Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Paul Ciccantell

Second Advisor

Dr. Elena Gapova

Third Advisor

Dr. Jesse Smith


Cisgender, fragility, transgender, transphobia, queer

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Cisgender people in the United States are socialized in an environment that shields them from gender-identity-based stress. Like the construct of white fragility (DiAngelo, 2011), cisgender persons exhibit defensive behavior in response to encountering any gender-identity-based discomfort. Once triggered, defensive acts and false claims are deployed in an attempt to return to a state of comfort and normalcy. The stress that cisgender persons feel, and the defensive actions that they take upon encountering such gender-identity-based discomfort is what I refer to herein as Cisgender Fragility.

This theoretical construct of Cisgender Fragility is nuanced through intersectional synthesis of queer and race theory. Transgender and gender non-conforming persons are castigated in public and private spaces as being a danger to individuals as well as being a danger to social systems, such as the economy, sports, education, and the military. Further, transgender persons in the United States are viewed as being outside moral and market conformity. These attitudes are reproduced, in part, through the rhetoric of conservative media such as Fox News. Balancing the interests of moral conservatives and business conservatives, their discourse reverses the actual direction of danger and vilifies transgender persons as dangerous.

Using ethnographic content analysis, this study tests the Cisgender Fragility theory through coding and analysis of articles pertaining to transgender persons during the first year of the Donald Trump presidency. These exploratory findings support the theory and provide a platform for future research. This thesis elucidates Cisgender Fragility.