Doing gender and being gendered through occupation: Transgender and non-binary experiences

Journal article

Swenson, R., Alldred, P. and Nicholls, L. (2021). Doing gender and being gendered through occupation: Transgender and non-binary experiences. British Journal of Occupational Therapy.
AuthorsSwenson, R., Alldred, P. and Nicholls, L.
AbstractBackground Transgender people can face discrimination which can be reflected in and encoded by their occupational experiences. There is emerging research regarding those who are transgender but experiences of non-binary people remain under-explored. Purpose This study considered the occupational experiences of transgender and non-binary people and how gender expression related to engagement in occupations and space. Method Five transgender and non-binary people participated in repeat interviews, including a ‘walking interview’. Analysis was informed by new materialism. Findings Occupational engagement can re-enforce binary understandings of gender or facilitate creative expressions of gender identity. Within normative environments, occupational participation can offer assimilation, particularly for non-binary people. Some occupations provided emancipation from binary gender norms through expression such as clothing and creative activities which provided recognition and belonging. Symbolic and personal meanings of occupations shifted when participants were able to express themselves in a way that felt authentic. Conclusion ‘Occupational assimilation’ can bring safety from scrutiny for those who are transgender and non-binary but curtails authentic expression. Occupational therapists have a role in supporting transgender and non-binary people in accessing occupations which facilitate their authentic gender expression and need to improve critical awareness of the culturally encoded binary nature of many occupations and environments.
KeywordsOccupational Therapy
JournalBritish Journal of Occupational Therapy
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Funder/ClientUK Occupational Therapy Research Foundation
Publication dates
Print01 Sep 2021
Online10 Sep 2021
Publication process dates
Accepted28 Jun 2021
Deposited19 Jul 2021
Publisher's version
File Access Level
Accepted author manuscript
File Access Level
Page range030802262110344
Permalink -

Download files

Publisher's version
License: CC BY 4.0
File access level: Open

  • 364
    total views
  • 253
    total downloads
  • 14
    views this month
  • 9
    downloads this month

Export as

Related outputs

Transgender Experiences of Occupation and the Environment: A Scoping Review
Dowers, E, White, C, Kingsley, J and Swenson, R (2019). Transgender Experiences of Occupation and the Environment: A Scoping Review. Journal of Occupational Science. 26 (4), pp. 496-510.