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Researching Marginalized Populations: Methodological Challenges In Transgender Research

By: , & Published: 2018 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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Little research has been conducted in Australia on the experiences and lives of postoperative trans people. This project grew out of one conducted in 2011 and was conducted from 2012 to 2016. The first author completed an Honors project, supervised by the second author, undertaking a qualitative study using a narrative approach, on the social functioning and daily lives of trans people who had undergone sex reassignment surgery and the influence the surgery had on their lives. That study, entitled Sex reassignment surgery: Panacea, placebo or Pandora’s box?-A narrative inquiry, had methodological significance in that it steered away from a quantitative approach to exploring the lived experience of people undergoing sex reassignment surgery. That research suggested that following sex reassignment surgery, trans people have complex psychosocial issues, not the least of which are feelings of grief and loss associated with the procedure and the development of personal identities. As a result of the complexity of the issues and the first author’s own recollections of the surgical process, a PhD study was undertaken addressing how trans people who have undergone sex reassignment surgery navigate this life-changing event, whether they considered their needs had been met, and how systems could be improved to cater for those needs. Individuals who identify as transgender are often discriminated against and marginalized by society, based on challenges to heteronormativity and/or an assumed psychiatric condition called gender dysphoria. In terms of research, these circumstances place trans people in the “vulnerable population” category. This case study explores how research involving transgender people involves certain methodological challenges, including issues surrounding sampling and recruitment, ethical considerations, and the relationship between the researcher and the researched when the principal researcher is a member of the target population.

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