Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Ann Miles

Second Advisor

Dr. Zoann Snyder

Third Advisor

Dr. Whitney DeCamp

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Gary Bischof


Transgender, queer, microaggressions, LGBT, discrimination, intersectionality


This research builds on the growing literature on gender minority identities and issues, and aims to bring to light the voices, experiences, and ideas of this marginalized population contributing to our knowledge of the ways that discrimination is experienced by gender minorities. Participants' in this study are adults who identify within a marginalized gender category, mostly transgender and gender non-binary. The purpose of this research is to provide a glimpse into the lives of these participants and showcase the extreme vulnerability and vigilance, as well as resilience, participants navigate and embody. Using an intersectional framework, this research explores the influences of multiple social factors on participant's gender identities and experiences, including generations, race, education, family support, religion, and geographic location. Borrowing from grounded theory approach this study outlines four distinct types of discrimination participants described: institutional discrimination, public attacks, microaggressions, and intersectional discriminations. While some participants described being physically or verbally attacked, the most common types of discrimination were institutional and microaggressions. There were few places were participants did not describe facing discrimination, and many described the vigilance they must maintain in an attempt to ensure their emotional and physical safety, both in public and private spaces.

Ultimately, this research shows the resiliency of these participants, who face potentially hostile environments daily and find ways to cope with the complexity of their negative experiences. Because we live intersectional lives, it can be difficult for participants to discern whether they are treated negatively based on their gender identity or expression, or if it is due to their race, religion, ability, or sexuality. The lack of public knowledge about gender minority identities and issues was cited as a major concern for participants, who want their communities to be a more welcoming places for people of all genders. This study aims to provide the public with information about some of the people who live as gender minorities in southwest Michigan, and their recommendations for how to improve individual and institutional interactions.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Sociology Commons