Gender crossing tales: a case for myth and metaphor

  • Stella Fremi

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This study argues in favour of creating a new paradigm around gender transition that goes beyond politically distinctive ‘label identities’ and aims to include individuals who seem to lack a clear ‘destination’ within definitions of ‘gender transition’. Contrary to sociological models that have constructed understandings of gender transition via separate categories into which individuals may be grouped, this study argues that those assigned to the categories of ‘gender oscillators’ and ‘gender migrators’ –or ‘cross-dressers’ and ‘transsexuals’- do not necessarily constitute members of different groups. The thesis draws on a detailed discursive analysis of interactions within focus group discussions and critically engages with the notions of recognition and monstrosity as these apply to trans-gender theorising. Thirteen male-to-female individuals who self-identified as embodying various expressions of gender transition agreed to take part in three independent focus groups that explored participants’ understanding of transition. An interdisciplinary methodological approach was adopted, this drawing upon the principles of discourse analysis to reveal how subject positions are formed within the gender-crossing discourse. Gender crossing tales were collected and analysed as a means of interaction and were set within the framework of myth and legend which had sought to explain human existence and possibilities of viable gendered personhood over the millennia. The use of metaphors was critically examined, particularly those which describe gender transition as a path which leads to a sought-after ‘home’; a place where an individual expects and hopes to find recognition as their ‘true’ female self. This study argues that the various classifications of trans-gender expressions are products of the given sociocultural matrix that regulates recognition within relations of power. It also argues that those assigned to different categories actually share individual expressions of similar embodied feelings, namely the wish to be accepted as females, and that their journey ‘home’ is mobilised by a defence against the fear that the loss of the desired subject position will defeat one’s capacity to have hope about anything. In an effort to introduce an alternative, value-free approach to the more-conventional clinical and politicised attempts to describe and classify individuals who cross the gender norm, this study suggests an account of the metaphorical positioning of the trans-gender self which aims to build connections across various understandings of non-normative gendered bodies and offer new forms of identity and agency which may make the lives of all individuals who gender-cross more liveable.
Date of AwardDec 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton

Cite this