Autobiographical memory in transsexual individuals who have undergone gender affirming surgery: Vivid, self-focused, but not so happy childhood memories
Background. Whereas reciprocal relationships between autobiographical memory and self are broadly emphasized, there is no empirical research that examines how major life changing transitions affect the graphically expressed life story.
Objective. The paper focuses on the novel topic of autobiographical memory in transsexual individuals.
Design. Twenty-eight volunteers who had undergone gender-affirming surgery and 28 non-transgender participants were asked to produce a Life Line which required them to identify the most memorable events in their lives. The level of acquisition of affirmed gender-typed traits was measured by the Bem Sex-Role Inventory (BSRI).
Results. Compared to cisgender individuals, transsexual participants have self-focused Life Lines with a high proportion of vivid flashbulb-like memories and unhappy recollections of childhood. The emotional profile of autobiographical memory addressing childhood was more negative in transsexual participants who deviate from BSRI norms reflecting derogation of past gender category in favour of affirmed gender identity. Those with high acquisition of affirming gender-typed traits assigned more space on the timeline for childhood, revealing the process of self-continuity restoration that leads to an increase in the proportion of positive memories. Accordingly, transsexuals recollected fewer events relevant to their gender identity performing a psychological defence toward the topic of gender.
Conclusion. We interpreted the results by focusing on the utility of autobiographical memories as a cognitive resource for filling the gap between past and current selves and maintaining self-continuity across the lifespan.