Summary of "Regeneration and trans possibility in Doctor Who" by Damien Hagen.

Quote from the article "Regeneration and trans possibility in Doctor Who" by Damien Hagen. Quote reads, "Before I understood myself as transgender, there was something about the Doctor's ability to transform in the face of death that called to me. I longed to transform like the Doctor."
Quotes from the article "Regeneration and trans possibility in Doctor Who" by Damien Hagen. First quote in image reads, "Doctor Who didn't make me trans, but it did make the possibility of transness tangible for me." Second quote reads, "The Doctor tells fans that change and regeneration are good, and in a world in which trans people face exceptionally high rates of violence, suicide, housing insecurity, unemployment, and isolation, that message is powerful."

These excerpts are from Damien Hagen’s “Regeneration and trans possibility in Doctor Who,” which was published in the most recent issue of Transformative Works and Cultures, OTW’s open access journal. It’s free to read… here (click the button that says HTML)!

Here’s what the editors of the issue had to say: 

“Damien Hagen focuses on Doctor Who fandom and the way in which the Doctor’s regenerative capacity provides the means for queer and trans fans to explore trans possibilities and gender euphoria. Long before the Doctor’s ability to change genders became canon in Doctor Who in 2018 with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, trans fans have been drawn to the series for its emphasis on changeability, malleability, and bodily fluidity. Through an autoethnographic lens, Hagen argues that Doctor Who can be read as a trans media object—one that is not necessarily explicitly transgender but instead opens up gendered possibilities in which trans fans can imagine otherwise. Hagen further draws on other trans fans’ queer and trans readings of a variety of canonical moments in Doctor Who to argue that the ephemerality and liminality of the series can be particularly pleasurable and gender affirming for trans and nonbinary fans who are undertaking their own processes of regeneration. While the series might never have been intended as a trans narrative, Hagen argues that through fannish interpretations and queer readings, it has the potential to provide a mechanism for survival, self-love, and gender euphoria.”

In the plainest terms, Hagen discusses his own/other trans fans’ experiences with Doctor Who as a tool to understand and love their transness. Themes of the show that trans people may relate to include:

-Emphasis on change as a good thing (and lifesaving).
-Carrying previous selves into the future, loving previous bodies and selves.
-The specific experience of ‘creating’ a new body (the Doctor’s ability to regenerate), acceptance of/excitement about those bodies from oneself/others.

Doctor Who, Hagen argues, is a “trans media object,” or a piece of media that may not have explicitly trans characters but allows viewers to see transness reflected in other ways. For instance, when the Doctor and other characters accept their new body, it can feel affirming to a trans viewer who is also navigating the experience of a changing body. Hagen writes, “The regenerations weren’t about gender, but my nascent transness felt them as such.” 

Do you have a similar experience with Doctor Who? Or are there other media you have felt similarly about?

“Regeneration and trans possibility in Doctor Who,” by Damien Hagen
Tagged on: