October 21, 2020

Resilience & resistance among transgender, gender expansive youth & young adults experiencing homelessness

Jama Shelton, M. Alex Wagaman, Latoya Small, Alex Abramovich

Background
Little is known about the resilience strategies of transgender and gender expansive youth and young adults (YYA) experiencing homelessness. In addition to difficulties accessing transaffirming supports and services, transgender and gender expansive YYA must contend with structural constraints and oppressive messages about who they are and who they can become. Despite these challenges, transgender and gender expansive YYA experiencing homelessness are finding innovative ways to resist the multiple and overlapping institutionalized challenges they face.

Methods
This qualitative study examined the ways a group of transgender and gender expansive YYA demonstrate resilience and resist dominant narratives about what it means to be young, transgender and experiencing homelessness.

Results
Two primary themes were identified through which transgender and gender expansive YYA experiencing homelessness demonstrated resilience in the midst of structural constraints and oppressive narratives about who they are and who they can become: personal agency and future orientation. Participants exercised personal agency through self-definition and making their own choices. They oriented themselves to future possibilities through positive meaning-making and revisioning the meaning of home.  Participants engaged in these acts of resilience and resistance despite receiving negative messages about themselves.

Conclusions
Study findings illustrate the capacity of transgender and gender expansive YYA experiencing homelessness to reframe their challenges as positive experiences, integral to the people they have become or will be in the future. Findings point to the need to expand conceptualizations about people experiencing homelessness, and to utilize a strengths-based framework in practice and research.

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