What's in a Name?: Trans Youths' Experiences of Re-Naming
Sinclair-Palm, Julia Helen
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Often, choosing a name is one of the first ways trans people begin to assume a different gender from the one they were assigned at birth. Because of their age, trans youths relationships to and negotiation of naming is particularly complex: these young people are often still dependent on the very families who named them. In my dissertation, I turn to trans youth and their stories of re-naming themselves to explore how these narratives about the names they receive, refuse and choose can expose challenges to narrating youths negotiation and formation of identity. Informed by narrative inquiry, post structural theory, trans studies, queer theory and feminist methodologies, this qualitative study insists that by listening to the stories trans youth tell about their naming processes we can open up space for a more complex understanding of their lives and experiences. Through two sets of interviews with ten trans youth, I explore how stories about names can expose youths negotiation of their identity. My dissertation consists of six chapters focusing on ethical concerns in research about trans youth and the role of gender, development and family in the navigation of self-making through names and the daily lives of trans youth. Theorizing names is essential to understanding how young people explore who they are, who they want to be, and how they want others to recognize them, creating space for a deep reconsideration about both identity formation for young trans people and the social and personal importance of names. I argue that by listening to the stories trans youth tell about their naming processes, educators, policy makers and researchers can better comprehend the supports trans youth may need, while opening up space for more complex understandings of trans lives.