Jude Hanlon, a Laidlaw Scholar at Durham University, on his research:"Transgender Identity Narratives, Gender Stereotyping, and Wellbeing."
My research investigates how transgender identity narratives relate to wellbeing, transgender community belongingness, and the endorsement of gender stereotypes, in a transgender population sample.
By transgender identity narratives, we refer to the beliefs a transgender person has about their transgender identity. For example, some trans people adopt a ‘trans-medicalist’ narrative, asserting that only those who are binary identified, who intend to medically transition, and who experience gender dysphoria, are acceptable members of the transgender community. We refer to this narrative as the traditional transgender identity narrative, as this was the popular view of transgender individuals, particularly by the medical establishment, until recent decades. In contrast, others with a non-traditional transgender narrative, assert that gender is fluid, nonbinary, that rules should not be imposed on those who claim the transgender label, and that the medicalisation of transgender identity is harmful.
We believe that some of the conflict within the transgender community, and within transgender people themselves, comes down to differing transgender identity narratives. One aspect of internalised transphobia is the desire not to be recognised as transgender. Perhaps related, those who assert a traditional narrative tend to show a hyper-binary narrative and presentation of their gender. We wonder whether internalised transphobia and this traditional narrative are linked, and what the result for overall wellbeing and transgender community belongingness is. Furthermore, how does trans identity narrative impact the way trans people gender stereotype other trans people? Perhaps this binary policing is not only within themselves, but in their perceptions of others who also claim the transgender label.
In an online Qualtrics survey with transgender adult participants, we will test the hypothesis that those who show traditional transgender identity narratives will show greater endorsement of gender stereotypes, lower wellbeing, and less transgender community belongingness.
Transgender - Someone whose gender identity is different than the sex they were assigned at birth (APA, 2015).
Gender Dysphoria - Gender dysphoria refers to discomfort or distress related to the incongruence between assigned sex at birth and gender identity (APA, 2015).
Binary - Identifying as male or female. Or relating to the idea that there are only two genders: male and female.
Nonbinary - Identifying as a gender other than exclusively male or female. Or relating to the idea that gender is a spectrum, not a binary.
Medical transition - A process some transgender individuals may choose to undergo, which involves using medical treatment, such as hormones and surgery, to better align a person’s secondary sex characteristics with their gender identity.
Fluid - Gender identity is not fixed. It is changeable and may not be exclusive to one gender identity.
Internalised transphobia - Discomfort with one’s transgender identity, resulting from the internalisation of society’s normative gender expectations (Bockting & Coleman, 2016).
Where did your passion for this research originate?
As a transgender man myself, I interact with and consume a lot of media (books, podcasts, films, art, articles, you name it) about transgender people and the trans community. I’ve found that there is such a range of experiences and identities embraced by those who claim the transgender label. Whilst the transgender community can be a place of acceptance and support, it is also clear to me that it is home to major division and debate. Processes of exclusion occur as to who is ‘trans enough’ and who has the right way of conceptualising and portraying the transgender experience. In individuals, including myself, I have observed turmoil about how to understand and feel about being transgender. There are many routes to answering these questions and thus, many ways to live and think about being transgender. Within my inner world, and observations of the community, I began to wonder about the impact these narratives have. This research is where those wonderings led me.
To my knowledge, this will be the first study to investigate these specific questions and additionally, the first study to measure endorsement of gender stereotypes by transgender people, about other transgender people. This is a fascinating and exciting prospect! It is my hope to gain a broad understanding of the topic, building a foundation for a great deal of further research. Potential real-world impact of this research will also be explored, including the possibility of within-community mentorship and workshops.
What is the most memorable moment from your Laidlaw scholarship experience so far?
I can’t say that there is one particular experience of Laidlaw that stands out to me; however, it is perfectly visible that becoming a Laidlaw scholar has given me such confidence, joy, and opportunity. Coming from a working-class and poor education background in Liverpool, I truly never imagined myself obtaining such a prestigious scholarship, being surrounded by such creative, ambitious, and groundbreaking individuals, or even being accepted into a university like Durham! Interacting with fellow Laidlaw Scholars makes the Laidlaw experience what it is. I am surrounded by individuals who are thriving at what they do, and encouraging me to be better too. I am amazed every day by the opportunities I am given, and the new confidence I am finding within myself to be a leader, an innovator, and an opportunity creator. I cannot express how grateful I am to the Laidlaw Foundation and Network.
What is the biggest challenge you came across in your research and leadership journeys so far, and what did you learn from it?
The most challenging aspect of research so far has been the necessity to begin to limit my ideas or box them in at some point in the process. Particularly when my supervisor, Ana-Leite, and I meet, we begin to expand our ideas well beyond the scope of a 6-week research project. It has often been remarked that we could transform this project easily into an entire PhD.
On the one hand, I am extremely grateful to have so many ideas developing and to be in such a stimulating environment. However, it is also the case that the abundance of novel ideas somewhat stems from the sheer lack of research with transgender people. The rapid growth of the understanding of transgender people, the number of treatment options, and the research with trans people make me highly grateful to have been born in this time period and geographical region. However, there is SO much left to be done. All trans people, to different extents, are left in the dark about many aspects of their existence. This leads right back to my research: to the transgender identity narratives which form out of a need to cope with your identity in a world that has few answers.
What does it mean for you to be a Laidlaw Scholar?
Being a Laidlaw Scholar means being ambitious, passionate, ethical, entrepreneurial, open-minded, resilient, and adaptable. You are a thinker, leader, world-changer, community-builder, and communicator, all-in-one. We are leaders who know the importance of research and empathetic problem-solving. Being a Laidlaw Scholar means striving to embody all of these elements.
On a personal level, being a Laidlaw Scholar means being valued and supported in my ideas, goals, and values like never before. It means that I am given opportunities I never would have thought I’d be able to attain. It means I have a head-start in my future. It means I am able to realize a future I never imagined I’d have.
Which particular leaders inspire you the most and why?
Jamison Green, a transgender activist, author, and educator, is an inspiring leader. He is a 71-year-old man who has been fighting for transgender rights since his transition began in the 1980s. I recently had the opportunity to hear him speak about the history of transgender people, a history which is largely sustained through passing down from trans elders. Not only did his years of work for the transgender community inspire me, but also his humble, resilient, supportive approach to leadership.
Influenced by Jamison, Rocco Kayiatos is a transgender educator, mentor, and community builder. Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been grateful to join dozens of free online workshops Rocco has led for transgender men internationally. Rocco shows courage in being vulnerable, empathy, problem-solving, adaptability, and moral entrepreneurship.
Describe a scene from the future you are striving to create:
I see a future where ALL bodies and minds are valued. In this future, a transgender body is just as okay as a cisgender body. A disabled person is just as supported to achieve their dreams as an able-bodied person. The class, or regional location, of someone does not determine the quality of their education. A blue-collar worker is no less admired for their work ethic than a white-collar worker. In this future, not only are all minds and bodies valued equally, but the mind and the body are valued equally, too. Therapy is normal, no, encouraged. Productivity is no more valued than rest and pause. A belittling or absent parent is taken as seriously as a parent who hits. The list goes on.
📺 Currently binging:
Trans recommendation: Disclosure (2020)
Non-trans recommendation: Years and Years (2019)
🎵 My quarantine anthem:
Trans recommendation: True Trans Soul Rebel by Against Me! (acoustic one with Miley Cyrus)
Non-trans recommendation: Someday I'll Be Saturday Night by Bon Jovi
📚 My top book recommendation:
Trans recommendation: Super Late Bloomer: My Early Days In Transition by Julia Kaye
Non-trans recommendation: Educated by Tara Westover
🎧 Podcast obsession:
Trans recommendation: Intentional Man Project
Non-trans recommendation: The Magnus Archives
🌈 Something that made me feel joy recently: My dog. Grass beneath my feet. A new idea. Pondering about the future. Therapy. Drawing. These are some of the things that bring me true joy.
Currently, I and 18 other volunteers, are working for Learn With Us Summer Camp 2020 - an initiative started by fellow Laidlaw Scholar, and outstanding leader, Giammarco Di Gregorio. We are partnered with the Laidlaw Schools Trust and are releasing content everyday Mon-Fri for children across the summer. In just one month we have grown to 1600 views and 72 hours of lessons watched on our YouTube Channel. We are always looking to broaden our impact and reach as many pupils as we can.