Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Patrick H. Munley

Second Advisor

Dr. Mary Z. Anderson

Third Advisor

Dr. Norman Kiracofe

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Paula Andrasi


grounded theory, transgender advocacy, graduate students, lesbian attitudes towaard transgender, queer women


Transgender (trans) issues are an emerging area of research within counseling psychology. As such, little is known about how individuals form their attitudes toward trans people. Despite evidence that lesbian women are one group that has held biased views of the trans population, the literature has not addressed the perceptions that lesbian women have of trans individuals. Furthermore, the campus climate literature has attended to how LGBT students experience campus discrimination, but this literature has not addressed within-group differences, that is, attitudes and interactions among LGBT members of a university community, such as those between lesbians and trans people. The purpose of this exploratory study is to construct a theory that describes how lesbian women students view trans people and the processes underlying the formation of their perceptions.

Initial and follow-up phone interviews were conducted with eight graduate students who identified as lesbian/queer/same-gender-loving (LQSGL) women and who had interacted with trans people and/or had knowledge of trans identity. The participants were enrolled in master’s and doctoral programs primarily in mental health fields. Interview questions were designed to address the women’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in reaction to their contact with trans people and/or trans information. Rennie’s (1992; 2006; Rennie, Phillips, & Quartaro, 1988) grounded theory method was used to analyze interview transcripts and construct a theory to describe how this sample of LQSGL women perceives trans individuals.

A process model was constructed to reflect the finding that participants came to understand and develop a stance of advocacy toward trans people. This core category was influenced by the following categories and their properties: personal characteristics (personality, values, gender expression, and attraction), sociocultural context (religion, family, coming out, regional context, and safety), campus climate (affirming, non-affirming, and neutral), learning about trans (modes of learning and content of learning), and LQSGL experiences. Understanding and developing a stance of advocacy was conceptualized as resulting in expressions of advocacy (attitudes and behaviors). Findings are discussed in terms of their relation to relevant literature, strengths and limitations of the study, and implications for future research.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access