Despite the affective turn in critical and cultural communication research, there is little scholarship on the interplay of affect, identity, and self-perception among transgender and non-binary individuals as they live within and chafe against dominant cisheteronormative discourses. With the understanding that affective sensations are products of acculturation and often reflect the demands of broader society, this thesis focuses on the sensation of shame within transgender bodies as a product of the imposition of categorical identifications onto individuals whose bodies, minds, and desires are rendered incoherent within the dominant cisheteronormative frame. Through qualitative autoethnography grounded in feminist, critical, and Queer theories, this thesis explores the situations and everyday communicative encounters in which the author feels shame, and the ways this shame functions to seclude, repress and regulate bodies in both the present and the future. I argue that shame as an affect in transgender people emerges from a tension between internalized transphobia and the desire for an embodiment and social presence within a desired gender role. I identify six major themes related to shame and melancholy. The first three are about shame as a distance from the process of becoming an idealized self, shame as a product of self-silencing practices, and shame as failure to become a recognizable subject within the cisheteronormative frame. The second three are about possibilities for overcoming shame through Queer affective moments which make life within the tension of being transgender in a transphobic society feel more liveable, the possibility of developing affective resilience against harassment through developing bonds with community members, and in the possibility of using affective recognition to express inarticulable ideas about identities of which there is currently no language to describe in full.


Justin J. Rudnick

Committee Member

Katie Brunner

Committee Member

Yalda Hamidi

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)

Program of Study

Communication Studies


Humanities and Social Sciences

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License



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