Sexual orientation labelling: relational processes of trans identity development

Connor J. Callahan, Jenifer K. McGuire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This article explores the intersection of gender identity and sexual orientation in the narrative experiences of trans identified young people. Data were collected in collaboration with trans youth community centres in the USA, Canada and Ireland. Axial and selective coding procedures were used to examine the interplay between developing sexual orientation and gender identity. The relational language used by participants when explaining the process of negotiating and renegotiating sexual orientation prompted us to ground theory building in a framework of intersectionality, feminist concepts of ‘doing gender’ and peer mediated approaches to identity development. Two overarching themes were developed and are deconstructed in this paper: labelling and peer mediated self-consciousness. With respect to labelling, through the feminist concept of ‘doing gender’ we explain how trans youth navigated accountability to self, others and society as they negotiated and renegotiated sexual orientation labels in conjunction with gender labels. In relation to peer meditated consciousness, we examined how through relationship with peers, participants explored and internalised concepts important for sexual orientation formation. The paper begins to explore some of the ways in which gender identity and sexual orientation are interwoven, challenging the notion that they are fully autonomous constructs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1634-1649
Number of pages16
JournalCulture, Health and Sexuality
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by funds from the Drug and Alcohol Research Program at Washington State University.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Transgender youth
  • gender affirmative hormone therapy
  • gender identity
  • sexual identity development
  • sexual orientation labelling

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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