Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Christopher Schmidt

Subject Categories

Audio Arts and Acoustics | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Film and Media Studies | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies


queer phenomenology, phenomenology of sound, sound studies, gender identities


This thesis explores the phenomenological aspects of sound in the Swedish film Girls Lost (2015) and the American film Tangerine (2015), which are both stories of transgender identities. The thesis considers sound through its affective characteristics and materiality in the films; that sound has an agency in a story-telling and that sounds actively create the world and spaces the characters and the listener-viewer inhabit. By utilizing Sara Ahmed’s queer phenomenology as a theoretical lens and bringing it together with phenomenology of sound, the thesis focuses on what is in the background and usually left behind in film analysis of gender identities. This thesis approaches sounds not only as extensions of the characters’ bodies in Girls Lost and Tangerine but pays attention to how certain sounds narrate the world as part of the characters’ gender identities.

Through the film analysis of Girls Lost, the thesis discusses how sounds create an isolation and disconnection and remove the characters from their environment to portray different forms of exclusion and lack of agency. The sounds build moments of intimacy and friendship that allow the characters to retreat to their own world for safety. At the same time, the sounds in Girls Lost draw from biological and medical notions of gender, representing transgender identity through the discourse of the “wrong body,” wherein the body is a “trap” for transgender individuals. Tangerine depicts very different transgender realities, which the thesis examines through Ahmed’s theorization of the Orient and how Tangerine resists such definition through its characters and their sonic world. The thesis utilizes the concepts of “sonic color line” and noise to analyze race in relation to the transgender identities and how sounds functions as a form of resistance and rejection of the white ideals and norms of both gender and race.

This thesis concludes that Girls Lost and Tangerine show how film sounds form an auditory space of gender; that gender is attached to space and place; and that characters as gendered beings can become detached from their environments through sounds. The sounds in both films are sonic narratives of gender: they align the characters with what is available or within reach for them and their stories, and suggest that gender identities are built through and together with the sonic elements. The materiality, spatiality but also fluid nature of sounds offer queer (and) phenomenological possibilities to articulate affective stories of how gendered bodies meet the world. Sounds enclose meaningfulness and can authentically tell about locations of gender identities and queer moments in and through the medium of film.