Sex Roles

, Volume 81, Issue 5–6, pp 306–325 | Cite as

Transnormativity and Transgender Identity Development: A Master Narrative Approach

  • Nova J. BradfordEmail author
  • Moin Syed
Original Article


Despite rapidly shifting social dynamics and the recent increase in scholarship on transgender identity development, existing research on transgender identity has been theoretically isolated from the broader study of identity. This study involved a series of 4 qualitative focus groups (n = 15 participants), conducted in the United States, to identify master and alternative narratives guiding transgender identity development and explore the mechanisms by which transgender individuals navigate and negotiate with these narrative constraints. Results suggest that (a) transnormativity is best conceptualized as a hegemonic alternative narrative that resists the master narrative of cisnormativity, which asserts that cisgender identities are “normal” or “standard”; (b) the components of transnormativity go beyond those which have been previously described in the literature; (c) individuals negotiate with transnormativity through both resisting transnormativity and conceding to transnormativity; and (d) border wars within the trans community form on the basis of these opposing and contradictory processes of resisting and conceding. Results demonstrate the applicability of the Master Narrative framework for studying transgender identity development and the important role of master and alternative narratives of in shaping the lives and experiences of transpeople. Psychotherapists can use these findings to engage clients in re-authoring conversations to affirm the legitimacy of clients’ unique identity experiences.


Identity development Transgender Transnormativity Gender identity Master narratives Identification Focus groups 



This study was funded by the Sharon Borine Research Award, as well as departmental funds of the University of Minnesota Department of Psychology.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of Interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare, either financial or non-financial.

Informed Consent

All participants were over the age of 18, and informed consent was collected in writing by each participant. Approval for the study was granted by the Institutional Review Board of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.

Supplementary material

11199_2018_992_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 17 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Social WorkUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA

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