Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Daniel Benyshek

Second Committee Member

Jiemin Bao

Third Committee Member

William Jankowiak

Fourth Committee Member

Georgiann Davis

Number of Pages



The use of digital spaces becomes more prevalent as technologies improve and more individuals become connected online. For many, the virtual world may become the primary means by which they engage socially and commercially with larger society. For individuals who identify as transgender or gender nonconforming, the virtual world serves as an environment where the fluidity of identity construction, the security of anonymity, and the physical separation provided by using a digital medium allows for the creation of a secure space for social engagements that may otherwise be discriminatory or infeasible in physical interactions. The stigma, discrimination, and prejudice experienced by transgender individuals not only affects social interactions, but also creates obstacles for transgender individuals seeking necessary services such as healthcare. As a result, many transgender individuals look to online resources for healthcare in order to avoid the ordeal of pursuing healthcare support in person. This study will employ methods drawn from virtual ethnography to investigate the online healthcare-seeking behaviors of transgender individuals. Virtual ethnography is a research methodology designed to incorporate many of the facets of traditional ethnography to the virtual world in order to effectively conduct research and collect data from individuals from interactions with their online representation, or avatar. One of the strengths of virtual ethnography is that it provides a means by which the investigator can communicate with individuals that would otherwise not be accessible in person. Through surveys, participant observation, and interviews within the virtual world of the participants’ choice, this study will address how transgender individuals use the internet to access medical information and healthcare, what factors contribute to seeking healthcare online, and how the use of digital spaces affords support that would otherwise not be found in pursuing healthcare in person. The information gathered could potentially not only help to elucidate the health necessities of an overlooked and underserved population, but also provide the means by which healthcare access and support can be improved for the community.


Transgender health; Virtual ethnography



File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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Sociology Commons