Maybe it’s because I didn’t complete my assigned blog posts. Maybe it’s because the final final final paper I ever turned in as an undergrad was incomplete. Maybe it’s because I haven’t smoked in weeks. Maybe it’s because I just can’t give up on my college career yet.
What I’m tryna say is: I feel like I’m supposed to be writing poetry or sleeping or dancing, but instead I’m writing another blog post for this class.
So, check out Trans* Success. As you might recall (and since you are probably just Hilary reading at this point, I bet you do), I wrote my final paper for G450 on trans* self-representation and collectivization on Tumblr, and how support networks might be formed and publicized for trans* subjects to better navigate the medical system. This post is a sort of addendum so that I might expand on a blog I didn’t consider in my paper.
I focused on the ways new media helps trans* individuals to self-narrativize outside of institutional forces that require certain ways of being trans*, and gives subjects access to support networks otherwise unavailable. The Trans* Success blog represents an interesting intersection of the ways trans* online self-expression simultaneously works as a form of storytelling and of networking, but with a normativizing impulse symptomatic of neoliberal capitalism (BOOOOOO).
So, trans* Tumbling isn’t all genderfucking accounts-of-self-given-with-a-vengeance. Some of it bespeaks near-LGBT-PRiDE levels of consumer-capitalist-non-activism. Most of Trans* Success is dedicated to the collection of historical gender non-conforming individuals who “made it” in one way or another.
While I’m not convinced queer shame and future-fucking is our gateway to a better today, I’m not sure the uplifting idea of trans* “role models” is a worthwhile (a)historical project. A particularly annoying post is about the book Female-To-Male Transsexuals In Society by Holly Devor, which partakes on a Feinbergian dive through history to claim trans* subjects from the throes of misrecognition. Queering history is for sure cool/sometimes feels like baptizing from beyond the grave, but it also has the danger of naturalizing gender, or gender non-conformativity. For instance, TS writes about this book full of role models, “Perhaps from them, we can gain strength in the knowledge that we are, we have been, and we always will be.”
One of the sections of the site is called “Be The Difference,” which, come on. TS is subscribing to the idea that social change happens at the level of the individual, and the tactics the site encourages are philanthropic at best. “Be The Difference” is a list of links to organizations that foster FTM big brothers/sister or provide books, which is pretty cool. Some of the links are to donation funds for trans* youth in need of shelter or binders or financial support, which is pretty cool. Some of the links include “Shop with LGBT Buyer’s Guide” and “Pass ENDA now,” which is not that cool. The reliance on neoliberal logics (shop like the queerest consumer-capitalist-citizen you can and make sure to get that formal equality!) elides meaningful confrontation with the systems of oppression that distribute wealth upward and insist on gender-conforming subjects who only need protections based on a claimable, rights-deserving identity.
tl;dr Tumblr’s a big place with lots of ways to tell a story, there are lots of ways to be trans*, several of those ways involve practicing neoliberalism, neoliberalism is bad.
⊗ Patrick beane