Gender and Language, Vol 1, No 1 (2007)

Do bodies matter? Travestis' embodiment of (trans)gender identity through the manipulation of the Brazilian Portuguese grammatical gender system

Rodrigo Borba, Cristina Ostermann

Abstract


This study investigates Southern Brazilian travestis’ manipulation of gender identity through the manipulation of the Portuguese grammatical gender system. We argue that
the embodiment of feminine features onto biologically male bodies enables travestis to wander through various ideologies about masculinity and femininity and incorporate these ideologies in their linguistic construction of identity. Travestis use masculine forms to refer to themselves or other travestis when: (1) producing narratives about the time before their body transformations took place; (2) reporting speech produced by others when talking about travestis; (3) talking about themselves within their family relationships; and, perhaps the most unveiling category, (4) distinguishing
themselves from ‘other’ travestis they do not identify with – a face-saving strategy. Thus, the study shows how southern Brazilian travestis use the grammatical gender
system in Portuguese as a linguistic resource to manipulate their identity/ies and the identity/ies of the community they belong to.

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DOI: 10.1558/genl.2007.1.1.131

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