Past Experiences and Anticipated Futures in the Lives of Transgender and Nonbinary People

Adv Life Course Res. 2022 Sep;53:100482. doi: 10.1016/j.alcr.2022.100482. Epub 2022 May 26.


Transgender and nonbinary people's life experiences are highly heterogenous and shaped by broader structural and cultural forces. We analyze experiences identified on lifeline interviews from 87 transgender and nonbinary adults in Atlanta, New York City, and San Francisco. We find that the type, timing, and relative importance of these experiences varied across categories. For example, experiences related to "Rejection and violence" were more often identified in childhood and in the past, whereas experiences related to "Gender-affirming medical interventions" were more often in adulthood and anticipated futures. Experiences related to "Community involvement," "Extracurriculars," "Gender exploration and revelation," and "Gender-affirming medical interventions" were labeled by respondents as relatively more important compared to other experiences, whereas experiences related to "Family of origin relationships," "Place of residence," "Rejection and violence," and "Sexuality" less important. These experiences were patterned according to the respondents' gender, birth cohort, race/ethnicity, and geographic location. In analyzing these lifeline data, we advance theoretical understandings of the salience of a variety of key experiences for transgender and nonbinary people at different points in the life course. Our life course approach provides empirical analyses of intra-individual processes over time for transgender and nonbinary people and provides insight into the usefulness of a lifeline method for life course studies more generally as it draws attention to within-person assessments of the distribution and importance of events over the course of a lifetime.

Keywords: Gender; Life course; Lifeline interviews; Transgender and Nonbinary.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender Identity
  • Humans
  • New York City
  • Transgender Persons*
  • Transsexualism*