College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Full Title of Thesis or Dissertation

Re(born) this way

Graduation Date


Document Type


Department/Program Conferring Degree

Women & Gender Studies


Trans identity, born in the wrong body narrative, trans, media representation


In popular media and culture trans identity is typified by the “wrong body” narrative. The popularity of a “wrong body” serves to uphold a cisnormative standard and often works to reinforce the gender binary rather than destabilize it. Documentaries probing into trans lives utilize this framework to portray a relatively non-threatening and narrow reading of trans identity. In analyzing three televised documentaries, 20/20’s My Secret Self: A Story of Transgender Children, MSNBC’s Born in the Wrong Body: All in the Family, and OWN’s Becoming Chaz, I pay close attention to both the trans narratives that are told and the ways in which rhetoric is used to tell trans narratives to a presumably largely cisgender audience. This thesis seeks to situate the ways in which trans representation has been discussed in the media in the past and the way that popular discourse has shifted. In adapting to discussing transgender bodies and transgender lives, discussions of plain deviancy in the media have been replaced with newer medically-constructed and gender binary-reinforcing regulations on what constitutes transgender experiences.