Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Social Welfare


Vicki Lens

Committee Members

Steve Burghardt

S.J. Dodd

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Justice


nonbinary, youth, coping, resistance, strengths, agency


Transgender and gender expansive (TGE) young people have long histories of surviving, resisting, and even thriving despite hostility. However, dominant narratives rarely explore their stories of agency and resilience. This research aims to address that gap by asking: Where are the stories of TGE youth's strength, creativity, and resistance? What lessons lie within them? Using a critical, constructivist grounded theory approach, this study examines how 16 TGE young people navigate and challenge transphobia’s precarious conditions. Results suggest that because the current realities do not make space for their existence, TGE young people find strength in creative practices (fashion, hair, body modifications) and imagined realities (anime, self as hero narratives) where they are centered and celebrated. Building on indigenous scholars' concept of survivance, the research develops a non-binary framework that illuminates how TGE young people’s survival strategies can be both risky and resilient.