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Nonfiction Social Sciences

Coming Out as Transgender: Navigating the Social Implications of a Transgender Identity

By Stacey M. Brumbaugh-Johnson and Kathleen E. Hull, 2018

This study examines transgender coming-out narratives. Most previous studies of coming out as transgender have relied on psychological stage models of identity development, with little empirical verification. This study uses identity theory to reframe transgender coming out as a primarily external, ongoing, and socially situated process. The data were collected from 20 trans- gender people residing in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota metro area through interviews and focus groups. The analyses reveal that coming out as transgender requires navigating others’ gender expectations, others’ reactions, and the threat of violence. The results indicate that transgender individuals do not simply decide to “come out of the closet” and then stay out. Rather, they make strategic decisions regarding the enactment of gender and gender identity disclosure based on specific social contexts. Coming out as transgender is best conceptualized as an ongoing, socially embedded, skilled management of one’s gender identity.

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