A Creative and Critical Investigation of Transgender Narratives and the Portrayal of Transgenderism in Contemporary Young Adult Fiction

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

Through exploring other writers’ portrayals of transgenderism in contemporary young adult (YA) fiction, I set out to see if it was possible to write a novel with a transgender protagonist where transgenderism was not the main focus of the plot. For this, I wrote a YA fantasy novel called Son of Flames, which is the first book in the Fallen Sons trilogy. This consists of 79444 words, which is approximately four fifths of my total thesis. To support this, I also wrote a critical rationale where I explore my research questions and how the novel helped me answer them.

Starting with Julie Ann Peters’s Luna (2004), I track transgender YA fiction through to the year 2016. Taking these works, I compare plot points, point of view and underlying themes. In the vast majority of these novels, the plot revolves almost entirely around issues of transgenderism. These issue novels are important for readers looking for information about the topic. However, because books can be said to function as both windows and mirrors, I argue that it is also important that novels exist where transgender characters take a main role without the whole plot being about their gender identity.

Originally, I intended to avoid issues of transgenderism and coming out completely in my own writing, but I found that this is impossible. Instead, these issues form a crucial part of my protagonist’s character arc and provide texture for the surrounding story. Whilst it is therefore possible to write a YA novel dealing with transgenderism where it is not the driving force of the plot, a transgender identity cannot be tacked onto a character only for the sake of diversity. If well-researched, the character’s gender identity informs how they react to events and other characters in the story. Transgenderism, therefore, must be only one part of a multifaceted character. This enhances the novel’s role as both a window and mirror.
Date of Award4 Sep 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester
SupervisorVanessa Harbour (Supervisor), Inga Bryden (Supervisor) & Andrew Melrose (Supervisor)

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