University of Oulu

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.

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

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Author: Huttunen, Aira1; Hirvonen, Noora1; Kähkönen, Lotta2
Organizations: 1Information Studies, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2John Morton Center for North American Studies, University of Turku,Turku, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.4 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Emerald, 2020
Publish Date: 2020-05-07


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

Design/methodology/approach: 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.

Findings: 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.

Originality/value: 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.

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Series: Journal of documentation
ISSN: 0022-0418
ISSN-E: 1758-7379
ISSN-L: 0022-0418
Volume: 76
Issue: 3
Pages: 709 - 729
DOI: 10.1108/JD-09-2019-0193
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 518 Media and communications
Funding: The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support provided by Kone Foundation and thank all the interviewees.
Copyright information: © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited. The final authenticated version is available online at