Document Type

Honors Thesis




Liliana L. Herakova

Committee Members

Jordan LaBouff, Jessica Miller, Nathan Stormer

Graduation Year

May 2023

Publication Date

Spring 2023


Our society needs to talk about gender, but we aren’t very good at it. Avoiding these discussions has harmful impacts on body image and various health disparities (The Trevor Project, 2020). What if we have better and regular conversations about ways we can positively experience gender? This study’s model of negotiating gender can be used by families and educators seeking affirming exploratory learning opportunities. Insights into meanings of gender euphoria help validate diverse sets of experiences, informing a broader cultural discourse that increasingly questions gender binarism (Griffin, 2020).

This study explores conceptualizations and enactment of gender euphoria across demographics and contexts. Gender euphoria, one’s sense of gender belonging and fulfillment, offers a resistive approach to pathologizing gender (Benestad, 2010). Understanding gender as socially constructed communicative performances, 27 individuals were interviewed, including 9 healthcare professionals. Analysis followed a qualitative grounded theory approach, with findings offering healthcare and mundane practices for discussing gender.

Results show that patients and providers generally view gender as non-medically relevant, despite participants valuing negotiating gender in healthcare. Thus, gender is erased in clinical interactions, possibly believed to be a “self-managed” aspect of health. The disconnect between desired conversations and perceived relevance highlights a need for general healthcare to be reframed in terms of wellness, not only illness or crisis. Relatedly, in everyday life, participants’ conceptualization of gender euphoria was informed by self-exploration and exposure to non-mainstream histories and identities. It referred to their sense of autonomy, alignment, and affirmation, encapsulating both episodic experiences and states of being.

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