Beyond the cis gays’ cis gaze

The need for a trans linguistics


  • Lal Zimman University of California



transgender, trans linguistics, community-based linguistics, intersectionality, queer linguistics


Trans and other nonnormatively gendered subjectivities served a foundational role in queer linguistics, but it is only recently that a wave of trans researchers have begun to carve out distinctively trans approaches to the study of language. This commentary explores the question of why this shift has taken so long and how certain disciplinary norms have made linguistics a less-than-attractive home for trans scholars, namely an apoliticised ideology of descriptivism, the flippant indulgence of linguistic curiosity and claims to linguistic authority. Importantly, these processes are vulnerable to furthering not only transphobia but also racism, colonialism, ableism and linguistic subjugation. These convergences present opportunities for coalition-based responses to the maintenance of social hierarchies in linguistics and allied disciplines, and underscore the importance of community-based approaches to research on language and gender alterity.

Author Biography

Lal Zimman, University of California

Lal Zimman is an Associate Professor of Linguistics and Affiliated Faculty in Feminist Studies at UC Santa Barbara. His research takes a sociocultural linguistic approach to language and trans communities, applying a variety of methods to issues including embodiment, the gendered voice, the theorisation of identity and trans-affirming linguistic practice.


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How to Cite

Zimman, L. (2021). Beyond the cis gays’ cis gaze: The need for a trans linguistics. Gender and Language, 15(3), 423–429.



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