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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Non-binary trans subjects : exiting the attachment to the transgender metanarrative of man/woman Ferguson, Joshua M.


This dissertation examines the emergence of what I call the Transgender Metanarrative. It demonstrates how the Transgender Metanarrative functions as a form of confessional identity politics and biopower, in line with the sex and gender binary, by elevating awareness of binary transpeople (transmen/boys and transwoman/girls) while excluding non-binary trans subjects (trans subjects who identify as neither man nor woman). It investigates the ramifications and pervasive effects of this Transgender Metanarrative whereby some parts of the trans movement have created a new sex/gender binary in their attempts to escape it in the first place. The Transgender Metanarrative has exclusionary consequences in further marginalizing people who identify without a gender or gender(s) beyond man and woman. My research focuses on the early twenty-first century’s transgender phenomenon in academia (‘transgender/trans studies’), social discourse (legislative efforts and organizational policies), and popular culture (particularly fiction and non-fiction film). The film analysis identifies in both binary trans and non-binary trans films key thematic motifs that work to cement the ideology of the Transgender Metanarrative, while signaling an emerging counter-culture of non-binary trans discourse that poses a direct challenge to society’s binary-based understanding of gender and transgender. Using film analysis and poststructuralist theory, particularly queer theory, the dissertation calls for a critical deconstruction of the Transgender Metanarrative. I posit that a non-binary notion of gender will influence gender studies the same way queer theory has influenced understandings of sexuality. My identification as a non-binary transperson is employed as a form of feminist positionality and queer methodology throughout the text. I call this methodology an autoethnography of disidentification (Muñoz), to by reasserting non-binary transgender subjectivity to disrupt the hegemonic Transgender Metanarrative. This intervention happens in both visual (images) and written form. My autoethnography of disidentification, challenges Butler’s theory of gender performativity to make an autonomous break with the ‘doing’ before the ‘being’ of gender identity. I argue that this creative autonomous break allows for non-binary genders to be imagined and recognized. The autoethnography of disidentification articulates my non-binary subjective experience in order to invite the reader/viewer to understand the social reality for a non-binary transperson.

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