As I enter week two of my first summer of research, I see that my research is already changing and developing. I’m grateful that the Laidlaw foundation encourages us to allow the research to expand as we learn, allowing us not to be boxed in by our original proposal. I’m also grateful for the network of Laidlaw Scholars who encouraged me to allow this to happen, to be excited by this and be ready to adapt.
My original research question was: ‘How do the perceived influences of gender identity impact upon transgender peoples’ well-being and the general populations’ attitudes on transgender issues?’ I wanted to learn about the perceptions people (transgender and cisgender) have about gender, how these relate to wellbeing in transgender people, and how they relate to cisgender people’s attitudes towards transgender people. Many aspects of this proposal remain: I want to investigate the perceptions transgender people have about being trans and how these relate to wellbeing. However, during my first week of literature review, I realised the sheer lack of research conducted with transgender people and the innumerable research possibilities. It is for this reason I’ve decided to focus my research entirely on the transgender community. I believe this is how I can ensure my research has the most impact on the community it intends to serve.
I wholly intend on revisiting the aspect of the research concerning cisgender people’s perceptions of gender identity and attitudes towards transgender people. This research is absolutely vital to support cisgender people in becoming more inclusive and supportive to the transgender community. However, cisgender people are the focus of almost all research- while transgender people are rarely the focus. As a transgender man myself, I believe I add a valuable approach to this research, and I am passionate about supporting my community. Furthermore, the research I propose to undertake will provide a large body of data on which to then expand into various new novel questions.
My updated research question is: How do perceptions of being transgender relate to gender stereotyping and wellbeing in transgender people? This research will investigate how transgender people understand and perceive being transgender (for example, why they are trans, how much do they identify as trans and with the trans community), and how this relates to the gender stereotypes and expectations they have of transgender and cisgender people, as well as their wellbeing.
Why do I want to research this? What results do I expect? Why is it important?
The reinforcement of the gender/sex binary through gendered stereotypes and expectations is harmful, both to those being stereotyped and those stereotyping. Transgender individuals show less gender stereotyping than cisgender individuals, which could be due to experiences of being considered and treated as gender non-conforming (prior to and during transition) as well as their experience transitioning across or past the binary of gender, perhaps providing them with more expansive views of what it means to be a woman, man and person.
However, even within the transgender community there is a large issue of policing and shaming of other transgender people who are less binary either in their identity or expression. In addition, there are disparities in how transgender people understand being trans- is being transgender a medical condition, simply part of identity or something else entirely? Is there a specific way to be and experience being transgender and how should we treat those who don’t conform to this? These disparities in understanding of our shared identity cause conflict within the community and are likely highly linked to how people then stereotype other trans people. In addition, I wonder how these perceptions of being transgender and the gender stereotypes and expectations we hold (of others as well as ourselves), relate to wellbeing. I would expect those who see gender as more fluid, who view gender as less medicalised and more part of identity, and who are less rigid in their expectations to show greater levels of wellbeing than those who view transgender through a medical perspective and who are rigid in their gender stereotyping. I believe those affected by this stereotyping include those who do the stereotyping, as they limit themselves, as well as others, in how they are allowed be trans, what they can look like, say, do, believe. In addition, they likely isolate themselves from the transgender community and even the label of ‘transgender’ because of their rigid views in what makes a trans person.
What impact could this research have?
This research could shed light on major conflicts within the transgender community. This is a novel research question, with plenty of avenues for future research. I intend on sharing the findings of this research with the transgender community, with the hope of promoting greater tolerance, less gender stereotyping, and greater wellbeing. In addition, I will include questions relating to role models and positive influences, as a possible avenue for impact.
Note- I am conducting my research part time over ten weeks, rather than the usual six.