Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Psychology, Sociology and Rural Studies

First Advisor

Meredith Redlin


Among young genderqueer people, social media can be used as a tool for gender exploration, building support systems, and identity validation. However, literature on how these processes are linked together over time to curate a holistic sense of identity is limited. Using a grounded theory framework, this study seeks to construct a model explaining how gender identity development is linearly influenced by social media use among young genderqueer (transgender, non-binary, genderfluid, etc.) individuals. 20 indepth interviews were conducted with genderqueer participants ranging in age from 18- 26 years old. Participants were recruited through personal contact, referrals, and social media posts. Findings indicate four major steps in identity development, all of which are influenced in varying degrees by social media use: 1. Realization, 2. Exploration, 3. Actualization, and 4. Solidification. The process of realization occurred in offline spaces for most participants, and exposure to genderqueer identities began to push participants to find more information on the subject. As participants began to explore their gender identity, they moved online, using social media to become familiar with queer identity nomenclature and seeking out genderqueer-specific content, usually given in first-hand accounts by other genderqueer people. Participants viewed this content reflexively and used it to better understand their own gender identity. Once participants had internally worked through their identity, they began to externalize their queer gender identity to others in their life. Many participants expressed that they used social media posts to share personal information related to changing aspects of their gender identity with large audiences at this point in their development. Additionally, a high level of importance was placed on the ability to control and curate who gender identity-related content was visible to online, with the goal being to create safe and comfortable spaces to explore and express one’s identity.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Gender identity.
Social media -- Influence.
Gender-nonconforming people.
Gender nonconformity.
Identity (Psychology)

Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright