Event Title

Gulliver’s Travel Beyond the Gender Binary: Lemuel Gulliver as Transgender

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Casey Cothran

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

English

Location

West Center, Room 219

Start Date

22-4-2016 2:30 PM

End Date

22-4-2016 2:45 PM

Description

When Gulliver is in Houyhnhnmland, his gender identity falls into question due to his failure to uphold traditional binaries in the way that he sees himself, the way others see him, and the way he presents himself. In this paper, I will explain important transgender terminology, discuss the gender binaries, Gulliver’s body and social dysphoria in his mind and with others, and the importance of language. Gulliver’s transgender identity reveals itself in the presentation of the Houyhnhnms, the Yahoos, and where Gulliver falls on the species-spectrum of Houyhnhnmland. This spectrum metaphorically refers to gender identity, either in the male/female binary, the cisgender/transgender binary, or the opposition of gender to sex, wherein the Houyhnhnms represent gender identity and the Yahoos represent biological sex. The male/female and cis/trans binaries appear on the spectrum circumstantially. Gulliver’s dysphoria is impacted in his visit to Houyhnhnmland when he decides to physically out himself to his master, who then labels him a Yahoo despite Gulliver’s identification as a Houyhnhnm. Gulliver’s experiences in Houyhnhnmland are a representation of being transgender. While he is physically a Yahoo, Gulliver identifies as a Houyhnhnm, expresses body and social dysphoria, attempts to hide certain features on his body, and presents himself in a way other than his natural and biological self; he feels shame in the way he is approached sexually (heteronormativity), in his appearance, and in the way language is used toward him.

Course Assignment

Irish Literature, ENGL 525, Dr. Casey Cothran

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Apr 22nd, 2:30 PM Apr 22nd, 2:45 PM

Gulliver’s Travel Beyond the Gender Binary: Lemuel Gulliver as Transgender

West Center, Room 219

When Gulliver is in Houyhnhnmland, his gender identity falls into question due to his failure to uphold traditional binaries in the way that he sees himself, the way others see him, and the way he presents himself. In this paper, I will explain important transgender terminology, discuss the gender binaries, Gulliver’s body and social dysphoria in his mind and with others, and the importance of language. Gulliver’s transgender identity reveals itself in the presentation of the Houyhnhnms, the Yahoos, and where Gulliver falls on the species-spectrum of Houyhnhnmland. This spectrum metaphorically refers to gender identity, either in the male/female binary, the cisgender/transgender binary, or the opposition of gender to sex, wherein the Houyhnhnms represent gender identity and the Yahoos represent biological sex. The male/female and cis/trans binaries appear on the spectrum circumstantially. Gulliver’s dysphoria is impacted in his visit to Houyhnhnmland when he decides to physically out himself to his master, who then labels him a Yahoo despite Gulliver’s identification as a Houyhnhnm. Gulliver’s experiences in Houyhnhnmland are a representation of being transgender. While he is physically a Yahoo, Gulliver identifies as a Houyhnhnm, expresses body and social dysphoria, attempts to hide certain features on his body, and presents himself in a way other than his natural and biological self; he feels shame in the way he is approached sexually (heteronormativity), in his appearance, and in the way language is used toward him.