Ambiguous Loss as a Framework for Interpreting Gender Transitions in Families

Jenifer K McGuire, Jory M. Catalpa, Vanessa Lacey, Katherine A. Kuvalanka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


In this article, we use an ambiguous loss framework to guide a process for decentering cisnormativity (the assumption that biological sex and gender are aligned) within families, specifically for those experiencing the gender identity transitions of family members. Individual family members have varied experiences with regard to gender transition and may or may not experience ambiguous loss depending on their position within the family system. Trans* persons themselves may also experience ambiguous loss as a result of the dialectical tension of acceptance and rejection by family members. We apply resilience processes developed for work with persons facing ambiguous loss to support trans* persons and their families as they navigate gender transitions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-385
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Family Theory and Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 National Council on Family Relations


  • Ambiguous loss
  • cisnormativity
  • heteronormativity
  • queer theory
  • transgender


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