Tag Archives: trans*

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;.



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

Locating yourself through language

While traipsing about the internet recently, gathering literature for my senior thesis, I discovered an interesting article written in 2010 by a couple of social workers who were conducting a larger study on LGBT youth identities. These folks became particularly interested in the construction of identity through language that they observed among genderqueer youth, in particular, and returned to their population to do a more focused analysis (Saltzburg and Davis 88). After observing conversations among a group of 10 youth, positioned as “outsider witnesses (92),” the authors made the following observation, among others:

“The social vocabulary used to represent gender does not match how they have come to know themselves, leaving them mislabeled and misrepresented by conversations that do not include them” (Saltzburg and Davis 94).

Saltzburg and Davis explained that the youth look to disrupt and re appropriate gendered language to better fit their non-binary identities (94). They use words such as “femme,” “fluid,” and “genderqueer” to create variations of stagnant terms that are used in mainstream society to modify behavior and identity (94). “Language,” as the authors so clearly put, “constitutes and creates the meanings of our lives” (Saltzburg and Davis 95).

This notion harkens back to Judith Butler’s claim that the experiences of those whose identities are deemed false or unacceptable qualify as “unlivable lives” (218). She writes that although being accused of being a copy is a form of oppression, if one is oppressed than one is, in fact, an intelligible subject. In order to experience oppression, one must exist.  Those people who are labeled unreal suffer from something worse than oppression: “To find that one is fundamentally unintelligible (indeed, that the laws of culture and of language find one to be an impossibility) is to find that one has not yet achieved access to the human” (Butler 218). Saltzburg and David reiterate Butler’s sentiment in their data analysis, saying, “Absense of social recognition [lack of language] translates as invalidating and dishonoring of their ‘lived experience'” (99). Language is the tool that brings ideas into reality–without the power of language reclamation and creation, genderqueer people do not exist.

Works Cited:

Butler, Judith. Undoing Gender. New York: Routledge, 2004. Print.

Saltzburg, Susan, and Tamara Davis. “Co-Authoring Gender-Queer Youth Identities: Discursive Tellings and Retellings.” Journal of Ethnic And Cultural Diversity in Social Work 19.2 (2010): 87-108. Print.

Trans* teens on YouTube. They exist.

Now that I’ve talked and talked and talked about objectivity and social media and theoretical notions of genderqueerness and what all those things MEAN?!!!??, I suppose it’s time to dive into some analysis, wouldn’t you say? I want to start by talking about a certain article that was posted on Salon.com back in February of this year. The article is entitled “Trans Teens Turn to YouTube” and it was written by Tracy Clark Florey, Salon’s in-house sex and relationships writer. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been following tons of trans* folks on YouTube for…forever. (And by forever, what I mean is approximately 3 years) So naturally, when this article was shared by one of my Facebook friends a while back, I was intrigued and skeptical. I’m used to seeing ignorant, insensitive headlines like “Transgender Teens: Girls will be Boys” orTransgender Teenager Prostitutes to Raise Cash for Surgery to Look Female.” Really? I mean, really?

To my surprise and delight, Clark-Florey treats the experiences of the teens featured in her article with respect and touches honestly upon the very phenomenon that interests me–trans* teens turning to YouTube for advice and community! She describes the experience of Natalie, a 17-year-old girl from New York who uses YouTube to document her transition, reach out to other folks of similar experience, and provide hope to others who might be seeking solidarity. Natalie says:

 “When I was just coming out as transgender, I needed somewhere to show me that being me is OK, and that being different is a good thing…I found that YouTube was really where I belonged, and that the Internet will always be my home.”

Natalie discovered a reflection of her experience on Youtube and decided to give back by providing that example to other youth. The best part about this, to me, is that it’s not an isolated example. Em Korczak, a vlogger I’ve been following myself for some time now, posted a video back in 2011 in which Em described all the positive things about being trans*. Em said:

“I used to be all insecure and stuff, obviously, and there were a couple of people on YouTube who were just themselves and I was like, ‘You know what? Fuck! Cuz these guys are awesome and I wanna be myself. Because they’re not doing too bad and maybe it’s okay to be me!’ And so if I can pass that liberating, wonderful feeling on to someone else…then that’s fantastic.”

Vloggers like Em and Natalie and so many others are contributing to a movement that is changing the way trans* and genderqueer people access information and come to define and embody their own identities. Em, if you’re reading this–you passed that feeling on to me.

Works Cited:

Clark-Flory, Tracy. “Trans Teens Turn to Youtube.” Salon.com. 25 Feb. 2012. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. <http://www.salon.com/2012/02/26/trans_teens_turn_to_youtube/&gt;.

Queering it up

To begin, I would like to make a radical, and perhaps somewhat strange, announcement. You are queer. You are trans*. You are a feminist. If your eyes have crossed this page, you are a queer person, you are a trans* person, you are the content, the author and the audience. This blog is not about queer and trans* people. It is written by a queer person, it is informed by queer people, and it is read by queer people.  Now is the time to question everything you know about yourself. Join me in abandoning all assumptions and destroying all expectations. Join me on a journey into a queer space. Join me on the page in front of you. We are queer. We are trans*. We are feminist.

Queer subjectivity, solidarity, and their relationship to feminism are crucial to the reworking of mainstream feminist thought. In order to create a safe space for a close reading of queer internet spaces, I first declare the audience of this blog to be queer, trans*, and feminist. This strategy is reminiscent of subjective identifications adopted by western anarchists during black box demonstrations. During the 2009 G20 protests in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, protestors chanted, “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re anarchists, we’ll fuck you up!” (Anarcha Library). Though many of these protestors would not consider themselves queer underneath their masks, the queer identification adopted in that moment negated any previous associations they held in day-to-day life, destroying boundaries of gender and sexuality and elevating their rebellion to a higher level of queer solidarity. This strategy is outlined in an article for the Anarcha Library based on an analysis of a zine that came out of the G20 protests:

“While the identification must, to some degree, indicate queer sexuality, as is indicated by the references to gender, pronouns, sexualities, and ecstasies, it also references something else. As the author(s) state(s), queerness in this case also means negation itself; it means the negation or obliteration of an existing identification and the freedom to become whatever. Destruction comes to include the destruction of identification. This destruction of identification also requires that participants move beyond solidarity in the sense of traditional social network theories” (Anarcha Library).

Referencing Judith’s Butler’s theory of gender performativity, the black box protestors created a transformative version of queer, whereby they became “queer not only in the sense of being queer sexual subjects, but in the sense of being subjects of total destruction” (Anarcha Library). Queerness became the pure negation of category, the denial of difference and identity. Through their claiming of queer, they became every person, demanding, rather than defending their space (Anarcha Library). To quote Butler in her essay “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution:” “This formulation moves the conception of gender off the ground of a substantial model of identity to one that requires a conception of a constituted social temporality…the appearance of substance is precisely that, a constructed identity” (Butler 520). In this way, the protestors, as well as those of us entering into the queer space of this project, are asking the question: what does it mean to be queer or trans*? What does it mean to be a feminist? We suspend our own identifications for a brief moment in time to create an atmosphere of queer solidarity. We do not merely become what we say we are. Instead, we become the feelings we all share. We become each other in order to understand ourselves more fully. So there.

Works Cited:

Butler, Judith. “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in                                                                 Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.” Theatre Journal 40.4 (1988): 519-31. Print.

“We’re Here, We’re Queer, We’re Anarchists: The Nature of Identification and Subjectivity Among Black Blocs.” Anarcha Library. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <http://anarchalibrary.blogspot.com/2011/01/were-here-were-queer-were-anarchists.html&gt;.