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Transgender Representation in Literature: Sorrow, Joy, and the Ever-Present Gaze of the Cisgender Audience

Finn Draper
Finn Draper
Faculty Advisor(s)

Literature is instrumental in exacting change both politically and personally, but it can also cause immense harm. A majority of novels that are celebrated for their transgender characters are actually written by cisgender people, for cisgender audiences. When transgender characters are only showcased through a cisgender author's lens, they directly impact not only the way that cisgender audiences perceive being transgender, but how transgender people view themselves. This study compares Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (g), Trumpet by Jackie Kay, and If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo to discuss how their transgender characters are constructed through narrative and character development. All three of these novels present vastly different depictions of transgender characters, ranging from biased and stereotypical portrayals to more realistic depictions of the sorrow and joy that can come with transition. Additionally, this study looks at how the intended audience for each book affects the way that being transgender is either used as a narrative tool to serve another function or as an honest piece of a character’s identity.  


Originally from Cary, North Carolina, Finn Draper (he/they) is a senior at Salem College, majoring in English, minoring in Psychology and Criminology. After graduation, he plans to continue his work with LGBT+ issues, working towards a Master of Social Work to one day be able to directly engage with and uplift trans youth. Beyond the classroom, they are an active member of Salem’s on campus theatrical troupe, the Pierrettes, and spend any remainder of free time reading comics or playing Dungeons and Dragons.