Previous research on the transitioning process has focused on the experiences of transgender/gender nonbinary individuals and their parents, paying limited attention to the trans persons’ siblings. The purpose of this study was to examine how youth and young adults experience a trans sibling's gender identity and transition. Using qualitative methodology, eleven cisgender participants (M = 17.9; SD = 4.9; range = 14 to 34 years old) were individually interviewed in medium- and large-sized Canadian cities. Interview topics included: the participant’s role in their sibling’s transition; the impact of the transition on the participant and their family and peer relationships; and the participant’s attitudes toward services aimed at supporting themselves through their sibling’s transition. Interview transcripts were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Ten participants completed member checking procedures to verify the accuracy of the data. Participants described wide-ranging emotional responses and overall positive attitudes toward their sibling’s trans identity and transition. Participants highlighted the importance of demonstrating to their trans sibling respect, compassion, and support. The adjustment process by the immediate family unit was regarded as manageable overall. Challenging interpersonal dynamics involving participants’ parents, extended family members, peers, and other extra familial individuals were discussed. Perspectives on the value and preferred type of structured support for siblings of trans individuals varied across participants. These findings provide novel insight into the lived experiences of siblings of trans people, thereby enriching our understanding of the transition process as experienced by the collective family unit. Study findings offer practical guidance for trans individuals, their parents, siblings, and clinicians. Strategies to improve support programs for trans individuals and their family members are addressed.
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Thesis advisor: Ley, Robert
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