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Transgender Experience and Identity

Abstract

In this chapter, we review and critique how conventional models of gender and sexual identity development have represented the experiences of transgender individuals, and we argue for an expanded model of transgender identity development which can accommodate the diversity of their lived realities. Transgender is a broad category typically used to denote any individual whose gender identity or presentation either violates conventional conceptualizations of “male” or “female” or mixes different aspects of male and female role and identity. Despite increasing social scientific acknowledgment and investigation of transgender experience, most contemporary perspectives presume that the primary identity dilemma for transgender individuals is a conflict between one’s psychological gender and one’s biological sex, such that the normative and healthy endpoint of transgender identity development is the achievement of a stable, integrated, unambiguous identification as 100% male or 100% female, often achieved via some form of physical transformation aimed at bringing one’s psychological gender and one’s physical gender presentation into alignment. Yet there is increasing evidence that such dichotomous models of gender fail to accommodate the true complexity and diversity of transgender experience. Hence, in this chapter we argue for broader, more flexible models of gender identity development among transgender individuals which can accommodate the fact that for some of these individuals, identity development will have a linear trajectory leading to a singular outcome, whereas for others, identity development may be a recursive process that accommodates multiple and shifting identity states over time. We explore the implications of such an expanded model of identity development for clinical practice and intervention with transgender individuals.

Keywords

  • Gender Identity
  • Sexual Minority
  • Identity Development
  • Gender Identity Disorder
  • Gender Nonconformity

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Diamond, L.M., Pardo, S.T., Butterworth, M.R. (2011). Transgender Experience and Identity. In: Schwartz, S., Luyckx, K., Vignoles, V. (eds) Handbook of Identity Theory and Research. Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-7988-9_26

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