Perceived identity change in the male partners of trans people, as a result of being in a trans relationship: a study utilising interpretative phenomenological analysis

Rankeillor, Paul Douglas (2021) Perceived identity change in the male partners of trans people, as a result of being in a trans relationship: a study utilising interpretative phenomenological analysis. DCPsych thesis, Middlesex University / New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling (NSPC). [Thesis]

PDF - Final accepted version (with author's formatting)
Download (1MB) | Preview


This thesis examines how cisgender males’ identities are affected as a result of their participation in a romantic relationship with a trans-person. This research looks specifically at the experience of cisgender partners who were unaware of their partner’s trans-identity at the start of the relationship. Therefore, people who have had to negotiate their identity within their relationship in ways that they did not expect. Male partners were chosen due to the lack of representation of their experiences in the literature on trans partnerships, as there are no studies that specifically focused on this group. Nine participants were interviewed using semi-structured interviews which focused on their experiences of being in a romantic relationship with a trans person. All of the participants were white, male, and aged between 18 and 73; eight were American and one was British. Personal comments were incorporated throughout in order to add a reflective aspect to the study. The resulting data was analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Seven superordinate themes were identified, related to the participants’ ways of adapting to their partner’s transition and to the extent to which they renegotiated their own identity in response to this. The first of these concerns the different types of losses that a partner may experience. The second identifies the different ways of making sense of the experience. The third highlights the different coping strategies that the participants employed. The fourth describes the shifting of perspective that participants seemed to adopt in response to their partners’ transition, resulting in a broader view of themselves and others. The fifth describes the participants’ understanding of the shift in their identity. The sixth theme relates to the different benefits that the participants learned to embrace as a result of their relationship. The final theme concerns the influence of culture on the participants’ experiences. Existing literature from a number of sources within and outside the trans partnership field, were used to discuss the wider implication of the findings. The findings can be said to give a voice to a hidden minority group in society in the absence of published research on male partners’ experiences. The clinical significance of this study includes recommendations for the increased awareness of not just the challenges that partners of trans people may encounter but also of the positive aspects of this experience. These findings have significance to many potential areas in which assumptions may exist about the cisgender partner’s experience, such as LGBT centres, counselling psychology or health care settings. There are many potential directions for future studies, such as longitudinal studies that could explore partners’ changing experiences of their relationship over time, which would avoid the limitation of people reporting their experience in retrospect, coloured by their current circumstances and priorities.

Item Type: Thesis (DCPsych)
Sustainable Development Goals:
Keywords (uncontrolled): Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, (IPA), Cisgender male partners of trans people, Identity change in romantic relationships, Identity, transgender, Identity loss/renegotiation, being-in-the-world-with-others, existential perspectives on romantic relationships
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology
B. > Theses
C. Collaborative Partners > New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling (NSPC)
Item ID: 36548
Depositing User: Lisa Blanshard
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2022 11:18
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 18:00

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Activity Overview
6 month trend
6 month trend

Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.