Doing and being: understanding how engagement in activities supports transgender, non-binary and genderqueer gender expression

Swenson, R., 2021. Doing and being: understanding how engagement in activities supports transgender, non-binary and genderqueer gender expression. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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'Transgender', a term which does not have a fixed meaning, is generally understood to include a range of gender diverse identities including non-binary and genderqueer. These latter terms refer to those who identify with some aspects of, or reject entirely, binary identities. There is emerging research from the field of occupational science into transgender communities, but non-binary identities have been largely neglected within this.

This study explored how gender expression for those who are transgender and non-binary related to their engagement with activities, objects and space and place. The research is located in the epistemological positions of feminist social constructionism and queer theory. Five participants who define as transgender or non-binary were recruited through snowball sampling and respondent-driven sampling. Three semi-structured interviews were undertaken over the course of a year. Analysis was informed by new materialism ontology.

The human body, objects and space - considered as an assemblage - intra-act to create capacities for gender expression. Activities and the environment can replicate and enforce binary understandings of gender leaving transgender and non-binary people feeling scrutinised and misrecognised. To counter this, participants, at personal cost, engaged in occupations to assimilate into hostile environments. However, engaging in activities provided opportunities for radical departures from binary gender expressions which facilitated kinship and recognition. Symbolic and personal meanings of occupation shifted when participants were able to express themselves in ways that felt authentic.

Occupations, space and the human body collectively can create agency for transformative gender expression. However, the need to remain safe can, for those who are transgender and non-binary people, necessitate a process of 'occupational assimilation'. This warrants further exploration and application to other marginalised communities. In particular the impact of navigating binary environments for those who are non-binary requires further research and occupational science with its concern for social justice is well placed to advance this.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Swenson, R.
Date: June 2021
Rights: The copyright in this work is held by the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the author.
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 08 Nov 2022 14:54
Last Modified: 08 Nov 2022 14:54

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