Presentation Title

The ‘transgender couple’: Transnormativity, trans separatism, and the discourse of t4t

Presenter Name

Archie Crowley
Lex Konnelly

Presenter Title/Affiliation

University of South Carolina; University of Toronto

Start Date

21-5-2021 4:15 PM

Event Name

Panel discussion

Panel Number

9

Panel Chair Name

William Leap

Zoom URL to Join

https://ciis.zoom.us/j/99085517274

Zoom Meeting ID

990 8551 7274

Abstract

Originating as a category on the now-defunct Craigslist backpages, t4t (trans for trans) emerged as a place for trans people to connect for sex and dating in otherwise cis-dominated dating pools. Since the passing of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) in 2018 that impactfully resulted in the dissolution of the personal ads section, t4t has been taken up on other social media platforms, becoming shorthand for larger discourse(s) within the trans community regarding the political radicality of transgender love outside of the cisgender gaze (Williams 2018).

With the increased public visibility of trans individuals, a singular trajectory of transgender experience has become socioculturally salient. Transnormativity, a regulatory ideology that holds that there is one way for trans people to practice their gender (Johnson 2015, Vipond 2015), presumes not only heterosexuality and its associated cultural baggage but also a linear transition “from one socially knowable sex to another” (Nicolazzo 2016: 1175). Building on existing considerations of normativity in language, gender, and sexuality research (Motschenbacher 2014, Jones 2019), we argue that the ethos of t4t pushes against assumptions that trans people’s ‘ultimate goal’ is to partner with a cis person. Yet, while t4t creates opportunity for rejection of such expectations, mainstream media outlets continue to rely on these normative discourses in representations of trans couples.

Using multimodal critical discourse analysis (Machin 2013), this study has two core aims. First, it explores how media representations of transgender couples elide transgender identities into cisheteronormative conceptions of romantic partnership, centering the (perceived) heterosexuality, reproductive capacity, and medical transition of both partners. Second, it outlines how the growth of the t4t label and hashtag resists such a narrative coercion. Employing a scavenger methodology (Halberstam 1998) drawing on data from American news segments and social media posts across various platforms (Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr), we show how a close reading of t4t against dominant media depictions reveals an emerging political discourse whereby transgender subjects reject the imposition of cisheteronormativities, build intracommunity connections, and refuse to seek validation on the terms of desirability to cisgender people.

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May 21st, 4:15 PM May 21st, 4:45 PM

The ‘transgender couple’: Transnormativity, trans separatism, and the discourse of t4t

Originating as a category on the now-defunct Craigslist backpages, t4t (trans for trans) emerged as a place for trans people to connect for sex and dating in otherwise cis-dominated dating pools. Since the passing of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) in 2018 that impactfully resulted in the dissolution of the personal ads section, t4t has been taken up on other social media platforms, becoming shorthand for larger discourse(s) within the trans community regarding the political radicality of transgender love outside of the cisgender gaze (Williams 2018).

With the increased public visibility of trans individuals, a singular trajectory of transgender experience has become socioculturally salient. Transnormativity, a regulatory ideology that holds that there is one way for trans people to practice their gender (Johnson 2015, Vipond 2015), presumes not only heterosexuality and its associated cultural baggage but also a linear transition “from one socially knowable sex to another” (Nicolazzo 2016: 1175). Building on existing considerations of normativity in language, gender, and sexuality research (Motschenbacher 2014, Jones 2019), we argue that the ethos of t4t pushes against assumptions that trans people’s ‘ultimate goal’ is to partner with a cis person. Yet, while t4t creates opportunity for rejection of such expectations, mainstream media outlets continue to rely on these normative discourses in representations of trans couples.

Using multimodal critical discourse analysis (Machin 2013), this study has two core aims. First, it explores how media representations of transgender couples elide transgender identities into cisheteronormative conceptions of romantic partnership, centering the (perceived) heterosexuality, reproductive capacity, and medical transition of both partners. Second, it outlines how the growth of the t4t label and hashtag resists such a narrative coercion. Employing a scavenger methodology (Halberstam 1998) drawing on data from American news segments and social media posts across various platforms (Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr), we show how a close reading of t4t against dominant media depictions reveals an emerging political discourse whereby transgender subjects reject the imposition of cisheteronormativities, build intracommunity connections, and refuse to seek validation on the terms of desirability to cisgender people.

https://digitalcommons.ciis.edu/lavlang/2021/friday/29