A mixed methods exploration of the romantic relationship experiences for the transgender population and their partners

Marshall, Ellen Louise (2022) A mixed methods exploration of the romantic relationship experiences for the transgender population and their partners. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Introduction: Transgender individuals face many challenges with their lives and may experience poorer mental health and lower quality of life compared to cisgender individuals. Social support is a key variable to improve wellbeing and ensure positive gender affirming medical treatment and transition outcomes. However, many transgender individuals report low levels of perceived social support and interpersonal difficulties. Within the general population, satisfying relationships are associated with good mental health and wellbeing, however there is a current lack of understanding and support for transgender relationships. Additionally, there is a lack of understanding of the partner experience meaning both their role as a supporter and the impact of transition on their own mental health and wellbeing remains unknown.

Aims: Based on the gaps in the literature, the over-arching aim for the research reported in this thesis is to explore the impact of gender transition (social and medical) on romantic relationships for transgender individuals and partners of transgender individuals.

Methods: A mixed method research design was used. The studies included a systematic review of the literature that assessed the quality and satisfaction of romantic relationships for transgender individuals and their partners, a quantitative study using the Couple Satisfaction Index explored the level of relationship satisfaction for transgender individuals and compared this level with cisgender individuals, and two qualitative studies explored the partner experience of gender transition and the support needs of partners of transgender individuals.

Results: The systematic review identified 151 potentially relevant articles, leaving 14 (six quantitative, eight qualitative) to be included in the review. Across the

empirical research studies, 159 (99 cisgender and 60 transgender) individuals currently in a relationship took part in the quantitative research and 15 current partners of transgender individuals took part in the qualitative studies. The research studies found overall that transition can have a major impact on relationships for both the transgender individual and their partners, however this impact is both positive and negative. While transgender individuals do have happy and satisfied relationships that are maintained through medical and social transition, there are a number of challenges faced by themselves and their partner due to the transition process. In particular for partners, challenges include questioning their own identity, disclosing to others, dealing with societal labels and negotiating intimacy difficulties. Support for these relationships is required on a personal, social and clinical level.

Conclusions: The findings from this thesis show that for transgender individuals, relationships add an extra level of support as they navigate through the challenges

of transition. Additionally, while partners can face a number of challenges through the transition process that are usually out of their own control, their relationships

develop and the love for their partner can grow. As a result, relationships for transgender individuals should not be viewed negatively, they need to be encouraged, enjoyed and supported.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Arcelus, Jon
Glazebrook, Cris
Keywords: Romantic relationships, transgender, partners, support
Subjects: W Medicine and related subjects (NLM Classification) > WM Psychiatry
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
Item ID: 68985
Depositing User: Marshall, Ellen
Date Deposited: 01 Aug 2022 04:40
Last Modified: 01 Aug 2023 04:30
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/68985

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