Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) Ego-Resilience of Non-Binary Transgender Youths in South Korea: The Role of Supportive Social Systems (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

270P (see Poster Gallery) Ego-Resilience of Non-Binary Transgender Youths in South Korea: The Role of Supportive Social Systems

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Yeonjae Hwang, Master's student, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea, Republic of (South)
Boyoung Nam, PhD, Assistant Professor, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea, Republic of (South)
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Non-binary transgenders are often forced to be driven out of the framework of normality in the heterosexualism and cisgender-centered society since they do not fit in the dichotomous gender stereotype. The repeated exposure to social prejudice and hatred not only cause minority stress symptoms, but also hinder them from developing positive self-identity. Under such circumstances, non-binary youths are deemed to be particularly vulnerable as they shoulder twofold duty of handling their internal identity crisis and confronting the external stigma simultaneously. Myriads of research so far have concentrated on the outcomes of the problematic situation, yet little has been revealed how they overcome such adversities and achieve ego-resilience. This study aimed to explore the development of ego-resilience and its determinants with non-binary transgender youths.

METHODS: Four main research questions were addressed via in-depth interviews with twelve non-binary transgender youths: what are the past and present lived experience with non-binary transgender identity? (1); how do they describe their identity and self? (2); what are their experiences in the family system? (3); are there any protective and risk factors contributing to the formation of their ego-resilience? (4). Participants were limited to those who were living with their family for at least five years to explore potential roles of family in their ego-resilience development. The taped interviews were fully transcribed and analyzed using the Colaizzi’s descriptive phenomenological method.

RESULTS: Overall, three categories were derived along with ten theme clusters and twenty-six themes: gender identity formation process (1); realization of ego-resilience (2); protective/risk factors of ego-resilience in their contiguous social environment (3). To explain the findings of this study, study participants encountered significant confusion towards their identity as non-binary was considered as non-existent in the Korean society. Despite of the social atmosphere, the participants formed ego-resilience through the support of their queer-friendly friends, strong belief towards oneself, and their past experiences of overcoming the failures. Lastly, home was an ambivalent place, both giving strength and posing threat to their ego-resilience. Some protective factors were family’s respect and welcoming attitude towards non-binary identity, whereas the risk factors appeared to be misgendering and drawing of the line by their parents regarding their identity.

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: Non-binary youths in Korea are known to experience identity crisis more than any other youth groups due to Korea’s highly hostile atmosphere against sexual minorities. Non-binary transgender youths may seem vulnerable to identity crisis and discrimination, but findings of this study highlighted that they can embrace themselves and achieve ego-resilience if they have supportive social systems. Family members need to set an inclusive home environment so that one can feel a sense of belonging. Schools can provide diversity education including various identities and develop protocols for preventing and resolving homophobic violence and discrimination. Local communities can foster queer-friendly counselors and social workers. Without such efforts, non-binary youths’ identity crisis will result in adverse social and psychological outcomes and deter their successful transition to adulthood.