Session: Telling a Different Story: Highlighting Gender Euphoria in Transgender and Nonbinary Communities (Society for Social Work and Research 28th Annual Conference - Recentering & Democratizing Knowledge: The Next 30 Years of Social Work Science)

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265 Telling a Different Story: Highlighting Gender Euphoria in Transgender and Nonbinary Communities

Saturday, January 13, 2024: 4:00 PM-5:30 PM
Independence BR A, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Brendon Holloway, MSW, University of Denver
N. Eugene Walls, PhD, University of Denver, Erin Harrop, PhD, LICSW, University of Denver, Jax Kynn, MA, MSW, Michigan State University and Jarrod Call, PhD, University of Washington
Research on transgender and nonbinary (TNB) communities has increased significantly over the past decade. Much of this research has reinforced a deficit-based narrative of TNB communities by centering discrimination, stigma, and violence toward TNB people. This narrative does not stay contained within the academic sphere - it influences media and politics, and shapes how the world views TNB people. Although this deficit-based narrative is important in documenting experiences for advocacy and policy purposes, its limited focus fails to capture a critical piece of TNB people's lives: the joy many TNB people feel, and experience related to their gender identity and expression.

Gender euphoria is a concept commonly used in TNB communities to capture this distinct enjoyment or satisfaction caused by the correspondence between the person's gender identity and gendered features associated with a gender other than the one assigned at birth. Gender euphoria - "a constellation of feelings related to authenticity, rightness, or 'being at home' in one's body and gender" is a critical aspect of embodiment for TNB individuals that has received very little attention in academic research. To date, gender euphoria is most often referenced in academic scholarship as the opposite of gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria, the distress that arises from conflicts between an individual's gender identity and/or expression and their assigned gender at birth, is an official diagnosis in the DSM-5. However, there are notable issues with gender dysphoria as a diagnosis. First, many health care providers and insurance companies require TNB people to receive this diagnosis to access gender-affirming medical treatment, often delaying TNB individuals' access to care. Requiring this diagnosis further perpetuates the deficit narrative surrounding TNB people, as it implies that something must be "wrong" with a TNB person to justify accessing gender-affirming care. Furthermore, a gender dysphoria diagnosis is one of the only diagnostic categories in the DSM-5 with no cited evidence to support the creation of the diagnosis.

In contrast to the academic literature's dearth of coverage of the topic of gender euphoria, TNB communities and online spaces frequently engage the topic and the importance of gender euphoria in lived experiences. However, the bridge is still being built to invite gender euphoria into social work education and research.

The goal of this roundtable discussion is to begin a dialogue about the importance of moving beyond the "tragic trans trope" narrative in social work to provide a more nuanced and holistic view of TNB people and their experiences. For example, presenters will share the importance of shifting the deficit narrative regarding TNB people in social work education and research. Then, two presenters will describe existing research on gender euphoria, while two other presenters will explore the implications of requiring a gender dysphoria diagnosis to access gender-affirming care. A fifth presenter will identify future directions for research on gender euphoria in TNB communities. All presenters will discuss how gender euphoria can be incorporated into social work education and practice.

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