Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts


Theory and Criticism


Calcagno, Antonio


My thesis offers up an explicitly transfeminist mobilization of the theoretical notions of ontological pluralism and queer temporality against the pervasive cultural norm of cis-normativity and the dominant temporal logic of chrono-normativity. First, I critique the blatantly transphobic and fallacious rhetoric of Kathleen Stock, the face of the “gender critical” feminist movement in the UK, which I contextualize as part of a contemporary resurgence of the hateful legacy of trans-exclusion rooted in the second wave feminist movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s and cemented in academic theory by Janice Raymond’s (1979) Transsexual Empire. I then delve deeper, aiming to expose a subtle and under interrogated trend of transphobia and trans-resistant presuppositions endemic to Anglo-American and French feminist philosophy through an extended engagement with the work and thought of Luce Irigaray and Judith Butler. Next I trace an evolution of philosophical treatments of the notions of ontology and temporality, from the early groundbreaking interventions of Immanuel Kant and Martin Heidegger in the historically masculinist continental philosophical tradition, to the contemporary notions of ontological pluralism and queer temporalities. Finally, I engage in an affirmatively critical analysis of a selection of autoethnographic and autobiographical accounts of transsexual femininity and transfeminine transitioning. Ultimately I argue that the embracement of diverse and even seemingly conflictual narratives of gendered existence, including both transsexual narratives and narratives of gender variance or nonconformity – a possibility predicated on broadened and radically inclusive understandings of ontology and temporality – is crucial to both the theoretical goal of expanding and transforming hegemonic cultural understandings of gender in relation to personal identity, and to the political aim of fostering equitable and just conditions for persons who occupy nonhegemonic subject positions – specifically trans and nonbinary identities – in society.

Summary for Lay Audience

In my thesis I contend that the eradication of societal trans-resistance and transphobia depends in part upon embracing narratives of gendered experience which may depart from or conflict with conventional temporal and ontological norms. I start by exploring how the concepts of temporality (time) and ontology (the study of existence) have been dealt with in the history of philosophy in order to show how current avenues of thought in the academic domains of queer theory and transgender studies can build on and amend early philosophical approaches to thinking about the human experience in new and productive ways. Specifically, I emphasize how the work and thought of current queer and trans theorists is paving a path toward more inclusive and less “normative” ways of understanding and conceptualizing how human beings exist, ontologically and temporally, as gendered beings with distinct and equally valid ways of self-identifying (i.e. “gender identities”).