Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Heidi M. Levitt

Second Advisor

Alice S. Carter

Third Advisor

Sharon G. Home


Transgender and gender diverse people represent a marginalized group who often experience a variety of adverse life events related to discrimination, bias, and stigma. The unique stressors that marginalized groups experience, such as facing gender-based discrimination and prejudice, go beyond the general stressors that all people may be subjected to and are forms of minority stress (Meyer, 2003). Exposure to experiences of minority stress, including interpersonal and societal rejection, has been found to contribute to the disproportionate negative mental health outcomes experienced by the transgender community (Drabish & Theeke, 2021; Testa et al., 2012). However, the majority of research on transgender people focuses on negative experiences, such as mental health disparities, gender dysphoria, and minority stress. Additionally, much of the research documents individual and interpersonal experiences of transgender and nonbinary (TNB) people, with less research focusing on how TNB people develop their gender identities. To address this gap, this paper presents a qualitative meta-analysis examining the functions and meanings of gender within the process of transgender identity development. Using a critical-constructivist grounded theory (CCGT) meta-analytic approach, I reviewed 27 qualitative studies (which included 426 total participants across studies) to seek to understand how gender functions in relation to sociocultural power structures and how those structures influence the experience of transgender people in developing their gender identities. For the purposes of this study, I describe how the literature documents that functions of gender are connected to not only coping with minority stress, but also to positive themes around agency, self-expression, and vitality that are developed within transgender communities. Based upon that understanding, I offer recommendations for researchers and clinicians working with these populations.


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