“Roller coaster of a ride.” The Lived Experience of accessing a Gender Clinic. An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Background: Gender Clinics provide assessment, help, support and advice to people experiencing Gender Dysphoria or concerns about their gender identity. Gender variance is becoming more visible and the number of people presenting at Gender Clinics is increasing each year. However, Gender Clinics are struggling to meet the demand and there are long wait times for first appointment and treatment. The risk of self-harm and suicide is much greater for people who experience gender variance than in the general population, and delay in accessing medical care substantially increases these risks. However, there is a paucity of research into people’s experiences of accessing Gender Clinics. Method: Participants were recruited via purposive sampling from universities and community organisations in England. Three participants took part in the research. Two had been discharged from the Gender Clinic and one was still accessing the Gender Clinic. Semistructured interviews were conducted individually with participants to explore their experiences of Gender Clinics. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used to analyse the transcripts of the interviews. Results: Five superordinate themes emerged with each having two or more subordinate themes. The superordinate theme ‘Emotional highs and lows,’ illustrates the different emotions participants experienced along their journey with the Gender Clinic. The theme ‘The battle field – negotiating the system’ reflects participants navigating the Gender Clinic system and the difficulties participants had to successfully overcome to receive treatment from the Gender Clinics. ‘It’s ok to be trans’ versus ‘feeling exposed’ describes participants’ path to selfacceptance, and how vulnerable they felt in public at times when they were recognised as trans, and when opening up to the Gender Clinic. It also highlights them seeking acceptance from others and society. ‘The divine creator - omnipotence of the service’ depicts the authority of the Gender Clinic. Conclusion: The research highlighted the difficulties faced by trans people when seeking support from the Gender Clinic, from finding a sympathetic G.P. to refer them, to the long wait for first appointment and treatment. Participants described how it felt like a fight to obtain the treatment they needed and to obtain aftercare from their G.P. surgery when discharged from the Gender Clinic. Participants felt they had no control over their care or their own body, as they needed permission from the Gender Clinic to make gender affirming changes. Limitations: Despite the attempt to recruit via different methods, only three participants were interviewed in this study. It was reported anecdotally that trans people can be mistrustful about the motives of those conducting research and how they may be portrayed, and therefore may not be as open to participating in research conducted by someone who is not part of the LGBT community. In view of the difficulties with recruitment, future research could replicate this study with a larger sample size or explore the barriers to participation.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Teesside University
SupervisorAsh Summers (Supervisor)

Cite this