31 May – Julián Albaladejo Suárez

Non-deliberate and deliberate metaphor use in Ex-transgender Christian personal stories

Transgender individuals experience a mismatch between their gender identity and their assigned sex. The ex-trans movement consists of religious organisations that encourage people to eliminate transgender desires and to accept the sex they were assigned at birth. In this study a corpus of 15 ex-trans Christian personal stories are analysed. All stories are published in Help4families.com, a website that invites its members to “embrace their God-given gender and to depart from the post modernist view of gender”.

Research on the transgender population has mainly focused on their medical care and their mental well-being (Dierckx et al. 2016). However, in order to comprehend how transgender and ex-trans people perceive themselves it is necessary to understand how they talk about their identity. Alexander (2015) claims that constructions of gender via narration are better served by metaphors that capture the lived and embodied complexities of gender. Nevertheless, with the exception of some metaphorical labels relevant to transgender discourse (Persson & Richards, 2008; Kharlamov, 2012), there is only one comprehensive metaphorical analysis of the cognitive models used to understand transgender identity: Lederer, 2015, and the conceptual tools employed by ex-trans are yet to be explored.

This study takes an interdisciplinary approach and focuses on (1) narrative structure and an analysis of the evaluation function in written versions of personal experience (Labov and Waletzky, 1967; Labov, 1972), (2) qualitative and quantitative analysis of non-deliberate and deliberate metaphor use (Steen, 2009, 2011) and (3) a sociological analysis of the way ex-transgenders present themselves and how they guide the private activity of writing a personal story in accordance with the moral standards of a reference group (Goffman, 1956, 1963). The narratology approach is aimed at describing the ex-trans personal story genre by analysing its fundamental sections and at examining how the narrators evaluate the internal experience of acknowledging their gender and the external experience of sharing it with an imagined audience. The metaphor analysis intends to describe the conceptual systems employed by ex-trans Christians to construct their identity and social role. The possible implications of the semiotic systems chosen are discussed along with the motives behind the need to come up with novel metaphors or to modify existing ones.

This study is the first on ex-trans personal stories and the first deliberate metaphor analysis of gender discourse. It posits metaphor as a basis for understanding complex expressions of gender, focusing on cognitive, communicative and discursive phenomena.

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