Date of Award

Summer 8-9-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Catherine Y. Chang, PhD

Second Advisor

Jodi Kaufmann, PhD

Third Advisor

Melissa Luke, PhD

Fourth Advisor

Jonathan Orr, PhD

Fifth Advisor

Franco Dispenza, PhD


Social stigma against gender diverse people continues to exist (Rieger & Savin-Williams, 2012), and this extends to gender nonconforming youth (D’Augelli, Grossman, & Starks, 2006). Expression and exploration of fluid gender identity and gender roles are part of typical human development (Institute of Medicine, 2011). Childhood gender nonconformity is defined as variation from norms in gender role behavior (Adelson & The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2012). Recommendations for research with gender nonconforming youth include gaining a clearer understanding of safe relationships, which currently lacks in the counseling literature (Institute of Medicine, 2011). Safety occurs when an individual takes psychological and interpersonal risks without fearing negative consequences (Edmondson, 1999). This study explores safety among gender nonconforming youth through the theoretical perspective of constructivism (Lincoln, Lynham, & Guba, 2011) and queer theory (Plummer, 2011) and will utilize the qualitative methods of photo-elicitation (Harper, 2002) and thematic analysis (Boyatiz, 1998). Implications for counseling practitioners, counselor educators, and future research will be discussed.