No Longer a ‘Guy’, But a ‘Flaming-Hot Mess of a Queen’ : The Role of Language in Contemporary Nonbinary Autobiographical Life Writing



Year of publication 2024
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Life Writing
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Keywords nonbinary; life writing; gender identity; metalanguage
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Description This article discusses the employment and role of language in selected contemporary Anglophone nonbinary life-writing narratives. Initially, it contextualises these works within the present-day nonbinary visibility and representation debate and through the discussion of older similar life-writing texts, foregrounding the theme of authorial agency over one’s representation in relation to diverse readership. In the analysis, I explore how the narrators relate their language-related struggles, both with their environment (e.g. [un]acceptance of their pronouns) and with the identity formation in the absence of vocabulary. Some narrate the search for, and affective response to finding a suitable existing vocabulary. Narrators and their loved ones who prefer creating their own words are discussed in the second part of the analysis examining existing vocabulary alternation, neologisms, and language creativity. I show how nonbinary autobiographical life writing is impacted by the authors’ hyperaware metalingual engagement with imperfect language, and demonstrate how they recreate this language as a ‘site of resistance’, successfully navigating its oppressive binaristic genderedness to narratively construct and visibilise their identities on their own terms. The Version of Record of this manuscript has been published and is freely available in Life Writing, May 12 2023,
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