Beyond the traditional bifurcations: starting a gender transition as a biographical event.

Yael Armangau


Personal networks have significant changes during life events and biographical transitions. These events can have serious repercussions on personal networks and on the resources that actors can mobilize to deal with them. The aim of our presentation is to extend researches on biographical bifurcations by analyzing the engagement in a (gender) transition process. Previous researches highlighted transformations, fragmentations and transitions in life-course temporalities of cisgenders (Becquet and Bidart, 2013; Bidart, 2006; Bessin, Bidart and Grossetti, 2009; Charton and Lévy, 2009). But transgender temporalities are different because they require rare resources. Starting a gender transition process is a strong biographical event that very often leads to loss of ties, discriminations (social and institutional) and a strong re-structuring of the network outside the so-called traditional structures (the family, for example). How do trans people's support networks (re)-structure themselves? Is there a specialization of relationships based on types of support? In what ways does this biographical bifurcation impact the actors' personal network (loss of friendships, place of family, etc.)? These are the questions at the center of our presentation. First, we will present results from a pre-study based on a small sample (n = 20). We show how the support networks of trans people are disrupted. They are distinguished by the absence of family ties and an important homophily based on gender transition. This phenomenon is amplified by social media because they help them to find specific resources (information on gender transition, hormonotherapy, find safe doctors, etc). Then we highlight how these resources are mobilised by the actors during their gender bifurcation and the specifics forms of social solidarity in this life event. Secondly, we will describe our methodology based on sociology of personal networks in order highlight these biographical bifurcations despite a population "hard to catch" and distrustful of the social sciences. This issue will guide the second axis of our presentation, which will come back to both "social" and methodological means implemented in the construction of our thesis data collection. Our reflection will focus more specifically on the implementation of a self-administered online questionnaire, centered on the biographical bifurcation episode and including event-based name generators. This communication therefore aims to question the restructuring of the relational dynamics during a gender bifurcation using an innovative methodology that is as close as possible to the actors.

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