How ‘wrong body’ transgender theory is reflected in broad consumer culture

The conception of transgender identity as an ‘authentic’ gendered core ‘trapped’ within a mismatched corporeality has attained unprecedented legibility within contemporary Anglo-American culture. Michael Lovelock’s article in the Journal of Gender Studies argues the dominance of ‘wrong body’ transgender theory in popular media aligns with the contemporary cultural imperative for all women, cis or trans, to display their authentic femininity through bodily work.

The article focuses on the media representations of two female transgender celebrities, Caitlyn Jenner and Nadia Almada, and explores how these women’s gender transitions have been discursively aligned in popular media to the established trope of female bodily transformation. Lovelock highlights the parallel of constructed femininity in both transgender and cisgender women by analysing the strong public praise Jenner received from society for her external beauty and feminine appearance. Lovelock stresses that Jenner’s triumph holds “commercial currency” in the use of fashion, cosmetic surgery and beauty applications as a means to deflect from gender-assigned attributes, and to reveal the ‘true’ gendered self and be accepted.

Lovelock also notes that previous transgender scholars have argued for acceptance and recognition of transgender identities in their own right. Plurality of human identity could make way for alternatives to standard binary gender which are not specifically male or female, but purely transgender. The commonly accepted ‘wrong body’ theory reinforces the straightforward male vs. female gender model, and leaves no room for a third or alternative form of identity.

Lovelock’s article finds female transgender identity is directly aligned with expectations of bodily work which are perceived to constitute day-today imperatives for all women. The article concludes, “The wrong body paradigm attains its rhetorical force through the ways in which it speaks to a broader consumer culture in which the external bodies of all women must be worked upon in order to actualise or release an authentic, internal female self.”

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* Read the full article online:http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09589236.2016.1155978

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