First Advisor

Fulling-Smith, Jennifer A.

Document Type


Date Created



College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, Applied Psychology and Counselor Education, APCE Student Work


This dissertation presents findings from the first known Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis study of how nine transgender and/or gender expansive youth, aged 13-17, experienced their gender identities and additional intersecting identities. The purpose of this study was to share how transgender and/or gender expansive youth experienced their gender identities, additional intersecting identities, and how they made meaning of these experiences within the contexts of current social, cultural, political, and historical factors. Additionally, this study sought to share the participants’ stories within their own words. The primary research question for this study was: how do transgender and gender expansive youth (TGEY) experience their gender identity? The two guiding sub-questions explored how TGEY experienced their gender identity in relation to their additional intersecting identities, and how TGEY made meaning of their experiences, identities, and their experiences within their identities. The participants engaged in two 60-90 minute interviews with a member-checking meeting following data analysis to ensure their own words were at the forefront of the research. Six superordinate themes highlighted the participants’ narratives and experiences: (1) Gender Identity Journey and Coming Out; (2) Identities and Experiences of Oppression; (3) Navigating Mental Health and Physical Health; (4) Interpersonal Relationships; (5) Navigating Contextual Factors; (6) Making Sense of Experiences and Resiliency. These superordinate themes encompassed their gender journeys, experiences of multiple forms of oppression, their interpersonal relationships, mental and physical health concerns, navigating the historical, political, social, and cultural contextual factors within their lives, and their resiliency. Many of the participants’ experiences echoed findings in the literature, while simultaneously strengthening these findings due to the rich qualitative nature of this study. Results from this study have profound implications within the field of counselor education by increasing the knowledge in the field around the complex and nuanced lives of transgender and/or gender expansive youth. The results of this study address an important gap in the counseling literature and provides important implications and conclusions for counselors-in-training, counselors, and counselor educators. The results provide rich narrative of the participants’ lives, intersecting identities and various contextual factors such as historical, social, political, cultural, and historical factors. In addition, counselor educators are able to use these results to help train future counselors and supervisors to engage in transaffirmative approaches with transgender and/or gender expansive youth. Lastly, this study and the results therein are an act of social justice itself by de-centering the researcher’s views and centering that of transgender and/or gender expansive youth.


332 pages

Local Identifiers


Rights Statement

Copyright is held by the author.