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Essay Humanities Nonfiction Other Social Sciences

Trans on Youtube: Intimacy, Visibility, Temporality

By Laura Horak, 2014

For the first time, media created by trans people is being produced, distributed, and consumed on a mass scale. This article argues that trans YouTube videos succeed because their formal strategies exploit the platform’s penchant for the personal and the spectacular. Trans “talking head” videos expand the tradition of the feminist consciousness-raising documentary to establish trans youth as experts and create a sense of intimacy between vloggers and viewers. Transition videos become spectacular by displaying the subject’s body in ways that affirm their felt gender and through dramatic temporal compression. These videos operate according to a temporality I call “hormone time.” While it is easy to decry the formulaic nature of trans YouTube videos, genre conventions help amateurs enter the field and attract new viewers. Trans youth creatively exploit the platform’s predilections in order to author and affirm their bodies and selves, in the process generating far-flung communities of support.

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