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Transgender Identity and Ethics of Care: Narrative Analysis of Transgender Identities and Experiences of Care in Saskatchewan



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The intelligibility (or unintelligibility) of transgender individuals and their experiences is structured by the production of scientific and cultural knowledge. The possibilities of embodiment and identity have largely been structured through texts written by doctors who control access to healthcare, and evolving technologies of embodiment. Subjective knowledge of transgender identities from transgender individuals has largely been excluded from contemporary knowledge creation and texts considered authoritative. This has resulted in the erasure of transgender people’s experiences, misunderstandings of transgender identities, and inaccessibility of appropriate, comprehensive and supportive care for transgender individuals. The research questions that inform this project are: What are transgender identities? What are the experiences of transgender individuals seeking culturally competent healthcare? What are the institutional, practical, and policy interventions implied by the experiences of transgender individuals seeking culturally competent healthcare? The thesis is structured as a case study and draws its data from qualitative semi-structured interviews with six Saskatchewan transgender individuals; it applies a critical analysis by a transgender sociologist, to produce culturally and historically situated knowledge. Three major themes emerged in the narratives of the individuals who comprise the cases: 1) Transgender Identities are Non-Binary 2) The Need for Public Education and Exposure to Gender Diversity and Non-Binary Thinking 3) The Need for Care as Recognition and Supportive Action The first theme, i.e. that transgender identities are non-binary, addresses the first research question: What are transgender identities? The six research collaborators who participated in this study clearly discuss the multiple elements of their gender experiences. A much more complex system of understandings of gender is illuminated in the research collaborators’ narratives. In this theme, the research collaborators’ narratives of identity development and perspectives on subjecthood show recognition of a dynamic, co-productive understanding of identities. The second theme, ‘Education and Exposure,’ addresses the second and third research questions: What are the experiences of transgender individuals seeking culturally competent healthcare? and What are the institutional, practical, and policy interventions called for by the experiences of transgender individuals seeking culturally competent healthcare? The need for education and exposure to gender diversity and non-binary thinking is important for the wellbeing of the participating transgender individuals in their experiences of identity formation, and is a vital component in creating caring social relations. The third major theme that emerged from the project was the understanding of care as respectful recognition of transgender identities and supportive action. The research collaborators’ experiences and understandings of care as respectful recognition must be accompanied by attentive companionate action. My analysis of the three major themes and related minor themes directs attention to the active and specific ways transgender research participants as collaborators experience, interpret, and attach meanings to their subjective experiences of gender. The findings suggest that systems of knowledge, and social and technical actors co-construct and mutually shape the collaborators’ experiences and understandings of self and vice versa. The findings also suggest possibilities for cisgender professionals and members of the public to support more respectful interactions in relationally accountable ways with transgender individuals. Practical recommendations for constructive changes are provided.



transgender, identity, care, healthcare, Canada, Saskatchewan.



Master of Arts (M.A.)






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