University of Nottingham Ningbo China
  • Intranet

Constructing a 'true' trans identity: Discourses of normativity in YouTube transition diaries

Trent building 441(AB441)
17 May 2016 (17:00-18:30)

Simon Harrison


Organised by the Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics China (School of English) in collaboration with the Gender, Culture and Identities Dialogues

This presentation investigates the construction of two American transgender online personas, providing insight into the prevalence of normative discourses which may be drawn on when constructing transgender identities. Many transgender people around the world rely on the internet as a source of information and guidance, with online video diaries (‘vlogs’), in which young people record and chart their experiences of transition, playing a particularly important role. In this paper, discourse from two popular transgender vloggers is critically analysed. It is found that the vloggers index identities which are broadly in line with what Zimman (2012) terms the archetypal ‘true transsexual’, an ideological model of what it means to be ‘authentically’ transgender. This corresponds with heteronormative, essentialist expectations of binary gender. The vloggers are shown to authenticate their own experiences by stating what is ‘typical’ and positioning themselves as ‘experts’. Ultimately, it is argued that the version of transgender identity and experience that they put forward reproduces prevalent discourses of normative gender and sexuality.

Lucy Jones’s research interests concern the relationships between language, gender, and sexuality. Her recent collaborative work includes critical discourse analysis of media texts emerging in the UK around the introduction of same-sex marriage, and the relevance of marital surname choices to the identities of British women and men. She is currently writing a book with Sara Mills in which they develop a queer approach to CDA in order to explore the representations of women and men, and expose the fundamentally heteronormative ideologies which underlie even seemingly liberal media discourse. The majority of her published work concerns identity construction amongst lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender speakers; this includes ethnographic work with a British lesbian hiking group (‘Dyke/Girl’ 2012: Palgrave) and more recent work with an LGBT youth group, in which she reveals the salience of homonormativity and homonationalism to the current LGBT identity construction.