Transition Trauma Metaphor in Transgender Narrative


  • Alla Martynyuk V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, Ukraine



intersubjective model of meaning, metaphor, narrative, transgender, trauma


This study combines methodological tools of conceptual metaphor theory and narrative psychology with theoretical assumptions of the intersubjective psycholinguistic approach to meaning to explore instantiations of transition narrative metaphors in 16 TED talks given by transgender people and posted on the TED platform within the period between January 2013 and July 2020. The speakers are aged from 20 to 70; 8 males and 8 females; 2 black and 9 white Americans, 2 Filipinos, 1 black South-African, 1 Puerto Rican, and 1 white Australian. The study offers a new interpretation of narrative metaphor based on the intersubjective model of meaning. Within this model, narrative metaphor is conceived as extended conceptual metaphor instantiated in a number of multimodal metaphoric expressions made coherent by the textual, social, cultural, and historical context of the narrative, but primarily by its interactive situational context, which includes the audience into the narrative through empathy and gives them power to change the narrative. The research reveals that all the 16 analysed narratives rest on the TRANSITION IS CONTEST narrative metaphor that represents a conflict between positive self-evaluation of transition by a transgender individual and its negative evaluation / unacceptance by the society, which makes transition a traumatic experience. The density of words and phrases instantiating the CONTEST metaphor in the 16 narratives varies from 2,5 to 3 % which means that they are key linguistic expressions of the narratives. The CONTEST metaphor provides a deeper insight into transgender transition compared to the JOURNEY/TRAVEL metaphor found to represent transition experience in existing cognitive linguistic and transgender studies. The JOURNEY/TRAVEL metaphor fails to grasp the intersubjective and, consequently, traumatic nature of transition experience. The results of the research suggest that narrative as well as narrative metaphor can be given a more accurate interpretation if they are approached from the intersubjective perspective, which reflects their true nature as socially and culturally shaped interactive phenomena. 

Author Biography

Alla Martynyuk , V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, Ukraine


Aizura, A. Z. (2012). The persistence of transgender travel narratives. In T., Cotten (Ed.). Transgender migrations: The bodies, borders, and politics of transition (pp. 139–156). New York & London, UK: Routledge.

Arenas, E. S. & Essam, B. A. (2018). Cognitive exploration of ‘Traveling’ in the poetry of Widad Benmoussa. East European Journal of Psycholinguistics, 5(2), 6–15.

Bodoin, E.R., Berd, C.T., & Adler, R.K. (2014). The clinical profile of the male-to-female transgender person of the 21st century. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 41, 39–54.

Booz, J., Dorman, K., & Walden, P. (2017). First-person narratives by transgender individuals on voice and communication. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 2(10), 60–63.

Bruner, J. (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bruner, J. (1987). Life as narrative. Social Research, 54(1), 11–32.

Bruner, J. (1990). Acts of Meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Davis, G.L. & Cross, H.J. (1979). Sexual stereotyping of Black males in interracial sex. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 8(3), 269–279.

Gallagher, S. (2005). How the Body Shapes the Mind. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Halberstam, J. (1998). Female Masculinity. Durham & London, UK: Duke University Press.

Hardy, C. (1998). Networks of Meaning: A Bridge Between Mind and Matter. Wesport, CT & London, UK: Praeger.

Hardy, T. L. D., Boliek, C. A., Aalto, D., Lewicke, J., Wells, K., & Rieger, J. M. (2020). Contributions of voice and nonverbal communication to perceived masculinity – femininity for cisgender and transgender communicators. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 63(4), 931–947.

Hines, S. (2007). Transforming Gender: Transgender Practices of Identity, Intimacy, and Care. Bristol, UK: Bristol University Press.

Heath, R. A. (2006). The Praeger Handbook of Transsexuality: Changing Gender to Match mindset. Westport, CT: Praeger

Koch-Rein, A. (2014). Mirrors, monsters, metaphors: transgender rhetorics and dysphoric knowledge. Ph.D. dissertation. Retrieved from

Kövecses, Z. (2002). Metaphor: A Practical Introduction. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Kövecses, Z. (2018). Metaphor in media language and cognition: A perspective from conceptual metaphor theory. Lege Artis. Language Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, 3(1), 124–141. https://doi/org/10.2478/lart-2018-0004

Labov, W. (1972). The transformation of experience in narrative syntax. In W., Labov (Ed.). Language in the inner city: Studies in the Black English vernacular (pp. 354–396). Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Lakoff, G. (1993). The contemporary theory of metaphor. In A., Ortony (Ed.). Metaphor and Thought. 2nd ed., (pp. 202–251). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors We Live By. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

László, J. (2015). The Science of Stories: An Introduction to Narrative Psychology. New York, NY: Routledge.

Lederer, J. (2015). Exploring the metaphorical models of transgenderism. Metaphor and Symbol 30(2), 95–117.

Martynyuk, A. (2017). “Now that the magic is gone” or toward cognitive analysis of verbal/coverbal communication. Cognition, Communication, Discourse, 15, 51–72.

Murray, M. (2003). Narrative psychology and narrative analysis. In P.M. Camic, J.E. Rhodes, & L. Yardley (Eds.). Qualitative research in psychology: Expanding perspectives in methodology and design (pp. 95–112). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Plummer, K. (1995). Telling Sexual Stories: Power, Change, and Social Worlds. N.Y.: Routledge.

Polkinghorne, D. E. (1988). Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences. N.Y.: State University of New York Press.

Prosser, J. (1998). Second Skins: The Body Narratives of Transsexuality. N.Y.: Columbia University Press.

Ricoeur, P. (1989). Time and narrative. Volume 3. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Riley, D. (2000). The words of Selves. Identification, Solidarity, Irony. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Sarbin, T. R. (1986). The narrative as root metaphor for psychology. In T.R. Sabrin (Ed.). Narrative psychology: The storied nature of human conduct (pp. 3–21). N.Y.: Praeger.

Salamon, G. (2010). Assuming a Body: Transgender and Rhetorics of Materiality. N.Y.: Columbia University Press.

Taniar, D., Gervasi, O., Murgante, B., Apduhan, B. O., & Pardede, E. (Eds.) (2010). International Conference on Computational Science and Its Applications. ICCSA 2010. Proceedings. Fukuoka, Japan: Springer Science & Business Media. Retrieved from

Thompson, E. (2007). Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Trevarthen, C. (1998). The concept and foundations of infant intersubjectivity. In S. Bråten (Ed.). Intersubjective communication and emotion in early ontogeny (pp. 15–46). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

White, D. G. (1999). Ar’n’t I a Woman?: Female Slaves in the Plantation South. N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Company.

Zahavi, D. (2005) Intersubjectivity and Selfhood: Investigating the First Person Perspective. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Zalevskaya, A. A. (2014). Interfejsnaya Teoriya Znacheniya Slova: Psiholingvisticheskij Podhod [Interfacial Theory of Word Meaning: A Psycholinguistic Approach]. London: IASHE.

Zlatev, J., Racine, T., Sinha, C., & Itkonen, E. (Eds.). (2008). The Shared Mind: Perspectives on Intersubjectivity. Amsterdam, NL: John Benjamins.


Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved from https://dictionary.cambridge.

Collins Online Dictionary. Retrieved from

Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved from

Sanbonmatsu, K. (2018, November). The biology of gender, from DNA to the brain. Retrieved from biology_of_gender_ from _ dna_to_the_brain

Stewart, D-L. (2019, March). Scenes from a Black trans life. Retrieved from

TED. Ideas worth spreading. Retrieved from




How to Cite

Martynyuk , A. (2021). Transition Trauma Metaphor in Transgender Narrative. East European Journal of Psycholinguistics, 8(1).