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Uncomfortable in my own skin – emerging, early-stage identity-related information needs of transgender people

Aira Huttunen (Information Studies, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland)
Noora Hirvonen (Information Studies, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland)
Lotta Kähkönen (John Morton Center for North American Studies, University of Turku, Turku, Finland)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 18 February 2020

Issue publication date: 21 April 2020




This study aims to increase the understanding of the early-stage identity-related information needs of transgender people.


This study draws on social constructivism, queer theory and information practice research. In accordance with the queer phenomenological approach which emphasises lived experiences, data was collected by interviewing 25 individuals who identified as transgender. The data was analysed with a focus on how early-stage information needs are formed into conscious information needs.


The formation of early-stage information needs were conceptualised as a chain including a trigger for information seeking, finding the right words and understanding the experience. Especially the bodily changes starting at puberty were strong causes of discomfort causing friction between the subjects' own gendered body and their gender experience, even leading to gender dysphoria. Finding words to describe the experience played an important role in the process of identity formation. In many cases this was difficult because of the lack of accurate and relevant information.

Social implications

Providing information especially of varying transgender experiences is vital for individuals trying to understand and verbalise their gender identity.


This study provides an understanding of the early-stage information needs described by transgender people and the process of building identities through disorientation. This study suggests that early-stage information needs are a valid concept to help understand how embodied experiences and the friction between the lived experience and the social world can lead to information seeking.



The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support provided by Kone Foundationand thank all the interviewees.


Huttunen, A., Hirvonen, N. and Kähkönen, L. (2020), "Uncomfortable in my own skin – emerging, early-stage identity-related information needs of transgender people", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 76 No. 3, pp. 709-729.



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