Posts Tagged With: A Room of One’s Own

FtM TRANSitioning, Utilizing New Media and Bodily Modifications

So I’m in the process of drafting my critical essay for our class, Hons201: Feminism, Health and New Media. The most inspiring part about this whole process of research has truly been the new media aspect of it all. My purpose is to focus on the way young people are utilizing new media via trans* YouTube vlogs and Tumblr blogs, as a means by which to navigate their bodies in relation to their gender. Throughout the bulk of my online research, I found myself particularly drawn to Female to Male (FtM) Vlogs and genderqueer blogs. In watching and reading, and reading and watching, I noticed certain trends throughout each new media representaion:

  • educational HOW TO’s on binders, packers and stand-to-pee (STP) medicine spoons
  • personal accounts of how testosterone (“T”) has affected the body, and at what rate should one expect to see “results”
  • reflections upon top and bottom surgeries, both from experience as well as from speculation

These themes kept on repeating themselves throughout my research, over and over again. I became more knowledgeable on the ways and means by which FtM folks navigate such issues as – Where can I find the least expensive, quality packer for men of color? How can I avoid yeast infections from wearing my packer for long periods of time?How long do I need to avoid direct sunlight, post-top-op? Where on my body can I expect to discover masculine change after X number of months on “T”? – and so on. Each Vlog tells a story: a story of the body in transition, away from ‘entrapment’ and toward one’s self-identified gender.

The corporeal journey to self-hood, I am finding, truly is an autonomous one. That is to say, every FtM TRANSition is specific to the individual. New media provides a space for which #LGBTQIA youth can create communities of online solidarity, support, information and education, reminding me of those brilliant strides made between 1969-1990 in the United States for the women’s health movement, which Sandra Morgan has titled in her book, Into Our Own Hands. Trans* youth are negotiating their own bodies on their own terms via new media. Health is central to TRANSitioning and TRANSformation, from female to male, including mental health and the processing of emotion(s).

In focusing on FtM trans* Vlogs and blogs, I hope to conceptualize some sort of conversation taking place between V/bloggers that is pertaining to perceptions of gender ‘authenticity’ and how much of a role bodily modification plays into that. In other words, does the penis really make the man? And to complicate that question further by suggesting that to be in a position to CHOOSE is to be in a position of socioeconomic privelege; that is to say surgery and hormone therapy can be quite costly (and more often than not are NOT covered by one’s insurance company, assuming one has health insurance). This makes for a nebulous cluster of conditional confusion.

>_^

But I think, by the time I figure it out, my critical essay will argue something like this:

FtM trans* folk are navigating body modification via new media. This online community serves as both a teaching tool on HOW TO perform masculine gender identity ‘authentically,’ as well as a ‘room of one’s own‘ in which to negotiate what it really means to be a man, and under what conditions said self-identity ‘ought’ to be inscribed upon the body via hormone therapy and/or surgery.

This critical essay will also examine the LACK of medical discourse surrounding what effects do hormone interventions have on the health of trans* folk.

Please let me know if you have anything you’d like to contribute; I am very open to critical suggestions! Below are some FtM Vlogs, with which I have been transcribing:

Ryan Cassata

I’m not looking to go on testosterone or anything…I feel normal….it was the first time I ever felt normal in, like, myself. And, you know, it was a great moment for me…my brain was satisfied. And I guess that’s, you know, what the surgery’s supposed to do.

ALion’sFear

Once you hit your year, things slow down and once you hit your two year, things slow down even more. My facial hair comes in a lot quicker. I just started shaving with a shaver and cream only 2 months ago (I used to use a trimmer). My voice hasn’t changed, my feet stopped growing somewhere between the year and two year mark.

DefineGender

Will I ever have bottom surgery? Probably not, unless there’s some way that I can get a penis transplant because what I have down there works really well, it’s healthy and I keep it clean and I’m not going to lie, I like orgasms. Ok? I mean who doesn’t? …I don’t want to muck with it, and I’d rather not mess with it when I know it works perfectly the way it is. For me, having something down there is not about just having junk in my pants or being able to pee standing up. For me, it’s about sex.

laidbaqq

I don’t pack all the time, only occasionally because I do get self-conscious. I do it for comfort so I can feel better about myself…there’s something there and it’s not so empty and I’m not so conscious of it…sometimes I do forget that this thing is not real. Sometimes I forget there’s nothing there. …Most of it is for comfort. …

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Queer and Trans-Blogging: Mapping New Social Landscapes

In recent years, the presence of queer and trans-blogging has grown in frequency as well as spatial range, directly impacting LGBTQI communities on a global scale. In her piece on, “The Reality of Virtual Reality: The Internet and Gender Equality Advocacy in Latin America,” Elisabeth Jay Friedman examines the democratizing potentialities of the internet in such spaces as Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. Her ethnography implores us to think critically about the internet’s so-called-“horizontal organization;” do digital spaces inherently mark democratic cyber-social relations by nature of the internet’s presumed wide spread dissemination? It is necessary to critique such contemporary assumptions about the internet as that which is somehow different from the hierarchical structures that are erected in our material social relations. Friedman’s work on gender-based justice and equal rights advocacy in Latin American civil societies is rather telling of these dialectical tensions between the internet’s dual roles as, “a powerful new tool for non-governmental activism,” and simultaneously the creator of “digital divides” (2).

Similarly, Rahul Mitra and Radhika Gajjala tackle these same issues surrounding the politics of voice among LGBTQI communities in their relative spheres of political identity and influence (both on and offline). Their work more specifically historicizes the Indian digital diaspora. How are these digital spaces utilized by queer, lesbian, gay and transgender communities? How is knowledge produced in contrast to the dominant ideologies of heteropatriarchy? In what ways do these local productions of knowledge disrupt the meta-narratives inscribed within legal doctrine and health care policies? In their work on, “Queer Blogging in Indian Digital Diasporas: A Dialogic Encounter,” Mitra and Gajjala narrowed the scope of their research down to eleven specific blogs, in which they examined the interactions between bloggers such as Closetalk, Kris, DeviantChick, Mike-higher, JerryMumbai, Men I LikeLivingsmile, Hanuman, VenialSin, Uberhomme, and DeviantCore. What the authors found in these digital interactions were, “unequal power relations online as well as offline,” being negotiated among queer bloggers.

Visual representation of hierachical articulations of power among queer bloggers, from Google Images

Perhaps more resonant than those hierarchical articulations of digital power relations were each authors’ discovery of the online arena as a space that which, “allow[s] for certain kinds of self-expression while also shaping their performance of sexuality in these [political] spaces” (403). Much like Virginia Woolf‘s feminist concept for “A Room of One’s Own,” the blogosphere provides the unique opportunity to simultaneously reveal and conceal meaning(s) through anonymity in a particularly oppressive political climate for gays, lesbians, queer, transgender and intersex people. The blogger gets to govern, “how much of the ‘self’ comes through” (418). This proves highly significant in the process of shaping identities within national-State contexts; the effects of which are transformative for the lived realities of those identifying as sexual or gender minoritiesIf individual and collective efforts are aimed at the reconfiguration of sexual diversity as legitimate manifestations of humanity, then existing legal documentation and health policy surrounding such stigmatized identities are thereby interrogated from the bottom up;change is an eventual marker for progress among sexual minority groups throughout geopolitical spheres.

Take for one such notable example: the newly supported patient-centered approach for “treating” those born with an intersex “condition,” as opposed to its pathologizing predecessor(s). How did the medicalizing discourse around intersexuality shift from that which needed immediate surgical and hormonal intervention to that which took into consideration the actual person? How did humanity enter the picture here? I believe the temporal moment of twenty-first century critical sex-gender-and-sexuality theory has much to do with the slow, yet evident, progress which social justice advocacy has made. I believe new media is arguably, in part, to thank for the [re]production of such necessary social reform.

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