Call Me Caitlyn: Making and making over the 'authentic' transgender body in Anglo-American popular culture

Michael Lovelock

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35 Citations (Scopus)
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A conception of transgender identity as an ‘authentic’ gendered core ‘trapped’ within a mismatched corporeality, and made tangible through corporeal transformations, has attained unprecedented legibility in contemporary Anglo-American media. Whilst pop-cultural articulations of this discourse have received some scholarly attention, the question of why this 'wrong body' paradigm has solidified as the normative explanation for gender transition within the popular media remains underexplored. This paper argues that this discourse has attained cultural pre-eminence through its convergence with a broader media and commercial zeitgeist, in which corporeal alteration and maintenance are perceived as means of accessing one’s ‘authentic’ self. I analyse the media representations of two transgender celebrities: Caitlyn Jenner and Nadia Almada, alongside the reality TV show TRANSform Me, exploring how these women’s gender transitions have been discursively aligned with a cultural imperative for all women, cisgender or trans, to display their authentic femininity through bodily work. This demonstrates how established tropes of authenticity-via-bodily transformation, have enabled transgender to become culturally legible through the wrong body trope. Problematically, I argue, this process has worked to demarcate ideals of ‘acceptable’ transgender subjectivity: self-sufficient, normatively feminine, and eager to embrace the possibilities for happiness and social integration provided by the commercial domain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)675-687
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Gender Studies
Issue number6
Early online date16 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • transgender
  • celebrity culture
  • body culture
  • makeover
  • identity
  • Caitlyn Jenner

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