Gender & Sexuality Studies
“Finding Identity Within Online Community: A Cyberethnography of FTM YouTubers”
I had been watching trans vloggers on YouTube for many years, attributing my interest to academic curiosity. I then studied abroad at the University of Edinburgh during the Fall of my Junior year, which is when and where that my interest extended far beyond academic curiosity. After coming out to myself and others as trans and genderqueer, I then began to re-apply my academic curiosity of these trans YouTubers in the context of my thesis project as I entered my Senior year. My primary interests about this project are expanding trans academia, pushing anthropology further into digital field sites, exploring embodiment, questioning gender constructs, dismantling and analyzing structural forms of oppression, and amplifying the voices of transpeople. It became very important to me to pay homage to these vloggers and to make my work accessible to them; I want to break the illusion that academic/personal analysis can only exist within academia or with academic experience.
This thesis examines FtM (female to male) transgender YouTubers, their relationships with Internet platforms, with each other, with their bodies, and with mass media. Exploring content uploaded by trans YouTubers, as well as interviews with three YouTubers (Liam Rutz, Chase Ross and Charles Thomy), this thesis examines how the unprecedented modes of presenting and viewing the body through digital self-representation and online community legitimize trans identities. Topics of community, narrative, (self-)representation/archival, vernacular, binaries, accessibility, legitimization, the gendered body in cyberspace, and cyber/auto-ethnography are explored through ethnographic data as well as literature. Findings suggest that self-representational digital media makes trans bodies, identities, and life experiences accessible to both trans and cis individuals. This thesis is supplemented by an interactive website: hfiga4.wix.com/thesis.