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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2017 May 1;72(3):479-487. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbw109.

Agency and Social Forces in the Life Course: The Case of Gender Transitions in Later Life.

Author information

1
Brown School of Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Abstract

Objectives:

In order to bolster gerontology's knowledge base about transgender issues and advance conceptualizations of agency and social forces in life course scholarship, this study explores the conditions under which people contemplate or pursue a gender transition in later life.

Methods:

In-depth interviews were conducted with male-to-female identified persons (N = 22) who have seriously contemplated or pursued a gender transition after the age of 50 years. Participant observation was also carried out at three national transgender conferences (N = 170 hours). Interpretive analyses utilized open and focused coding, analytical memo writing, and an iterative process of theory development.

Results:

Participants in this study faced unrelenting social pressures to conform to normative gender expectations throughout their lives, which were often internalized and experienced as part of themselves. Confronting these internalized forces often took the form of a "dam bursting," an intense emotional process through which participants asserted agency in the face of constraining social forces in order to pursue a gender transition in later life.

Discussion:

The findings in this paper are used to extend the life course concept of agency within structure, which has implications for future life course research in aging, especially with respect to socially marginalized and oppressed minority groups.

KEYWORDS:

Life course; Qualitative; Transgender

PMID:
27582504
PMCID:
PMC5926992
DOI:
10.1093/geronb/gbw109
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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