Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Movement Sciences


Health and Sport Pedagogy

Committee Director

Justin A. Haegele

Committee Member

Xihe Zhu

Committee Member

Laura Smithers


Disabled trans students may be multiply marginalized and/or have reduced access to otherwise affirming gender identity- or disability-related spaces in educational contexts because of their intersectional identities. At present, a limited understanding of disabled trans students school experiences are known. This dissertation was constructed using a two-manuscript format. The purpose of the first study was to investigate the physical education experiences of disabled trans adults. The study was conducted from an interpretivist paradigm and used interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) to explore the lived experiences of disabled trans adults. Six adults (aged 18-30), who identified as: autistic, neurodivergent, disabled, trans, non-binary, and queer participated in the study. Data analysis guided by the IPA approach revealed three major themes: (a) elementary to secondary: participation and expectation changes, (b) surviving inaccessible spaces: impact of PE on school experiences, and (c) becoming more self-aware: navigating labels and needs in PE. Participants recalled more favorable experiences in elementary settings, had difficulty navigating sensory, disability, and gender related experiences in changing spaces, and had to budget their energy and participation in PE to make it through the school day. The purpose of the second study was to explore the experiences of an autistic disabled trans individual and their social network in extracurricular activities (EAs). The study was framed within an interpretivist paradigm and utilized interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) to explore the lived experiences of each participant as it related to the autistic disabled trans individuals’ participation in EA. Six participants including the autistic disabled trans participant, their father, two friends, and a coach participated in the study. The IPA approach guided data analysis and two themes were interpreted from the data: (a) “I’m in pain and tired, but this makes me feel so good”: navigating identities and needs, and (b) “social interaction fueled me, but it came at a cost”: managing social expectations. Identity development and understanding was fluid and centered around activity participation. Lack of support and understanding of disability-related needs may reduce participation or lead to greater masking. The opportunity for socialization varied by EA but, overall, the participant had opportunities for acceptance and understanding among peers. Parent perceptions and understandings of socialization may be incongruent with the needs and values of their child’s social experiences.


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