NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
ERIC Number: ED557902
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 226
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-3037-9823-8
Self-Authoring Gender outside the Binary: A Narrative Analysis of (Trans)gender Undergraduates
Ashton, Kasey
ProQuest LLC, Ed.D. Dissertation, North Carolina State University
This narrative inquiry explored how transgender college students construct, experience, and make meaning of gender. Gender is not constructed or understood in isolation; it is therefore essential to consider how personal cognition intersects with and is influenced by an internal sense of self and relationships with others when exploring how transgender college students understand gender. Self-authorship theory and queer theory were used in conjunction as theoretical lenses for understanding gender meaning-making. For the purposes of this research, constructing gender relates to the epistemological dimension (how do I know?) of meaning-making. Three primary research questions guided this study: 1) How do transgender college students construct and interpret gender? 2) How does a transgender college student's internal sense of self inform gender construction? 3) How do relationships with others inform transgender college students' construction of gender? A qualitative study using narrative inquiry methodology was conducted to explore how transgender college students in a southeastern large public institution make meaning of gender. In-depth interviews were the primary form of data collection and each was digitally recorded and transcribed for data analysis. Document analysis of a reflective prompt and campus documents were also a part of the data analysis. Emergent themes evolved from thematic coding. Three overarching themes emerged from the data analysis: power in self-definition, navigating gender roles, and negotiating connections. The emergent themes weave together as the participants self-author their gender. For the participants in this study, their gender identities are not static, but are continuously evolving as they age and navigate new life experiences. Self-authorship theory and queer theory were used in conjunction to analyze the deconstruction and reconstruction process of interpreting gender. The participants' stories reveal that the gender meaning-making process is a constant cycle of breaking down external formulas, recognizing the shortcomings of universal truths and absolutes, cultivating personal values and beliefs, and redefining personal expressions of masculinity and femininity. The participants understanding of themselves and their gender identity becomes more complex over time, enabling them to deconstruct external formulas about gender and determine for themselves what to integrate into their lives. The participants' experiences also reveal that, similar to gender identity, gender expression is fluid and changeable. In facing negative stereotypes, strict gender expectations, inadequate language for self-definition, and strained relationships, the students within this study all faced "catalytic" moments that have added to their complexity of thinking and meaning-making processes. This study demonstrates that transgender college students have distinct gender identities and that a homogeneous trans experience did not exist. The participants' stories reveal that the gender meaning-making process involves breaking down gendered social norms and reconstruction. The participants daily take the disparate components of deconstructed gender messages and redefine and construct them into gender identities that are an accurate reflection of their inner self concepts. Pairing these two theories together expands both our understanding of how gender-diverse students interpret and experience gender, but also imbues subjective experiences into the abstract concepts of gender identity and expression. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A