Coming Out as Transgender or Transitioning Genders: The Impact of Identity and Social Environments on Romantic Relationships and Family Dynamics

Coming Out as Transgender or Transitioning Genders: The Impact of Identity and Social Environments on Romantic Relationships and Family Dynamics

Michael Corning (New York University, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2404-5.ch007
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Abstract

In recent years, the transgender community has been gaining more awareness and visibility in research, the media, and sociocultural landscapes. Despite this, transgender individuals endure a vast range of personal problems that stem from larger social issues. This chapter will connect the psychological components of identity and the influences of social surroundings to the possible experiences of an individual who comes out as transgender or transitions genders. While many individuals may feel a strong sense of identity affirmation, the interpersonal relationships in his or her life may face a major transitional period as well. This is especially evident in romantic relationships and family dynamics. Outside social stressors or gender transitions could impact the romantic relationship quality and structure of transgender people. Likewise, with family dynamics, the level of family functioning could depend on whether the transgender family member is a parent or child. Conclusively, clinical implications and future directions towards building strong relationships will be explored.
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Introduction

In the United States today, there are more than nine million adults that identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) (Gates, 2011). Within the LGBT population, nearly 1.5 million individuals identify as transgender (Coron, Scott, Stowell, & Landers, 2012). Due to social stigma, discrimination, and marginalization, many transgender individuals choose not to come out or publicly live their lives as transgender. However, in recent years, the transgender community and the issues that transgender people endure have received more awareness and visibility in social, political, and cultural venues. For instance, President Barak Obama was the first President of the United States to say the word “transgender” in a speech while advocating for legislation to protect the rights of transgender people (Obedin-Maliver, 2015).

As a result, more transgender individuals have come out to their families, friends, and loved ones as well as publicly expressing their identities. If an individual does come out as transgender or transitions genders, he or she may experience transitions that go beyond gender. Both intrapersonal and interpersonal systems and relationships may be faced with change (Downing, 2013). Researchers have illustrated the differential structure of romantic relationships when one partner is transgender versus a heteronormative relationship, citing why and how particular stressors exist (Gamarel, Laurenceau, Reisner, Nemoto, & Operario, 2014; Iantaffi & Bockting, 2011). In the same vein, researchers have also presented the distinctions in family dynamics between a child coming out or transitioning (Wahlig, 2015) versus a parent coming out or transitioning (Veldorale-Griffin, 2014).

In addition to discussing the meanings and expressions of transgender identities, this chapter will explore how coming out as transgender or transitioning genders can affect the dynamics of romantic and familial relationships. The research and literature presented in this review do not only provide insight and understanding towards the transgender community, but also illustrate how the interpersonal relationships in a transgender individual’s life could, despite its struggles, flourish and develop in a healthy direction.

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