A long, intricate, colorful, and important history of identities, expressions, and people
who have thwarted the expectations of the western sex-gender binary (perhaps with blatant
intention or perhaps with little to no knowledge of it at all) has been intentionally erased from,
stolen out of, and in some cases never even recorded in the tapestry of human history. Your
task is to help to undo some of that erasure.
You will research and select a person, fictional, nonfictional, or perhaps somewhere in
between, whose gender expression and/or gender identity challenges the western sex-gender
binary of male/female-man/woman, in some way(s). We want to hear about their story, their
magic, their art, the amazing contribution(s) their existence gave to the world.
● The paper should be three pages long (minimum), double-spaced, 12 pt font, 1 inch
● APA formatting is preferred but MLA will be accepted.
● Cite your sources! All of them! (And you should have sources to cite because this paper
will require RESEARCH).
Things to pay special attention to:
● How will you talk about this person’s identity in a way that honors their existence?
○ Did they exist within the context of the western sex-gender binary?
■ “Transgender” as we understand it in the white, western context of the US
relies upon the social construction of the western sex-gender binary, so if
this person lived outside of that context, applying the label “transgender”
to them may be flattening their existence. Our goal here is to honor them
and learn about them, not try to fit them inside the identity categories we
○ How did they talk about their own expression or identity? If you are able to find
this information, use their own language, as much as possible.
■ How did those close to them (ie friends, lovers, confidants, accomplices)
talk about this person’s expression or identity? If you cannot find firsthand
accounts of this person talking about themself, maybe you can find clues
about how to talk about them from how those who cared about them talk
○ If you are unsure, it is best to rely upon less specifically gendered language, like
“person,” “human,” “friend,” “lover,” “family-member,” “sibling,” “partner,” “parent,”
○ Does their identity have cultural significance outside of a white, western context?
■ If so, how will you discuss this without trying to put it white, western
● Remember that gender expression can cover a vast array of things including but not
limited to: behavior(s), appearance, adornment (clothing/style/accessories, etc.), social
Biography of a Transcestor — COMM 403 / Spring 2020 — Russo, Lewis, & Tripp
○ Because gender expression and gender identity are different (though at times
overlapping), someone may have exhibited gender expression(s) that “thwarted
the expectations of the western sex-gender binary” without ever having identified
as a gender other than cisgender (or something close to cisgender, ie something
they were assigned at birth).
● What parts of this person’s life story are you able to find? What questions are you left
with? Why do you think you can find certain information and not other information?
○ What are the sources of this information?
○ Who is getting to tell the story?
○ How can you tell the story in a way that honors the person you are writing about
while also pointing to the systems of power that have shaped their available
legacy, thus far?
○ Some people and/or parts of their stories may be very difficult to find. Write what
you know and what you are able to find. It is ok to include what others speculate
or what you speculate, as long as it is clear that that is speculation (and whose
speculation it is) and if that speculation replicates oppressive systems of power,
that should be named (by you) as well.