Transfamily theory: How the presence of trans* family members informs gender development in families

Jenifer K. McGuire, Katherine A. Kuvalanka, Jory M. Catalpa, Russell B. Toomey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


The presence of a trans* family member can challenge existing theoretical notions about the development of gender in families. Emerging knowledge about trans* identities consolidates around 5 primary challenges to existing theoretical notions of gender: (a) non-dimorphic sex, (b) nonbinary gender, (c) the biological and social construction of gender, (d) gender identity development, and (e) family meaning making about transgender identity. These challenges structure an examination of heteroand cisnormative expectations within family theory and help unpack long-standing tensions between essentialist and social constructionist views of gender development. This can play out in family theory through a recognition of the tension between upholding and decentering cisnormativity within families. This article pinpoints locations where current family theories require reexamination and expansion to accurately conceptualize the flexibility and variability of families with trans* members.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-73
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Family Theory and Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016


  • Essentialism
  • Family relationships
  • Gender development
  • Queer theory
  • Social constructionism
  • Transgender

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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