Where I can be myself? Trajectories of equity and inclusion for transgender and non-binary older adults within community-based social support programming


The study will involve up to sixteen participants and in order to participate, the following inclusion criteria are required: • Identify as transgender and/or non-binary, are at least 35 years of age, live in a community within the GTA, and are able to speak and understand English; and/or • Provide programs/services to older adults—including, but not limited to, those offered to transgender and non-binary older adults.Participation in this study is voluntary and will consist of one interview with the researcher. This interview is expected to last approximately 1-2 hour(s). During the interview, participants will be asked to share their stories/experiences with aging, gender identity, and community support. Background/demographic information (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity, occupation) will also be collected in order describe the study sample which may include a wide-range of ages/backgrounds/etc. Participants may decline to answer any of the interview questions if they so wish. Further, participants may decide to withdraw from this study at any time without any negative consequences by advising the researcher.


For older adults (e.g., individuals aged 65 and over) within Canada, the desire to remain independent and feel supported throughout later life is a nearly universal sentiment (Public Health Agency of Canada [PHAC], 2006; Sandberg, 2008; Witten, 2003). Community support may be especially important in fostering positive experiences and perceptions of aging and later life (Chang, Wray, & Lin, 2014; Chappell & Funk, 2011; Witten, 2009). Within the proposed inquiry, community support is understood as a holistic network of social support that older adults can depend on no matter the circumstances or situation (Chappell & Funk, 2011; Witten, 2009). This may include (but is not limited to) the individual; connections with family, friends, and/or significant others; leisure opportunities; access to and involvement in community organizations, programs, and/or services; (in)formal care partnerships; and government assistance programs (Chappell & Funk, 2011; Witten, 2009). However, the common misconception that older adults are a homogenous group whose experiences are identical has led to overgeneralizations which omit the influence of social factors (i.e., age, race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, family structure, friendships, and access to high-quality care) on an individual’s capacity to be supported and age well (Grant & NGLTFI, 2009; Rowe & Kahn, 2015).

As these various aspects of an individual’s identity come together to influence aging and later life within Canada, there are many factors that may make aging well precarious. One of the most concerning factors—outside of class and race—in today’s society is gender identity. Therefore, this study—informed by queer and gerontological theories—will use Thomas’ (2011) case study methodology to explore how the interconnections of aging and gender identity influence—and are influenced by— transgender and non-binary older adults’ experiences, perceptions, and desires of community support within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). By sharing transgender older adults’ stories of aging, gender identity, and community support, possibilities open up to provide a more complex understanding of interconnections of aging, gender identity, and community; while simultaneously producing research that is mindful of historical and cultural discourses. The more clearly we begin to understand the ways that community support influences the aging experiences of transgender and non-binary adults, the easier it will become to enhance opportunities for community support that promote the wellbeing of trans and non-binary older adults across Canada.

How will this research help LGBT people and communities?

This project will address a need for the provision of basic human rights for all. Specifically, the right to inclusive spaces and equitable community support. The goal of the proposed study is to support the extension of social infrastructure (through broader public awareness, resource development, and access to inclusive spaces) to support equity and inclusion for trans and non-binary older adults; as well as make visible the structures that maintain barriers to equitable and inclusive community support for trans and non-binary older adults. Without these intentional efforts to address the on-going disparity in community support, transgender and non-binary older adults will continue to experience barriers to equitable and inclusive support within their communities. While participation in this study may not provide any direct personal benefits to participants, it is my hope that the time participants spend contributing to this study will translate into improving programming for people who live in their communities—as well as within communities beyond the Greater Toronto Area.


Participants will not receive anything for participating in this study. It is my hope that the time participants spend contributing to the proposed inquiry will translate into improving programming for people in their communities. Each participant will also have the opportunity to consent to be contacted after the completion of the interview to provide feedback (e.g., reviewing drafts of findings) and/or additional information if needed. At the conclusion of the proposed inquiry, participants and community organizers who were a part of the study will have the option of receiving a summary of the key findings and future steps that have arisen from the study. Overall, I hope to demonstrate that participant contributions to the success of this study are acknowledged and greatly appreciated.

What mitigation measures are in place to reduce potential distress caused to participants as a result of being part of the research study?

Due to the nature of the study, I anticipate that the interview process may trigger a variety of troubling emotions and memories of challenging times associated with both aging and gender identity. As the researcher, I am responsible for navigating such sensitive content while constantly monitoring the emotional status of the participants—as well as my own. Attempting to minimize the risks associated with participation in this study, all parties will work to create a welcoming and safe environment of mutual trust and sharing. If at any point, during the interview, a participant becomes uncomfortable or distressed, it is my responsibility to ensure the participant has the time, resources, and support they need. I will also reiterate and reassure the participant that their participation is completely voluntary, and as such their participation can be stopped at any time (without penalty). After assisting the participant to the best of their ability, I will provide the participant with a list of affirming support services will be available for the participants; such as Here 24/7 at 1-844-HERE-247 (437-3247) or TTY 1-877-688-5501.

When do you anticipate that this study's findings will be available?



Name: Ashley Flanagan

Email: a3flanag@uwaterloo.ca

Website: https://uwaterloo.ca/applied-health-sciences/people-profiles/ashley-flanagan


Ashley K. Flanagan, PhD(c), Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, University of Waterloo

Funded By

Currently unfunded - Dissertation Research



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