Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


First Advisor

Michael Scheel

Date of this Version


Document Type



LaRosa, M. (2022). Understanding unwanted sexual experiences of transgender and gender diverse individuals: An interpretative phenomenological study. [Doctoral dissertation, University of Nebraska-Lincoln]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Psychological Studies in Education (Counseling Psychology), Under the Supervision of Professor Michael Scheel. Lincoln, Nebraska: July 2022

Copyright © 2022 Melissa LaRosa


Transgender and gender diverse (TGD) people represent a small percent of the population and yet, they experience sexual violence at disproportionately high rates compared to their cisgender counterparts (Grant et al, 2011; James et al., 2016). The purpose of this interpretative phenomenological study is to gain a more nuanced understanding of the role that unwanted sexual experiences play in the lives of transgender and gender diverse people, particularly in relation to how they conceptualize their gender identity and the construct of posttraumatic growth (PTG). Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight TGD participants who met the inclusion criteria. Two superordinate (i.e., negative impacts on self and factors that facilitated recovery) and ten subordinate (i.e., systemic oppression, mental health outcomes, gender dysphoria and transitioning, difficulties with disclosure, lack of resources, physical intimacy, advocacy, connection and support, strengths, personal growth, affirming resources, and hope) themes emerged from the data. Contextual factors were reported on. Limitations of the present study were also discussed. Implications for practice include the use of gender-affirming and culturally appropriate interventions, examination of power dynamics within the therapeutic relationship, understanding the potential interplay between gender dysphoria, oppression, and trauma, and exploration of strengths and avenues for growth. Implications for policy include the implementation of comprehensive policies that protect the human rights of TGD people, such as protections from being refused access to public places and insurance coverage of gender-affirming services. Future research should focus on diverse samples of TGD survivors, a more direct examination PTG within the TGD community, the impact of previous trauma on TGD survivors, and intimate partner violence (IPV) within the TGD community.

Advisor: Michael Scheel