to gender identity and expression as well as healthcare considerations (e.g., accessing healthcare) and experiences more broadly. Beyond this, my dissertation contributes to larger debates in cultural, gender, and medical sociology while providing critical insights into policy implications and future research directions in this area.

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