Transgender gaze, neoliberal haze: the impact of neoliberalism on trans female bodies in the anglophone global north
This thesis analyses the impact of neoliberalism on trans female bodies, in recognition of a warning by trans studies scholar Dean Spade that identifies how “activists and theorists have tended to miss the vital connection between economic and anticapitalist analysis and the regulation of sexual and gender expression and behavior” (2006: 218). With a focus on the arts, this thesis addresses the gap in scholarship by analysing several literary and cinematic texts featuring trans or gender nonconforming bodies. The thesis argues that patterns emerge between visibility and ideological compatibility: this includes either in relation to neoliberal ideals, characterized by what Sujatha Fernandes calls “entrepreneurial, upwardly mobile subjects” (Fernandes, 2017: 3), or according to majoritarian norms implicitly present in neoliberal society, including middle-class notions of female identity. The thesis concludes that the rhetoric of individual liberty and meritocracy that characterizes neoliberal capitalism is a selective and ultimately illusory one, and implicitly divides trans female bodies into either a form of homonormative legitimacy, or a more marginalized, ideologically incompatible Other. The newly liberated Transgender Gaze and Voice, emerging in film and literature as part of what Aren Aizura calls “the enormous groundswell of transgender cultural production in the 2010s” (2018: 89), is therefore to be celebrated but also viewed with caution given the varying, ideologically sanctioned visibility and invisibility of particular texts.