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

Lovelock, Michael (2017) Call Me Caitlyn: Making and making over the 'authentic' transgender body in Anglo-American popular culture. Journal of Gender Studies, 26 (6). pp. 675-687. ISSN 0958-9236

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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.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This work was supported by a doctoral studentship grant provided by the Arts and Humanities Research Council [grant number AH/K503009/1]. © 2016 The Author(s). Published by Taylor & Francis This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Permission is granted subject to the terms of the License under which the work was published. Please check the License conditions for the work which you wish to reuse. Full and appropriate attribution must be given. This permission does not cover any third party copyrighted material which may appear in the work requested.
Uncontrolled Keywords: transgender,celebrity culture,body culture,makeover,identity,caitlyn jenner
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Pure Connector
Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2016 23:04
Last Modified: 22 Oct 2022 00:51
DOI: 10.1080/09589236.2016.1155978


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