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Essay Nonfiction Social Sciences

Gender identity affirmation among male-to-female transgender persons: a life course analysis across types of relationships and cultural/lifestyle factors

By Larry A. Nuttbrock et al., 2009

Disclosures of a transgender identity to others, and responses from others allowing for desired gender role behavior, are defining events for male-to-female (MTF) transgender persons. This study systematically examined these inter- personal acts of gender identity affirmation among 571 MTF transgender persons from New York City. Using the Life Chart Interview, biographical information about gender identity disclosure to others and desired gender role casting from others was obtained across stages of the life course (early adolescence, late adolescence, early adulthood, young adulthood and middle age) and types of relationships (parents, siblings, sexual partners, friends, fellow students and co- workers). Summaries of gender identity disclosure and gender role casting were then computed across the life course and relationships and associated with sexual orientation, ethnicity and sex work history (cultural/lifestyle factors). The two aspects of gender identity affirmation were, predictably, more likely in achieved (i.e. friends) as compared to ascribed (i.e. parents) relationships. Younger respondents (age 19–39) were generally more likely to report gender identity disclosure and desired gender role casting. Strong and highly significant differences were observed across cultural/lifestyle factors. Implications of these findings for the mental health of MTF transgender persons, and mental health therapy, are discussed.

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