Taking on the ‘tipping point’: transgender representation across popular and digital culture

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University of New Brunswick
As more transgender images move from the shadows of intelligibility to mainstream media, the question of visibility remains critical. This dissertation explores examples of how transgender cultural production can highlight less visible transgender narratives already in circulation by examining the Amazon Prime television show, “Transparent”, and self-representations of transmasculinity across the Instagram hashtag #ftm and a 90-week Tumblr blog about gender transition entitled “Trans Canada (My Way)”. This dissertation illustrates how these examples both adhere to and resist dominant discourses about transness in an effort to move beyond discerning between good and bad representation and instead to lobby for more and different transgender representation. Using the frameworks of critical transgender studies, media studies, queer theory and creative nonfiction, this dissertation explores the process of ‘telling transness’ and considers how individuals use self-respresentation to exact agency over how their transgender identities and bodies are spoken of and for. Through textual analyses of a popular media text, a social media hashtag, and an autoethnographic account, this project argues that ‘telling transness’—or speaking about one’s understanding of their transgender identity—is a negotiated process that includes, but is not limited to, conversations about bodies, memories, other identities, and cis and transnormativity. In the wake of increased transgender visibility in popular culture that aims to educate cisgender audiences about transness, and with the knowledge that this type of visibility does not ensure more physical or political protection, this dissertation demonstrates how transgender cultural production, both online and offline, is widening the scope of what is possible and articulable for transgender becoming in the service of establishing a less essentialized understanding of the transgender community.