After decades of erasure, transgender people are gaining unprecedented mainstream media attention; yet transgender communities, particularly those of color, remain disproportionately affected by poverty, discrimination, violence, and harassment. Terrorizing Gender examines how media representations of transgender people connect to their surveillance by state institutions, specifically federal and state governments, the military, and the legal system. The project calls for centering transgender subjectivities and experiences in critical media studies in order to move beyond an exclusive focus on analyzing representations and visibility politics. Placing transgender at the center of gender studies, critical media studies, and surveillance studies focuses attention on the relationship between material consequences and representational trends in popular culture. By highlighting the material realities of transgender people, the project refutes popular narratives of progress that claim equality and civil rights victories for LGBT people over the last decade. Terrorizing Gender highlights two case studies: WikiLeaker and whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for violating the Espionage Act and leaking sensitive U.S. documents; and a black transgender woman from Minneapolis, CeCe McDonald, who was charged with murder for killing her attacker during a transphobic and racist assault in 2011. I argue that news media predominantly construct transgender people as deceptive, deviant, and threatening, and that these constructions not only affirm, but align with state interests in surveilling, harassing, and ultimately, criminalizing transgender communities. Particularly, the popular discourse of colorblindness – a pervasive belief that race should not and no longer does matter – circulated by media institutions is central to the state’s management and disposing of transgender lives. Terrorizing Gender thus contends that the current popularity of “transgender” must be understood to connote a contingent cultural and national belonging given the racialized and gendered violence that the state continues to enact against most gender non-conforming people, particularly those of color.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2016. Major: Communication Studies. Advisors: Mary Douglas Vavrus, Jigna Desai. 1 computer file (PDF);ix, 280 pages.
Terrorizing Gender: Transgender Visibility and the Surveillance Practices of the U.S. Security State.
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