Reframing families: Transforming meaning in families with transgender and gender non-binary members
AuthorMcNeilly, Elizabeth A.
Committee MemberGroen, Janet
ClassificationEducation--Adult and Continuing
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractAlthough studies have been conducted on the experiences of transgender and non-binary children, limited research has looked at the parents of these children. This qualitative study explored the transformative learning (Mezirow, 1978) of the parents of transgender and non-binary children by employing the concepts of biographical learning (Alheit, 1994) and holistic learning (Illeris, 2003) as its conceptual framework. The research questions asked: to what extent the parents experienced transformative learning, how they made the cognitive-affective shift in learning, how their own gender identity development informed their interpretations of their child’s gender transition, and how they navigated any tensions created within a family. Applying life history methods and methodology, I conducted 2 to 3 interviews with 16 parents of children aged 6 to 29, most of whom recorded their thoughts in journals, and I wrote an autoethnography as a parent of a non-binary child myself. The findings showed that for many parents, holistic learning took place in two phases. First, parents experienced a private phase of transformative learning through a cognitive reframing of the meaning of gender and a relinquishing of the emotions that were attached to gender (such as losing your daughter). Then began a public phase where parents learned to advocate for their children in schools, medical offices, or courtrooms. Parents of non-binary children may take longer working through these stages and many participants benefitted from lingering at a particular place of learning as they processed their thoughts or emotions. Furthermore, a parent’s personal sense of gender identity did not play a salient role for most parents; rather, their value in authenticity or the ability to be yourself influenced their commitment to their child. A parent’s gender identity did play a notable role for two mothers who identified as feminist who found it necessary to revisit their definition of woman at the time of their children’s transition. These findings provide a better understanding of the transformative learning of parents of transgender and non-binary children who often need support on this personal and public journey towards championing their children, challenging societal norms, and promoting inclusivity.
CitationMcNeilly, E. A. (2021). Reframing families: Transforming meaning in families with transgender and gender non-binary members (Unpublished doctoral thesis). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.
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