Loving Oneself: And Scaring the Crap Out of People Who Don’t

The last theme I want to address in queer online community participation is the act of getting to know oneself through participation online. I want to start by giving you an excerpt from a Tumblr post I reblogged a while back from a beautiful person I won’t name here (for privacy reasons).

“I’ve been watching silently as [my picture] is reblogged over and over, feeling a mix of annoyance and confusion. The funny thing is that the one thing I have not felt during this time is ugly. I keep coming back to the picture trying to understand what there is to mock about it and each time I find nothing. Each time I look,  I feel exactly the way I felt when I first posted it, cute. That is a victory for me because in the not too distant past, I would have been devastated by this” (Anonymous Tumblr post).

The person who wrote this post uploaded a picture of themselves on a particularly cute-feeling day and was subjected to ridicule by other users on Tumblr. I have to admit, I get upset if I post a picture and no one bothers to like it, so I have endless respect for the bravery and tough-skin of this particular person. After seeing this, another group within the blog community took up that same photo and praised this person for their confidence, beauty, and unabashed self-love. Self-love is not something we often talk about in a positive context. How much time should we really dedicate to getting to know ourselves and understanding our own personalities, appearances, and desires?

Way back in 1939, Philosopher Eric Fromm wrote:

“Modern culture is pervaded by a taboo on selfishness. It teaches that to be selfish is sinful, and to love others is virtuous” (Fromm 1).

The question I present to you, my dear blog-istas, is this: If we love ourselves, does it increase our ability to love others? If we enjoy our our own presence and know the depths of our own identities, what is the affect on the people we hold dear? Let me know if you figure that out.

Works Cited:

Fromm, Eric. “Selfishness and Self-love.” Psychiatry: Journal for the Study of Interpersonal Process 2 (1939): 507-23. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <http://erich-fromm.de/biophil/en/images/stories/pdf-Dateien/1939b-e.pdf&gt;.


Making Connections

Another theme I’ve drawn out of the queer-o-sphere over the course of this semester is one of personal connections. The web allows queer people to meet one another virtually and physically, foster relationships, and find meaningful connections with folks that might not be accessible were it not for the interwebz. As an example, I’d like to introduce you to a YouTube channel I’ve been frequenting for about three years called TMatesFTM. TMates is a daily vlog channel where partners of FTM (female-to-male) trans* folks talk about their experiences, their relationships, their trials and tribulations, etc. The channel description says it all:

“This is a place for support and a place to feel like you belong” (Youtube.com/TMatesFTM).

In one particularly grainy video, Jackie introduces her boyfriend Rok. She says, “We met on Facebook.” Rok jumps in, “You were commenting on Nate’s picture and then I said something…you added me.” Jackie laughs, “We were talking on MSN? Or Skype or something? …and then we just got to know each other like that” (Youtube.com/TMatesFTM).

In her piece, “Studying Online Love and Cyber Romance,” Nicole Doring writes:

“The fact that people fall in love on the net, and truly experience deep feelings during the course of their cyber-romance, has been demonstrated too often to still be denied. Nevertheless, it is often doubted that genuine love relationships exist on the net. How can it be possible to lead a close, intimate relationship if partipants are only there for each other primarily via their computer-mediated messages?” (Doring 3)

Denial of personal connection despite physical proximity plagues queer folks who find friendship, love, and sexual connection online (Doring 7), but couples like Jackie and Rok dispute claims that the internet isn’t a place of substantial connection. Andrew from qcsms says meeting someone on Tumblr nowadays is no different from seeing someone on the subway.

“I think that social media connects you with a lot of people…I’ve embraced technology as a way to meet people and as a way to engage in relations with people. If we’re speaking in the biblical sense, I’ve gotten to know people through social media…it’s perfectly fine” (qcsms.tumblr.com).

We know it’s possible to find reflections of ourselves, seek advice, read stories, and express ourselves freely, but it seems the queer web also provides opportunity for physical, “true life” connections. Whether in eventually in person or forever cyber-based.

Work Cited:

Doring, Nicole. “Studying Online Love and Cyber Romance.” 2002. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <http://www.nicola-doering.de/publications/cyberlove_doering_2002.pdf&gt;.

“TMates.” TMatesFTM. YouTube. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/user/TMatesFTM?feature=watch&gt;.


Heavy Petting

Now, because I am such a fan of Jessica and Majestic, I’m going to start of this next theme section by talking about them again. Are you surprised? Didn’t think so. Another grandiose theme I have discovered in my endless creeping of the queer web is very sexual. It’s sexy. It’s sextastic. It’s sex. Now, I’m not really talking about porn. The prevalence of internet porn is dramatic and interesting (for more info, check out these infographics), but what I’m talking about is a second tier of solidarity in a way: Sexual solidarity created through imagery and advice. The internet is a place where we find out how weird we are (sexually and otherwise) and that it’s actually okay.

The Luxery-Legays, as well as others who I will link at the bottom of this post, are independent queer sex educators who provide images, experiences, and advice to help people along in their process of sexual self-realization. They write:

“As heavy petters, we believe that people should be able to access funny, relevant, helpful, non-judgmental and supportive information that has the potential to enrich their lives, relationships and sexcapades” (heavypettingtalktv.tumblr.com).

Jessica and Majestic proclaim that they are sick of standing by while sex-educators miss the mark on queer sexuality and relationships. They believe it’s time for people to take sex-ed into their own hands and show those looking how radical, educational, and pleasurable sex can be. In his book “The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life,” Michael Warner writes the following.

“The culture has thousands of ways for people to govern the sex of others–and not just harmful, coercive sex, like rape, but the most personal dimensions of pleasure, identity, and practice. We do this directly, through prohibition and regulation, and indirectly, by embracing one identity or one set of tastes, as though they were universally shared, or should be” (Warner 2).

Queer online sex educators like Jessica and Majestic go against such normative sex discourses to empower their audience on such topics as fisting, scissoring and submission, and self love.

They get how cool they are.

Below are some other queer online sex-ed resources to check out. The best part of this whole theme is–if you don’t see what you want, you can publish it yourself. No, but seriously, do it. And send me the link.

http://queersexed.tumblr.com/ 

http://queerporn.tv/wp/free-queer-how-to-porn-sex-ed

http://www.youtube.com/user/QueerFAQtor

Works Cited:

“HEAVY PETTING.” HEAVY PETTING. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <http://heavypettingtalktv.tumblr.com/&gt;.

Warner, Michael. The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life. New York: Free, 1999. Print.

Image Credit:

Weird Bird: http://bit.ly/JlqgP1

Jessica and Majestic: http://heavypettingtalktv.tumblr.com/


Glitterpolitic

Joseph Variscos documentary project really got me thinking about the places online where I started to notice myself. What were the spaces where I first saw my reflection or started to gain an idea of what I could be, what I am, what I want to be? One of those spaces is Glitterpolitic. Anyone who knows me well will be able to tell you about my quiet fandom of Jessica Luxury and Majestic Legay. Jessica and Majestic are a couple of queers who met on the internet, fell in love, made a nest together across international borders, got married, and educate myself and tons of other queers every day about sex, beauty, fashion, gender, and overall queerness. My first introduction to this dynamic duo was through Majestic’s collaborative blog, Glitterpolitic.

thnx glitterpolitic

I can’t describe the blog any better than Majestic and co-author, Ashley Aron.

“Glitter Politic is self-love blown open.

Glitter is a beautiful external reflection of the brightest, most powerful light that shines inside each one of us. In a world that makes hating yourself and others so easy and available, embodying a radical politic of glitter is challenging. By doing so, we accept and perpetuate the radical notion that there is enough room for all of us to shine. We believe that by nurturing an ethic of compassion, kindness, and bad-ass love for ourselves, we can create space in our communities where that love is not a limited resource. Glitter politic means supporting, encouraging, and making visible the multifaceted ways in which we present, resist, and survive within our communities. Glitter politic means banishing the normative, oppressive, patriarchal, capitalist, imperialist ideology that the world isn’t big enough for all of our bodies, ideas, and voices” (glitterpolitic.tumblr.com).

On the blog, Majestic and Ashley answer questions, tell stories, communicate, create, and catalog the meanings of body love, femininity, masculinity, and queer space/identities have in their lives. In sharing this blog with you, I want to make a point about the importance of solidarity. Remember way back at the beginning when I decided I wanted to discover the meanings queer folks find online? Solidarity is a huge one. Solidarity is the degree to which people integrate with others who share aspects of identity in groups. In essence, solidarity describes what ties people together. What are the bridges and bindings that allow us to feel a sense of community? (Jary and Jary 621) Much like what I did when I declared us all queer back in the very beginning, Glitterpolitic creates an atmosphere that allows queer people to seek connection by identifying with the experiences of others. (Are you hearing framing here?)

xxnova writes in to the blog saying:

“thank you so very much for this tumblr. It has made me infinitely more comfortable with my gender identity & body image. Please continue doling out generous servings of wonderful” (glitterpolitic.tumblr.com).

The power of solidarity comes from understanding, commonality, difference, and dissent. It comes from support. It comes from radical honesty and self-evaluation. For this queer (and many others from what I can gather), the internet is dripping with solidarity. This is just one example of where those drops gather.

Works Cited:

Jary, David, and Julia Jary. Collins Dictionary of Sociology. Glasgow: Harper Collins, 1991. Print.

Majestic, Legay and Ashley Aron. “GLITTER POLITIC.” GLITTER POLITIC. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <http://glitterpolitic.tumblr.com/&gt;.

Image Credit: 

Glitterpolitic: glitterpolitic.tumblr.com


Ever have a moment…

…when you’re doing research and you find the one thing that exemplifies every argument you’ve been trying to make and sums it all up perfectly and you’re like OMGOMGOMGOMGYESTHISISAMAZING and then….you realize that it kind of makes you seem irrelevant…? Well. It’s too good not to share so check this out.

Now, having watched that and hopefully agreeing with me about it’s off-the-chart level of cool, I hope you are interested in learning more. This is a project, started by Deputyjoev or Joseph Varisco, where queers from all over submit videos of themselves talking about the role of social media in their lives (qcsms.tumblr.com).Varisco introduces each video with a version of the same intro line…

“Vincent [or Helios or Colin or Grace] is a queer individual who uses the internet…and has something to say” (qcsms.tumblr.com)

Insights provided by folks who have participated in this project so far are fascinating, sexy, revolutionary, obvious, confusing, theoretical, real, sad, funny, and queer. Their experiences translate the theoretical notions of framing into practice by illuminating the role of technology and internet space/community in the blood-and-sweat lives of real people. Real queers. I have to give a shout out to Varisco for thinking of this project before I did–I am jealous, but impressed. 🙂

Here are a few notable quotes that jumped out at me from the videos:

Alex: “I think that’s telling less about the medium, but more about this need to imagine community that is outside of these straight linear fictions” (qcsms.tumblr.com).

Vincent: “I’m interested in disclosure as a larger performance of identity and I think that social media had a really important role to play in that” (qcsms.tumblr.com).

Helios: “When I first started thinking that I was gay I would hide in my dorm room…just listening to the coming out archives on Youtube and all of these vloggers telling their stories about coming out and I would just listen and think…maybe I’ll finally here one of these stories and it will resonate” (qcsms.tumblr.com).

Grace: “I really kind of started to form…a queer lens. Kind of started to look at things through my identity” (qcsms.tumblr.com).

We are a generation of queers who have found, explored, created, maintained, disrupted, and reaffirmed our identities and relationships online. We are the internet.

Works Cited:

Varisco, Joseph. “A Queer Culture and Social Media Study.” Qcsms. 2012. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <qcsms.tumblr.com>.


Framing + Tumblr

What I’d like to do now is outline the application of frame analysis to communities formed on the streaming web log (blog) and social networking site, Tumblr.com. Not only that, but I plan to delight you with the specific example of genderfork.tumblr.com, which is a reblog and submission based community blog for trans* and genderqueer folks. Tumblr is a social blogging platform that allows users to manage personal blogs or group blogs, publishing original context, reblogging original content of other users, sending and publishing personal messages called “asks,” and submitting original content to the personal or group blogs of other users. Users “follow” the blogs of other individuals, all of whose content then appears as a streaming feed on the user’s homepage, also know as the “Dashboard.”

The frame within which one operates on the Tumblr platform determines the aspects of reality that become noticed by or “alive to” each person. Tumblr users decide which blogs to follow based on their personal interests and desires, just as an individual might enter into a situation for any number of reasons, but the material on the Dashboard that becomes relevant and “real” to that person depends entirely on the frame of the person’s online community. Through the unique process of reblogging on Tumblr, users make claims for identity by associating with other people’s original content. In this way, social identity is learned.

Let’s take this photo, reblogged by the moderators of genderfork. The photo depicts only the back and shoulder blades of a thin, white skinned person. A filmy, white ace bandage is wrapped in a strip, three or four times around the upper part of the person’s back. Now let’s all take a guess at the meaning of this photograph based on our understanding as individuals operating either inside or outside the frame of the genderfork community.  One could guess that this is a photo of a person with some sort of back injury. But someone who has a deep understanding of the community formed around genderfork, would know immediately this is a photograph of a person with a bound chest. Binding is an action practiced by many people with breasts who choose to present as having no breasts. Although many people may practice binding, it is most commonly observed among  genderqueer people and trans* men. The social context of the genderfork community allows a person operating within the frame to have an immediate understanding of the meaning associated with the photo without reading the caption or exploring the comments.

So, what I’m trying to get across through all of this theoretical babble is this: if you are living and operating within a certain frame, that frame will affect the way you understand any interaction or experience you have. Frames can drastically change our understanding of meanings and materials. If one were looking only at this blog from within the frame of an online genderqueer community and had no other background about the society within which it existed, one might understand gender fluidigy and trans* identities to be mainstream, accepted, or “normal.” The rules understood and followed by the members of this community create a certain kind of world that makes the outside world seem almost unreal.

Works Cited:

“Genderforkr.” Genderforkr. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <http://genderfork.tumblr.com/&gt;.

Image Credit:

Bound: http://bit.ly/HYPIou


Let’s talk frames

In reading about the experiences of queer folks online, my inner theoretical monster has definitely lept from the shadows…as I’m sure you can tell by reading some of my previous posts. One thing that has become very important in terms of my personal understanding of queer meaning in blogging and vlogging spaces is the concept of frames, introduced to me and to the social world by one, Erving Goffman.

Goffman’s theory of frame analyses explains that communities, groups, and sets of individuals have a certain shared perception that allows them to define what reality is and what situations mean. This shared perception, a set of rules that governs any given activity, Goffman identifies as the “frame.” The process of framing is one that concerns the structure of experience and the organization of collective activity; Goffman is not at all concerned here with the agency or consciousness of the individual. His goal is to make observations about objective structures, seeing the subject as unselfconscious (Jameson 238). Though the individual may define his or her situation as “real,” the reasoning behind that belief is constructed socially within the context of a frame.

The isolation of a particular frame takes place when the analyst focuses in on a “strip” of activity or actions. According to Goffman, the term strip refers to “any arbitrary slice or cut from the stream of ongoing activity” (Goffman 10). Any instance that can be identified and organized can be analyzed through its frame, and as many possible frames exist as the ways in which an event can be differentiated (Craib 81). Goffman’s theory contributes the idea that one strip of activity could have many meanings assigned to it, depending on the frame within which the actor is operating. The frame is merely the tool by which we analyze events; a camera, as it were, that creates a picture of reality (Gameson 603).  This picture is comprised of what the actor is “alive to at a particular moment” or what he can “take into his mind” (Goffman 13). The frame serves to connect meaning to a situation that would otherwise be meaningless to the individual.

Each strip of activity is originally located within a “primary framework” that determines whether the situation is naturally occurring or man-made (Gameson 604). The frames are then situated within a still larger structure: the “definition of the situation,” which is described as the actor’s largest subjective response. Within the primary framework, then, groups have the ability to alter the meaning of the strip through collective action and understanding. The two processes by which this change becomes possible are “keying,” or shifting the framework to change the mutual understanding of certain actions, or “fabrication,” the active deception of one or more individuals by a group (Goffman 40). So imagine you’re hanging out with your friends down at the Chok’lit Shoppe and Pop Tate is slinging you a couple of burgers. (Let’s hope he has black bean burgers or some other vegan option at this point. Pop–come on) You say to your buddy, “Hey man! That baseball game this afternoon was real groovy! Every guy really gave it his all!” So your buddy responds, “Yeah cool story bro. Too bad you were there giving it your all or we could have actually won the game.” Your bud has just changed the key of your frame from happy go-lucky Archie land to jerk-tastic Reggie city by making you feel wicked crummy about what you just said/did. Capeesh? Goffman describes these processes as:

“The set of conventions by which a given activity, one already meaningful in terms of some primary framework, is transformed by the participants to something quite else” (Goffman 43-44).

Scholars of frame analysis believe that frames are indispensable to the process of communication (Scheff 371). Without an understanding of context as it relates to frame, as Thomas Scheff wrote, an analyst “may well misinterpret the meaning of discourse (Scheff 372). Now—try to keep all of this in mind when reading my next post. Buckle your seat belts and prepare for…A CASE STUDY!

Works Cited:

Craib, I. “Erving Goffman: Frame Analysis.” Philosophy of the Social Sciences 8.1 (1978): 79-86. Print.

Gameson, William A. “Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience.” Contemporary Sociology 4.6 (1975). Print.

Goffman, Erving. Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. New York: Harper & Row, 1974. Print.

Scheff, Thomas J. “The Structure of Context: Deciphering Frame Analysis*.”Sociological Theory 23.4 (2005): 368-85. Print.

Image Credit: 

Goffman: http://bit.ly/Jesxdh

Pop Tate: http://bit.ly/IFFjPv