Date of Award

1997

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Minton, Henry,

Keywords

Psychology, Social.

Rights

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Abstract

Previous psychological research has pathologized transgendered people. Reconceptualizing gender from a postmodern perspective and theory and research from within the transgender community leads to a very different view of gender and transgender identities. However, the transgender community's thoughts on this reconstruction of gender has been mostly unexplored. Therefore, I engaged 17 male-born and one female-born members of southwestern Ontario's transgender community in a dialogue. We spoke about how they understand gender, came to know their transgenderness, and tell the story of their gender. Then, I analyzed the interviews using a four part coding strategy focused on direct responses to specific issues, common patterns and metaphors across participant accounts, different positions amongst all respondents, and the functions of these accounts. On the question of the nature of gender, participants were split between integrationist or social constructionist views of gender. Moreover, most participants agreed that society supports a dichotomous view of sex and gender, but the majority of this sample did not see their own gender this way. They stressed the complexity, diversity, and plurality of gender categories, transcending gender dichotomization by personalizing and individualizing gender expressions. In addition, most participants disrupted the standard sex/gender semiotic code: some agreed that gender signified sex, but privileged gender over sex and switched from one code system to another; others privileged sex over gender, but disrupted the assumptions of gender signifying sex or presented mixed signifiers. With respect to knowing their gender, participants came to know their transgenderedness through a variety of experiences: cross-dressing, explorations of their own sexuality, gendered positioning by others, and connecting with others in the transgendered community. Communication, information, and medical technologies also played a significant role in respondents' self-knowledge, but a majority of informants were critical of these technologies and the effects they have on transgender subjectivities. Most participants chose to identify as transgendered and not to edit their biography. Those who did change the story they told others did so mostly to ensure safe and respectful responses from others. Also, the majority of respondents' narratives were innovative in both form and content. Their life stories differed from other, more traditional, life stories. Moreover, most respondents saw the development of their gender identity as a life-long task. Their concerns for the future centered on developing relationships with others, political action and education, and optimism about the future of the transgender community. A discussion of these results suggests that informant positions on the nature of gender, knowing transgenderedness, and gender narratives serve previously unexplored personal, political, and moral functions. Moreover, I contend that in order to adequately respect transgender knowledges and subjectivities, psychologists must alter both their theories of gender and transgender identities and methods. To better respect the diversity of gender experiences in our society, psychologists must reconceptualize sex and gender. One of the more promising ways to re-examine the fundamental assumptions underlying traditional psychological gender theory and research is to actively involve people previously marginalized by sex and gender theory, such as those who identify as transgendered, in the research process.Dept. of Psychology. Paper copy at Leddy Library: Theses & Major Papers - Basement, West Bldg. / Call Number: Thesis1997 .H545. Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 59-08, Section: B, page: 4537. Adviser: Henry Minton. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 1997.

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