Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Lost and found: Transgender elders' journey toward authenticity. A constructionist grounded theory study
by Riley, Donna Barbara, Ph.D., State University of New York at Stony Brook, 2015, 230; 10002566
Abstract (Summary)

While theoretical models of transgender identity development exist, theoretical models of post-transition social identity development are limited, and theoretical models of transgender individuals transitioning in later life are absent. As such, the purpose of this study is to explore the experience of transgender individuals coming out later in life, often after decades of hiding. Their experiences give voice to the trans community to define self-fulfillment as a transgender person post-transition. Additionally, this study explores the obstacles transgender elders navigate in middle and later life.

Using a semi-structured interview guide with 42 transgender elders 55 years and older, respondents constructed chronological narratives of their lived experiences. The data was analyzed using Charmaz’ (2004) Constructionist Grounded Theory method. The findings from this study support Breakwell’s (1986) Identity Process Theory (IPT) and explain how the study participants coped with threatened identities (Breakwell, 1983).

Additionally, the findings explain how Breakwell’s theory of identity integration and Amiot et al.’s (2007) theory of discrete stages of change lead to integrated social identities. The model that emerged in the findings expands the scope of social identity integration. The model I propose, Reflexive Authenticity, expands by adding an additional stage. Therefore, increasing to five stages of social identity development and implement action/interaction strategies with conditions and consequences at each stage.

Qualitative analysis of interview narratives revealed two distinct participant categories: Compartmentalized Social Identity and Integrated Social Identity. The essential difference between the two groups was participation in transgender advocacy or activism to support and mobilize the transgender community. This study sheds new light on the post-transition phase and the role that reflexive authenticity plays in transgender individuals’ integrated social identity. The theoretical implications suggest that political activity and commitment to building social and political acceptance of the transgender community are important facilitators of developing an integrated social identity.

The transgender elders in this study described early coping mechanisms they used to protect threatened core identities, the obstacles and barriers they faced along the way, and their journeys toward living authentically. These findings have important implications for the development of future research, policies, and interventions that support transgender individuals.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Peabody, Carolyn G.
Commitee: Blau, Joel, Freedman, Diane E., Morgen, Richard
School: State University of New York at Stony Brook
Department: Social Welfare
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 77/06(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social work
Keywords: Aging, Construtionist grounded theoar, Trangender
Publication Number: 10002566
ISBN: 978-1-339-42041-7
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