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Essay Natural Sciences Nonfiction Social Sciences

Transgender Identity Development as Represented by a Group of Transgendered Adults

By Sarah W. Morgan and Patricia E. Stevens, 2012

The world of persons who identify as transgendered is complex making its representation in an article challenging. This article represents work done to raise awareness among all health profes- sionals about the lives and experiences of transgendered persons, who receive little coverage in our textbooks, professional jour- nals, or student experiences. Transgendered lives cannot be simply summed up as a community of people who feel like they are “in the wrong body.” Their experiences, issues, and identities are com- plex, but worthy of the time, energy, patience, and caring it takes to learn about them. We took a postmodern feminist stance to explore transgendered adults’ first-hand accounts of identity de- velopment. The research question guiding the analysis presented here was: How do transgendered individuals describe their experi- ences of recognizing, acknowledging, and developing their identity as transgendered? Participants’ stories about how they came to recognize and experience their identity as transgendered, analyzed from a lifespan perspective, displayed a similar pattern of life ex- perience, reflected in three prominent themes: an early sense of body-mind dissonance, negotiating and managing identities, and the process of transition. The process that participants describe, beginning with childhood and ending with transition and the reso- lution of bodily discomfort, appears to be staged and developmen- tal in nature. Further exploration into this process and comparison with other developmental theories may yield a model of normal, non-pathological development as transgendered.

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