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Essay Natural Sciences Nonfiction Social Sciences Theory

Being Transgender: The Experience of Transgender Identity Development

By Heidi M. Levitt and Maria R. Ippolito, 2014

This article is based on a grounded theory analysis of interviews with transgender-identified people from different regions of the United States. Participants held a variety of gender identities under the transgender rubric (e.g., crossdresser, transman, transwoman, butch lesbian). Interviews explored the participants’ experiences in arriving at their gender identity. This article presents three clusters of findings related to the common processes of transgender identity development. This process was made possible by accessibility of transgender narratives that injected hope into what was a childhood replete with criticism and scrutiny. Ultimately, participants came to their identities through balancing a desire for authenticity with demands of necessity—meaning that they weighed their internal gender experience with considerations about their available resources, coping skills, and the consequences of gender transitions. The implications of these findings are considered in terms of their contribution to gender theory, research, and clinical support for transgender clients.

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