Posts Tagged With: New Media

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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Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone?

We all know the stories; there are two of them after all.

1.) First, there’s the story we learn about when we are children, or maybe if we are young adults assimilating into American culture. It’s the classic tale about the Pilgrims, or rather the English separatist Protestants who later formed the [Puritan] Plymouth Colony in present day [southeastern] Massachusetts and eastern Rhode Island, and the so-called-Indians, or rather the Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans, whom had inhabited the land for the previous 12,000 some-odd years. They met and put aside their cultural differences in order to survive the frigid Fall of 1621. Their harvest gathering was attributed, by the Puritan settlers, to an almighty [Judeo-Christian] God, the Father. And it is in this colonial spirit that the American people celebrate Thanksgiving each year on the fourth Thursday in November.

2.) Second, there’s the story we [hopefully] learn about as we get a little but older in our education(s), or maybe if we are wise (or post-modern) enough to critique meta-narratives on our own merits, regardless of educational attainment. It’s the story that is a lot less fun to listen to when we sit down and feast upon a dead bird, I mean turkey. The initial social contracts made between the settlers and the native people only lasted a generation, in which the Puritan settlers’ survival owed great thanks to the Wampanoag’s superior hunting skills and knowledge of the land’s fertility.

“The Wampanoag people do not share in the popular reverence for the traditional New England Thanksgiving. For them, the holiday is a reminder of betrayal and bloodshed. Since 1970, many native people have gathered at the statue of Massasoit in Plymouth, Massachusetts each Thanksgiving Day to remember their ancestors and the strength of the Wampanoag.” -Text adapted from 1621 A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac with Plimoth Plantation, 2001, National Geographic Society. Text by Lyssa Walker.

And if you’re unfamiliar with the, “bloodshed,” Walker and O’Neill are referring to, in a children’s version of the story of the first Thanksgiving, by the way, then a better education of North American history is in order: one which begins long before the arrival of Europeans and one that is complicated by the plurality of local narratives. Also, a little accuracy would be nice. To my general horror and dismay, I have come across a great deal of unnerving neo-conservative new media literature – in my research for this blog post alone. And it is disgusting how skewed interpretations of North American history has been convoluted, so as to politicize certain capitalist agendas that are no doubt tied into our [class] discussions of feminism, health and new media.

It is necessary to criticize contemporary interpretations of historical facts so that the systemic erasure of indigenous tribes (via European colonization) does not, yet again or moreover, become eclipsed or occluded by the childish meta-narratives we are all too familiar with. I am not advocating for an overturning of the nationally established holiday, nor am I suggesting that anyone who celebrates the fourth Thursday in November is hypocritical by any means. I believe that offering thanks transcends temporal location(s) as well as any social identity markers, such as race, sexuality and gender. It is a fundamentally human thing to seek closeness with one’s kin, and to celebrate appreciation without shame. I say, let our own local narratives be based in whatever truths we subscribe to.

However, we know this to be far from what [new] media preaches as festive. Like any other national or religious holiday, capitalists have taken full advantage of the spiritual meanings behind people’s cause for celebration and turned out a handsome profit, so to speak:

from Google Images of Black Friday shoppers

And to properly interrogate the hegemonic myths of Thanksgiving, one must pay close attention to their developmental paths throughout the [re]construction of American history. Any legitimate critique of racialized and gendered representations need be historicized, that is, accurately contextualized, before we can even begin an intellectual dialogue; the subsequential genocide of Native Americans by European imperialists is not up for debate…

The reason why it’s so important to defend local narratives is because they can so easily get become delegitimized in the public eye (see: Rush Limbaugh’s version of ‘The True Story of Thanksgiving’), endangering social justice strides made everywhere in defense of those who have been persecuted along the lines of race, gender, sex, sexuality, disability, language and ethnicity.

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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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HOLLABACK Pre-Rally Interviews: Interactions With Public Spaces

Feminists Using New Media To Fight Back

I presented this video-audio presentation at a NYC Hollaback Rally to raise awareness of street harassment, which is a form of violence.  Thank you to all my peers who allowed me to interview them for this Vlog!

Short Video Assignment #2: Produce a 1-3 minute rally speech as though you are attending a Slutwalk or Hollaback rally in the city that you live in, or country where you/your family are from. Make sure to address the issues facing harassment and/or pornography and violence of that specific location, city, country. (Due Monday 10/8 by midnight.)

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