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Ford, A 2016, 'Transliteracy and the Trans New Wave: independent trans cinema representation, classification, exhibition', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright A Ford 2016


The Trans New Wave is an emergent genre of independent gender–diverse films. This research embarks upon the first critical study of the Trans New Wave as a new genre in cinema emerging in the twenty first century. The use of transliteracy is presented as an innovative theoretical approach to reading film representations of the Trans New Wave. The methodology for this research is ethnographic and autoethnographic, centered on gender–diverse communities, centralising independent trans filmmakers in international screen and film festival culture. The term trans is used throughout the thesis as an inclusive, non–essentialist term, acknowledging the specificity of the term within western settings, embracing concepts beyond the western binary. The research necessitates an interdisciplinary approach, utilising a combined methodology, situated within the social sciences and cultural studies, theoretically engaging with contemporary transgender studies, screen and media studies, film festival studies and geographies of sexualities within specific areas. The research project is qualitative.

Through exegesis of purposively selected key case study texts The Thing (Rhys Ernst, USA, 2011), Trans Boys (Ali Russell and Monique Schafter, Aus., 2012) and Sexing the Transman (Buck Angel, USA, 2011), trans representations currently being produced will be contexualised within the broader cinema of the Trans New Wave. The thesis embraces all that is ‘post’ in the study of film (from poststructuralism to postmodernism), incorporating industrial (screen industry) contexts and materials into the researches. Central theories from gender, queer and trans studies are incorporated throughout.

Through fieldwork with Trans New Wave filmmakers and independent gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer and trans film festivals and drawing upon my autoethnographic experience as the Festival Director of a regional queer film festival in Australia (Queer Fruits Film Festival, 2009–2012), the research investigates the role of independent queer and trans film festivals in presenting alternative cultural, social and political representations of gender and sexuality, which disrupt dominant (gender– normative) paradigms. The role of official classifications (ratings) systems in maintaining hegemonic standards is critically evaluated in relation to independent film production and exhibition, with examples of gay, queer and trans films that have been Refused Exemption to screen (a ‘ban’) from exhibition in Australia. The transactivist significance of Buck Angel’s film Sexing the Transman and his public advocacy work is situated within the growing international trans community. The Trans New Wave is contexualised amidst the growing necessity for sexually and gender diverse cinematic representations by and for trans communities.