Building an Identity Despite Discrimination: A Linguistic Analysis of the Lived Experiences of Gender Variant People in North East England

Ward, Katie (2019) Building an Identity Despite Discrimination: A Linguistic Analysis of the Lived Experiences of Gender Variant People in North East England. Doctoral thesis, University of Sunderland.

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Abstract

Trans issues are at the forefront of today’s society. It is estimated that approximately one percent of the UK population is gender variant, and the number of people accessing treatment is growing each year. However, linguistic research into trans identities and communities is still deficient. Models of language and gender studies still assume a binary gender structure and do not take into consideration the increasing amount of gender variance in society. Additionally, a lack of an established transgender studies discipline and limited numbers of trans researchers makes research into trans populations more difficult.

The aim of this study is to examine how transgender people in North East England construct their identity with a backdrop of discriminatory discourses perpetuated by British news media and wider society. Sociolinguistic research into trans populations is an emerging area of study, as language and gender research has traditionally been constrained by cisnormative assumptions. Even with Butler’s (1990) seminal work on gender and discourse, this kind of research has still been done within the binary gender system. Taking an inductive approach to data collection and analysis, I conducted semi-structured in-depth interviews with trans participants in the North East, and used a mixture of Membership Categorisation Analysis and Narrative Analysis for data analysis.

The findings from the research illustrate how difficult it is for gender variant people to find a name or label for themselves within the binary system, and that emerging terminology is often inadequate for trans identities. Additionally, there is a pressure for gender variant people to adhere to narratives appearing in media outlets which perpetuate one way of ‘being trans’. The difficulty in finding a name for oneself promotes a feeling of being the other. Also, the perpetuation of a singular trans narrative creates pressure and fear in people who may not adhere to it. In conclusion, this fear which arises for trans individuals is often pre-emptive as being othered through language and exposed to external ideas of gender variance creates an extra burden on participants. It is this that leads them to equate their positive experiences with luck.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions: Collections > Theses
Depositing User: Klaire Purvis-Shepherd
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2019 11:13
Last Modified: 27 Jun 2019 11:15
URI: http://sure.sunderland.ac.uk/id/eprint/10874

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