Date of Conferral

2015

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Counselor Education and Supervision

Advisor

Katherine Coule

Abstract

A transgender person develops an identity over time and must overcome several obstacles such as stigma, transphobia, discrimination, and sexism, which can be even more difficult for transgender people who choose to come out and transition in a rural area. Grounded in queer theory, social constructivism, and rural identity development theory, the purpose of this qualitative multiple case study was to explore the lived experiences of 4 transgender persons who came out and transitioned in a rural area, and who accessed online communities as a source of information during their identity development. A 4-stage process was used to collect data, including a semistructured interview, artifact analysis, participant observations, and an art project created by the participants. The data were loaded into the NVivo qualitative data analysis software and analyzed using coding, memoing, within-case, and cross-case analysis from the case histories of the participants. The principle findings of the study were that these transgender people living in a rural area used the Internet for both gathering information and connecting to the larger transgender community. Many other significant details provided insight into the lives of these transgender people, such as shopping for clothes, spending time in public, dealing with personal safety, and managing family and friend relationships during their transitions. These findings may inform mental health professionals about the potential identity developmental trajectory of transgender persons living in a rural area; the findings also give a voice to a population that is often hidden in rural areas.