First Advisor

Melissa Thompson

Date of Publication

Spring 6-16-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Sociology






Transgender people -- Counseling of, Transgender people -- Identity, Gender identity disorders -- Patients -- Counseling of, Deviant behavior -- Labeling theory



Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 99 pages)


The history of transgender identity is inextricable from the mental health industry. Since the late 1970's transgender people have required permission from mental health professionals to make medical modifications to their sex characteristics. During the time of this research, it was difficult for transgender individuals to receive the hormones or surgeries they desire without first being diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder (GID).

This study applies labeling theory to the label of GID. Labeling theory poses that if an individual is labeled with a mental illness, they will either reject or accept the label. Acceptance of the mentally ill label will cause the individual to adopt characteristics expected of the label.

The intent of this study is to examine the relationship between mental health therapy and the formation of transgender identities. Utilizing labeling theory, it analyzes whether or not transgender participants of this study accepted or rejected the mental illness label of GID. It was originally posed that if transgender individuals accepted the label of GID, they would experience a shift in their gender identity.

However, the overwhelming majority of the twelve participants interviewed rejected the label of GID. Even though most participants rejected the GID label, many still saw a shift in gender identity while attending therapy. This thesis proposes that there may be a link between a transgender person’s reason for entering therapy and identity shift. Those who felt obligated to go to therapy for the sole reason of gaining permission to change their sex characteristics saw no change in identity. However, those who wanted help in exploring their gender with a therapist saw identity changes while in therapy.


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