Transnormativity and Transgender Identity Development: A Master Narrative Approach
Despite rapidly shifting social dynamics and the recent increase in scholarship on transgender identity development, existing research on transgender identity has been theoretically isolated from the broader study of identity. This study involved a series of 4 qualitative focus groups (n = 15 participants), conducted in the United States, to identify master and alternative narratives guiding transgender identity development and explore the mechanisms by which transgender individuals navigate and negotiate with these narrative constraints. Results suggest that (a) transnormativity is best conceptualized as a hegemonic alternative narrative that resists the master narrative of cisnormativity, which asserts that cisgender identities are “normal” or “standard”; (b) the components of transnormativity go beyond those which have been previously described in the literature; (c) individuals negotiate with transnormativity through both resisting transnormativity and conceding to transnormativity; and (d) border wars within the trans community form on the basis of these opposing and contradictory processes of resisting and conceding. Results demonstrate the applicability of the Master Narrative framework for studying transgender identity development and the important role of master and alternative narratives of in shaping the lives and experiences of transpeople. Psychotherapists can use these findings to engage clients in re-authoring conversations to affirm the legitimacy of clients’ unique identity experiences.