Alternative Title

Experience of older transgender people of color regarding personal identity, systems of support, and desires for the future

Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Study Type



School for Social Work


African American transgender people-Psychology, Older transexuals-Psychology, African American transgender people-Social networks, Self-help groups, Resilience (Personality trait), Adjustment (Psychology), Transgender, Trans, People of color, Older, Aging, Elder, TPOC, QTPOC, LGBT, Coping, Resilience


While it has been widely reported that transgender individuals experience mistreatment in all aspects of life, transgender people of color, who have rarely been the focus of studies, are faced with even higher incidents of bias (Auldridge, et al., 2012; Dunn & Moodie-Mills, 2012; Grant, et al., 2011). Especially absent is writing on older transgender people of color (Auldridge, et al., 2012; Cook-Daniels, 2015; Fredricksen-Goldsen, et al., 2013; Persson, 2009; Van Wagenen, Driskell & Bradford, 2013). Also missing is literature on the resiliency of transgender people of color and transgender elders. Finally, of the few studies that do exist, most focus on the negatives and on the life-threatening aspects of trans people’s lives.

With that in mind, the purpose of this qualitative study was to look at the highly understudied population of older transgender people of color in order to begin to understand their experiences related to personal identity, to systems of support, and to their goals and desires for the future. The goal of the study was to expand the context for social workers – especially those that specialize in gerontology and related policy makers -- to consider the challenges, desires, and goals faced by this growing population of aging transgender people of color.

Through nine semi-structured interviews, a narrative of lifelong oppression and injustice is exposed in all aspects of living for this sample. Findings indicate an early understanding of gender difference and confusion related to a poverty of language and lack of safety to speak about this difference. Despite lifelong complexity of gender and the intersection of racial/ethnic disparity, however, participants appear to have uncovered a capacity for coping with multiple marginalization through support of family (chosen or blood), community, and spirituality. Finally, sample members give great consideration to legacy but view that dynamic through a non-traditional lens, sharing a strong desire to give to younger generations through varied expressions of social justice work -- a positive legacy of social change for those who follow in their footsteps.




iv, 86 pages. M.S.W., Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Ma., 2016. Include bibliographical references (pages 57-61)

Included in

Social Work Commons