A traumatic departure: a study of the intimate and emotional relationships of close others with trans people who migrate across the normative boundaries of gender and sex
Sociological Studies University of Sheffield Sheffield, United Kingdom
My doctoral research is centrally concerned with exploring the intimate and emotional relationships of trans people who have or intend to permanently transition across the normative binaries of gender and sex. This aspect in relation to trans people has been undertheorised due to a lack of empirical work, for example, whether or not intimate partnerships or family and friendship relations can survive these transitions. My empirical research consists of interviews with the actors associated with such transitions and addresses this specific issue. Early analysis of the data has identified that when a decision to transition is made, those in relationships with the trans person can be emotionally traumatised and they grieve.
In this paper I will discuss the data arising from investigating three different transitions: one involving a wife and a recently transitioned trans woman, another a 23 year old trans man beginning transition in a relationship with his female partner and finally a trans woman living ten years post transition with her female partner. Discussion will be focussed on the factors that influence recognition of the trans person's emergent identity, the characteristics that influence the viability of intimate relationships and how research subjects are able to manage the social and psychic distress resulting from the transition.
Note: Transgender is an umbrella term, used to include people whose lifestyles appear to conflict with the gender norms of society. It includes many types of people and lifestyles. In the use of the broad term, a transgender person crosses the conventional boundaries of gender; in clothing; in presenting themselves; even as far as having multiple surgical procedures to be fully bodily reassigned in their preferred gender role. I use the term 'trans people' to describe those people who might be described as falling broadly within this context, to be as inclusive as possible of different 'types' of trans-identified people. The three categories generally used to describe trans people - transvestite, transgender and transsexual - are very simplistic, trans people often have complex gender identities, and may move from one 'trans' category into another over time.