Theses Doctoral

Beyond the Gender Binary in Sexual Scripts?: Dating and Relationships among Transgender Men and their Non-Transgender Partners

Mellman, William L.

Recently there has been an increase in academic scholarship focused on the lived experiences and health of transgender people; however, few studies have explored the romantic relationships of transgender individuals, particularly of transgender men. Among the general population, relationships have been shown to be central to both identity formation and as support in terms of health and wellbeing, and are therefore a potential factor of resilience of vital importance given the health disparities found among the transgender population. This dissertation is comprised of three articles investigating the dating and relationship experiences of transgender men from both individual and couple level perspectives, and employs Sexual Script Theory as a conceptual framework through which to analyze and interpret study findings. The first article provides a comprehensive review of the literature that has examined the relationships of transgender men and makes recommendations for future research to address gaps and limitations identified in these studies. The second article presents the findings from an investigation of N = 24 couples of transgender men and their cisgender female (n = 12) or male (n = 12) partners who completed in-depth qualitative, individual and dyadic interviews. The third article is a secondary analysis of data from a mixed-methods study on gender and HIV risk among N = 228 cisgender men who have sex with transgender men exploring their characteristics, attractions, identities, behaviors, relationships, sexuality, and health. Findings reported and discussed in these three articles include that transgender men and their partners, despite a number of identified barriers, form enduring and satisfying relationships. Prevailing cultural scripts of heteronormativity and homonormativity provide transgender men and their partners a blueprint for actualizing gender identity and for obtaining recognition and validation as a couple. However, these normative scripts are not always a perfect fit and include barriers to private and public affirmation of identity and fulfillment of sexual and intimacy needs. Transgender men and their partners simultaneously reinforce and challenge normative, relationship scripts, and in doing so, contribute to the evolution of social norms regarding gender and sexuality. Implications for the health and wellbeing of both transgender men and their partners are discussed.


  • thumnail for Mellman_columbia_0054D_14251.pdf Mellman_columbia_0054D_14251.pdf application/pdf 1.91 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Sociomedical Sciences
Thesis Advisors
Bockting, Walter O.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 10, 2017