Decolonizing Transgender: Deconstructing Western Framings of Indigenous Gender-Diverse Identities

Date of Award

May 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication and Rhetorical Studies


Kathleen E. Feyh


benevolent violence, coloniality of gender, decolonial, gender-diverse, indigenous, transgender

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Media representations of gender-diverse Indigenous communities are growing in popularity. A common trend in the framing of these populations is to use Western gender terms in order to describe and frame indigenous gender identities to Western audiences. Situated at the intersection of rhetorical studies, decolonial studies, and queer/transgender studies, this thesis uses a decolonial lens to explore how Western media representations of gender-diverse indigenous people perpetuate colonial ideologies of gender. I use Mara Lugones’ concept of the coloniality of gender in addition to Pedro J. DiPietro’s benevolent violence in order to articulate how media representations misrepresent indigenous identities through their privileging of Western epistemologies. I look at The Guardian documentary “Muxes – Mexico’s Third Gender” to explore how the use of what I call the “third-gender frame” and the “naming frame” are both privilege Western understandings of gender and contribute to misrepresenting muxe identity. Through this critique, I also look to the vernacular voices of the muxes in the video to see how their rhetoric differs from that of the media’s framing and argue that vernacular voices are potential ways to resist theses Western frames. Ultimately, I conclude that media representations of non-dominant groups is tense with both potentials and pitfalls, but that scholarship in academia maintains a special vantage point from which to identify the presence of the coloniality of gender and benevolent violence, resist and repair media’s false narratives, and work to delink from modernity/coloniality.


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