Discourses of Gender Identity and Transition in Later Life




Jen, Sarah

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Texas State University, Center for Diversity and Gender Studies


There is a small but growing field of inquiry exploring the needs and experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming older adults (TGNC). While large, quantitative studies are useful for illustrating differences at the population level, in-depth qualitative research is needed to offer interpretations that reflect the complexity and nuance of individual lives to better illuminate the reality of living as a TGNC elder. Guided by a social constructionist epistemology, this study reports findings from a Foucauldian discourse analysis of interviews with two older women who had previously undergone sexual reassignment or gender confirmation surgery to examine how these women talk about their identities and gender transitions, how their language might be informed by or resistant to their social context, and what they might possibly gain from using language in these ways. Each woman chose to present her gender transition in vastly different ways, illustrating the wide variation in conceptualizing transitions as a critical aspect of one's identity versus a minor shift in the scope of a larger self-development narrative. They took up the roles of expert, educator, consumer, and transgender individual in differing ways, demonstrating varied approaches to resilience and resistance. These findings are explored for their potential to inform direct practice and research with older transgender adults.



transgender, gender non-conforming, gender identity, aging, gerontology, discourse analysis, narrative


Jen, S. (2018). Discourses of gender identity and transition in later life. <i>Journal of Research on Women and Gender, 8</i>(1), pp. 49-64


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