Date of Award

Spring 5-7-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in American Studies (MAST)


Interdisciplinary Studies

Committee Chair/First Advisor

Stacy Keltner

Second Advisor

Amy Donahue

Third Advisor

Debarati Sen


This thesis looks at an intra-community discourse in the transgender community between “transtrenders” and “transmedicalists” or “truscum.” It observes how these different sub-communities conceive of what it means to be transgender and attempts to contextualize these conceptions within transgender history. This thesis utilizes a brief ethnography of online spaces where transgender community discourse could be found, including Reddit, Twitter, and Tumblr. It discusses the idea of “transtrenders” as cultural appropriators, looks at the role of passing, and wanting to and trying to pass, in the transgender community and in conceptions of who is truly transgender and who isn’t. This thesis looks at what it means to be non-binary, who gets to be non-binary, and if non-binary is a valid category within transgenderism. These questions are contextualized both with definitions from the World Professional Association of Transgender Health, as well as from understandings of transvestism, transsexualism, and transgenderism from Virginia Prince and Leslie Feinberg. This thesis looks at ideas of autonomy, phenomenology and affect, what constitutes a counterpublic, and what digital embodiment means for gender identity and expression. In addition to an ethnography, the thesis includes an autoethnography of my time spend on the microblogging website Tumblr from 2012-2015 and how it played into my own exploration of gender identity and gender expression, as well as how it affected my positionality in the transtrender-truscum intra-community discourse. This thesis concludes by acknowledging that the transgender community has often grown against itself, always trying to decide who is and isn’t really transgender.