Why Digitize?

Image of Evan

Though I considered sending a linear version of this essay to various print journals as I gathered my data, I have always drawn back from doing so. These videos were created for viewing in YouTube. As such, they were created to be seen and heard, not simply discussed in print. And still pics are just not rich and thick enough for the gender performances documented by these makers—even assuming a print journal would have published the number of still images I might have wanted as an author.

Thus, I'm glad for the opportunity to present this essay in a journal in which the videos can be read in their native format (though I converted them from their original Flash versions available on YouTube to formats suitable for HTML 5.0: Ogg, WebM, and MP4).This seems the best format for these stories—and it is the format chosen by the makers of the videos I present here, who, after all, might have chosen to write a blog rather than post a video—or, rather, a number of videos as many of these FTMs have done.

It is the fluidity of the gender performances of these young men that is most easily captured in video and which would be at most risk of being lost in a traditional print essay (or, for that matter, in a web-delivered linear essay without video). Viewers, for instance, can watch the development of lower ranges of vocal pitch (easily the most striking change in the body as T-therapy continues in time), but they can also watch body language, dress, and other social cues associated with gender change—though those changes stem not from T use, but from the schooling transmen and boys seek out, receive from the community, and produce, as in this article from wikiHow:

This article is for Female-to-Male Transsexuals (FTM), individuals who identify as male but were born physically female. Hopefully some of these tips will help you to "blend in" and be seen by society as your correct gender. The main goal of "passing" is for you to feel more comfortable with yourself (either in private or in public) but remember that not everyone is accepting of transgender people and you should be cautious of using these methods to "come out" to friends and family.

The article, and ones like it, go on to detail how dress, hair cuts, posture, and other physical characteristics, can be used to modify gender, concluding

Learn more about being transgender. There's no cold cut decision on who you are or how far you should go with transitioning, just because you don't feel like you fit perfectly into being a girl, doesn't mean you need to go the whole way with all the hormones and surgeries. Some people stop with "cross dressing", or just passing as the opposite gender; others don't feel comfortable until they start hormone therapy and begin to feel and look more male; and then others go the whole way and get the surgeries.

In other words, there is no right way to be trans and that means that while the trans condition may appear to parallel sexual orientation (in just being, something apparently innate), its expression is certainly a matter of social construction. And one form of social construction, the use of T, is documented here in video, both for archival purposes but also as encouragement to other queers—especially transgendered young men— to hang in there.