An exploratory study of identity conceptualization and development in a sample of gender nonconforming biological females

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This study examines the naming, expression, and development of transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) identities in a sample of self-identifying gender nonconforming biological females. The current investigation aims to validate and extend the current theoretical and developmental models pertaining to TGNC and sexual minority groups.

A person?s gender is a central feature that may limit one?s access to adult roles (Erikson, 1959/1980), Moreover, early identity research suggests that the major task of adolescence is the establishment of an independent identity (Erikson, 1968). Transgender adolescents must integrate both biological sex and gender identification into a cohesive sense of self. Much of the current literature examining individuals with gender nonconforming identities, focuses on discrimination, limited access to health care, major health challenges, conflicting surgical outcomes, and mental health concerns (Devor, 2004; Lev, 2004; Zucker & Bradley, 1995). Scant literature focuses on the developmental processes or the structure and properties of gender nonconforming identities in non-clinical populations (Gagne, Tewksbury & McGaughey, 1997; Mason-Schrock, 1996). There are several limitations inherent in the current body of extant literature on gender nonconforming and transgender (TGNC) identities. First, the range of gender and sexual identities and their meanings in gender nonconforming samples are constantly changing. Consequently, current research samples may under represent the full-spectrum of transgender identities and over represent clinically severe populations. Second, there is little cross-sectional and no longitudinal data on the developmental trajectories of gender nonconforming identities. Yet, several models posit the developmental sequencing of this identity formation process. Third, the empirical research on gender nonconformity has focused on biological males in childhood. There is a dearth of empirical research on gender nonconforming biological females. In order to explore the meanings, expressions, and development of gender and sexual identities in TGNC biological females, 170 self-identified TGNC biological females were surveyed using both forced choice and open-ended questions. Using a differential developmental trajectories framework and based on the transgender model of gender identity conceptualization, it is hypothesized that multiple identity labels are used to organize gender and sexual identities. Moreover, several novel gender and erotic identities will emerge from the data. Lastly, gender identity and sexual orientation identity are likely correlated, but gender identity and partner preference will emerge as independent constructs.

Several significant findings emerged from the data demonstrating both within and between group differences. The data validate the differential developmental trajectories model and extended its application to gender identities in TGNC groups. Data also validate the transgender model for gender identity conceptualization, and expand our understanding of the interaction of gender and sexual identities.

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Department of Human Development, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

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Transgender; Identity; Sexuality; Gender; Gender nonconformity; Development


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dissertation or thesis

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