Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Sarah Chinn

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Literature in English, North America, Ethnic and Cultural Minority | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Women's Studies


trans- poetics, trans-, transing, transgender, genderqueer, Troubling the Line


Poetry is a useful medium for exploring the fluidity and possibilities in language beyond the everyday terms of normative language. For trans- and genderqueer subjects, whose identities cannot be articulated within the linguistic boundaries of binary gender, and whose outward appearance challenges the cultural logic of gendered visibility, poetry becomes a valuable and necessary tool for survival, disruption, activism, and personal and public empowerment. Through syntax, word choice, semantic and non-semantic qualities of language, poetry helps articulate the inexpressible, complex, and unstable gender identities and subject positions, even as they change or multiply. It gives names to felt ideas, which can be explored and generated into new language, then into ideas, and eventually, tangible action (Lorde 37). Poetry’s capacity for expansive articulation, and its overall compatibility with trans- identities and gender expressions, has spawned a new form of poetry, one that exceeds genre: trans- poetics.

Using Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry & Poetics as a theoretical basis, this thesis explores how trans- poetics is being used as a methodology or political technique for challenging and transcending dominant notions of gender, the body, language, identity, and their spatial and temporal underpinnings. By playing with both content and form, and a range of other poetic tools, trans- poetic projects engage in relations that seek to radically shift, re-orient, and disarticulate the taken-for-granted relationships between the visual and the linguistic, embodiment and gender expression, and gender expression and identity.

As poems like “who is man,” “Boy with Flowers,” “in and out of the holy,” “February” and “A cut won’t kill me” show, the ways in which trans- and genderqueer poets inhabit and express the proliferation of embodied difference are manifold. While trans- poetics manifests itself differently in each poem, these works ultimately reveal that there are inextricable relationships between form and content as well as politics and aesthetics. Rather than compartmentalizing trans- experiences, trans- poetics keeps the dimensions of the corporeal, the psychic, and the political in constant conversation with one another. Using these poems as literary artifacts, this thesis explores and brings into conversation the fascinating ways in which trans- poetics can be used as a strategy for opening up new possibilities of being in the world.