Emerging genders

semiotic agency and the performance of gender among genderqueer individuals


  • Anna I. Corwin Saint Mary’s College of California




semiotics, agency, non-normative genders, genderqueer, performativity, embodiment


This article examines how individuals who identify with genders outside a male/female binary make use of the semiotic material available to them in the environment to interactively construct non-binary gender(s). Through microinteractional analysis of the speech produced by individuals who identify as genderqueer, the article demonstrates how individuals draw on an array of signs to create and perform non-normative genders. The article argues that the implementation of embodied signs can be understood using a model of semiotic agency, which reveals how the signs themselves vary in their durability and manipulability in time and space. The article further exemplifies how these semiotic displays are used to perform gender as non-binary, mutable, and changing in time. The article uncovers how genderqueer individuals both challenge and maintain a binary gender system in their daily interactions. Moreover, the article demonstrates how individuals draw on available semiotic material available in the environment in ways that allow gender to emerge dynamically in interaction and transform over time.

Author Biography

Anna I. Corwin, Saint Mary’s College of California

Anna I. Corwin is an assistant professor in the Anthropology Department at Saint Mary’s College of California, specializing in the linguistic anthropological exploration of gender and language, language and religion, as well as prayer, care and the experience of aging.


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How to Cite

Corwin, A. I. (2017). Emerging genders: semiotic agency and the performance of gender among genderqueer individuals. Gender and Language, 11(2), 255–277. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.27552