Author's Note: "What's at Stake Here?"

Selfie of the author [image]

For me, what is at stake with these young men and boys and what make their T-diaries important is their makers' apparent willingness to expose their own fears as well as their joys through media that is produced both for themselves and for the wider trans community. Through these videos we are invited to watch as their bodies (by which I mean here their somatic bodies, their own flesh and blood) begin to conform and shape themselves to their inner sense of the reality of who they are as they move through the world and make decisions about the ways their bodies will operate in the world. This is something they all understand—and many of them make it quite explicit in the videos I've archived: they create these T-diaries in order both to document what they have done, often with a great sense of fun and even exhilaration, but also to show that transitions are possible for other transgendered queer youth. (Throughout this essay, I use queer in the broadest sense—to be transgendered is to queer gender, necessarily, though the orientation of the young men here might be and often is a very normative heterosexuality.)

Since I am not myself transgendered, though my gender performance is, at times, very queered/fem/sometimes butch/mostly not, the question arises: what is my stake in this? Clearly I can't speak for a community of which I am not a member (that is, FTMs who use T; I am on T but for reasons very different from the young men depicted in this essay). Often, one can get in touch with one's informants; in this case, I have gathered my materials from the web with no direct contact with the informants of this essay, and my interpretations, and any mistakes I have made, are my own.

The fluid and rich gender performances here, as they inscribed on the body both through hormone use but also through socialization, are precisely what makes these videos so important. Like all materials needing to be read, they need interpretation but nonetheless they are documents made by transmen primarily for other transmen. Of course, like many (though not all) webcam producers, these young man are often aware of the outside world looking in on them. The young men here speak in their own voices and they have controlled how they appear to the outside world of the YouTube viewer.

In many ways I see my role in this process as an archivist. I have been gathering these videos (and many more) over the last few years and more appear every day. By presenting them I help keep them alive. As you can see from my works cited, many of the videos presented here are not longer live on the web except in this article. And I think these are important stories to say the least.