When a transsexual family member transitions: A qualitative exploration of the family's experience
This qualitative research study explored the experience of family members and romantic partners of transsexual individuals who have completed gender transition. The conceptual framework of the study was family systems and ambiguous loss theories.
In order to find rich, deep meaning in what the participants shared, a phenomenological approach was employed. Participants came from parts of the continental United States and Canada. The recruitment process involved criterion sampling and snowball sampling. Twenty participants, including parents, siblings, adult children, and romantic partners of transsexual individuals came forward.
Four face-to-face interviews and 16 telephone interviews were conducted by the researcher, using a semi-structured interview guide. All interviews were audio taped for transcription. Verbatim transcripts were read and analyzed several times. The researcher discovered categories and themes, thereby finding the essence of what the participant shared.
Through the data analysis process, 11 themes emerged. Under the category of The Transition Affects the Family Members, themes included: It's my transition too, I was shocked, I fear for his/her safety I am angry, He/she is selfish/self-absorbed, and There is a sense of loss. Under a second category of Finding Peace within Myself themes included: I turn to my spirituality/religion, I see that he/she is happier now, We have open communication, I have sought education and support, and Things get easier with time. The researcher gave a voice to the participants by including several direct quotes from the interviews, as they shared their lived experience.
A review of the literature was used as a source for comparison with the findings in the study. There is a discussion, written in the researcher's voice, along with conclusions, implications for families and romantic partners of transsexual individuals and for family therapists who may work with families with similar experiences. Limitations of this research, recommendations for professionals and for future research were also presented.