Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Aesthetics, Authenticity, and Authorship in Trans Media

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posted on 2023-04-13, 01:59 authored by Paige Macintosh

The increasing visibility of transgender characters in mainstream film and television— culminating in what Time magazine referred to in 2014 as the ‘transgender tipping point’—has intensified and transformed debates about trans media. Arguments among scholars and trans community members about the need for positive representation have given way to discussions about who has the right to produce, write, and claim legitimacy for trans narratives. Over the past decade, audiences and critics increasingly value trans media according to its employment of trans consultants and creators, who function as critical markers of authenticity within these debates. But scholarly investigations into screen industries’ deployment of trans creatives as markers of authenticity remain underexplored. More work is needed to reveal the complex cultural and industrial forces shaping contemporary trans media production at present, and the implications for trans creatives. This dissertation therefore intervenes in contemporary media debates and trans scholarship to outline the charged relationship between trans creatives and cis producers within screen industries.

In order to critically examine industrial, cultural, and aesthetic trends within trans screen media, this dissertation merges phenomenology, paratextual analysis, genre studies, cultural theory, and trans scholarship to investigate emerging debates regarding authorship, authenticity, and aesthetics. By questioning how trans people, both on- and offscreen, are deployed within mainstream cultural industries as representatives of political and cultural progressiveness, this research interrogates consultancy roles and their authorship status. Building on trans scholars’ new attention to trans aesthetics, this dissertation also considers how a theory of trans aesthetics might productively counter the charged authorship and authenticity debates outlined above by reconsidering the categorisation of trans media and beginning to reroute the power of canonisation from cis industry elites to trans viewers. Ultimately, a trans aesthetic approach to defining trans media allows scholars to reconsider trans media as that which speaks to trans subjects, rather than speaking about them.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License


Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

130204 The media; 139999 Other culture and society not elsewhere classified

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

1 Pure basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of English, Film, Theatre, Media Studies and Art History


Molloy, Missy; Brady, Anita