Mel Whalen

Date Approved


Date Posted


Degree Type

Campus Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School


Committee Member

Karen Saules, PhD, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Tamara Loverich, PhD

Committee Member

Stephen Jefferson, PhD

Committee Member

Dibya Choudhurt, PhD

Committee Member

Michael Harvey, PhD


In recent years, there has been a surge of interest in exploring both the Deaf and the transgender communities, but no one has yet written about the combination of those twohorizontal identities. Thus, this qualitative study explored the lives and identities of 17 self-identified Deaf female-to-male (FTM) transgender individuals. Using a snowball sampling methodology, each of the 17 individuals was intervi ewed at length about his understanding of the intersectionality of those two identities. The interviews were then transcribed and coded using a grounded theory approach to the data, with the help of the computer software program Dedoose. The 1,577 pages of text were coded by multiple coders, resulting in 648 excerpts that fell into 4 main categories, with a total of 11 subthemes identified. The four main themes were identified in the data: 1) Adult identity, 2) Dialectic of adversity and resilience, 3) Parental reactions, and 4) Interactions with the health care system. Examining the insights found in these four themes led to the creation of a newly emergent theory, in which it appears that Deaf individuals whose parents learn to communicate well with them when they are very young have an increased likelihood of being able to successfully navigate the challenges of identifying as both Deaf and transgender later in life. In essence, when what is usually a horizontal identity for Deaf adults becomes a vertical identity very early in life, those same adults are far better equipped to successfully develop a second horizontal identity later in life.