"Accessing your community": Leveraging the promise and potential for critical group work with transgender (trans) and gender diverse people

Hannah Kia, University of British Columbia

Transgender (trans) and gender diverse (TGD) populations continue experiencing prominent expressions of stigma and discrimination across healthcare and social service settings. Given the growing body of empirical evidence on the marginalization of these communities across systems of care, it is not surprising that the issues and needs of TGD people are increasingly considered across bodies of applied and critical social science scholarship. Despite this growing interest in addressing the experiences of TGD communities, however, insights on critical and emancipatory approaches to addressing the health and social service needs of this population remain limited. In this presentation, I present data from a qualitative study in which I drew on the principles of constructivist grounded theory to interview 20 TGD people, along with 10 social workers, to analyze both groups’ perspectives on constituents of equitable social service design and delivery to address the needs of TGD populations. Given the salience of group work as a critical source of community support and engagement in TGD participants’ accounts in particular, I leverage these data to consider the promise and potential for critical, affirming, and emancipatory group-based social support among TGD people. Specifically, I discuss the possible strengths of group-based support in (1) validating TGD bodies, identities, and experiences, (2) promoting strategies for resisting cisnormativity, transphobia, and other systems of oppression shaping TGD lives, and (3) cultivating self-sustaining networks of mutual support and advocacy. Drawing on the empirical data, together with pre-existing literature on trans-affirming care, I conclude with strategies for the design and facilitation of emancipatory group-based social support in TGD communities. I also consider implications of my analysis for applied scholarship concerning the prominent inequities shaping the social context and lived experiences of TGD people.

This paper will be presented at the following session: