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The Weight of (Im)possibility: Exploring body weight and shape with trans and gender non-conforming people

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2022
Number of pages373
Awarding Institution
Thesis sponsors
  • ESRC
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In recent decades, theorising around trans embodiment has sought to move away from narratives of the ‘wrong’ and pathological trans body. Emergent analytical and theoretical frameworks have instead highlighted the ways in which particular bodies become designated as trans, and what this means for the kinds of possibilities for embodiment that are opened up and closed down at the levels of both individual relationships and contexts, and structural and systemic
constraints. The significance of weight and shape in relation to these embodied
possibilities has not yet been fully explored within sociology.

Drawing upon qualitative interviews with 21 participants who identified as
trans and/or gender non-conforming, this thesis examines the intersection of
body weight and shape with trans and gender non-conforming positionality in
order to address gaps in existing knowledge around the meaning and significance of weight and shape for trans and gender non-conforming people and communities in the UK. Phenomenological epistemology informs this thesis and the thematic analysis (TA) undertaken, centring participants’ experiential claims.

In discussion of the findings presented, I argue that weight and shape are
enmeshed with the constraints and possibilities of gendered positionality in ways that indicate the need for wide-reaching and profound transformation in order for relationships with the body based on connection, acceptance, and pleasure to be more consistently and widely possible for trans and gender non-conforming people. Relationships with weight and shape, as I illustrate in this thesis, were not simply shaped by the conditions and possibilities for embodiment in which they were situated, but represented sites of agentic engagement within and through conditions of embodied possibility.