Online spaces have been crucial to the formation of trans identities and communities. Yet as Oliver Hamison et al. (2021) describe, for as long as trans communities have been online, trans content has been subject to restriction and censorship for its proximity to ‘adult’ material. This can create difficulty in sharing transition related educational or medical information on social media, and tensions over who should have access to it and what aspects, if any, of this information should be restricted or hidden from young people.
To consider these tensions, in this paper I examine how the practice of packing, an everyday practice for many trans men, is presented on social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook. Utilising an Actor Network Theory-inspired framework I explore the network of relationships that exist between social media platforms, their moderation practices and content creators’ responses to these in the context of trans-specific products like packers and prosthetics. Drawing on research interviews I examine the strategies employed by brands which make packing devices to navigate social media platforms and produce content marketing their products.
I argue that the various strategies employed – including framing content as educational, using medicalised language, platform selection and careful use of visual imagery – impact the way the packing is conceptualised as a trans practice, enacting it in multiple and contradictory ways as inherently non-sexual, medical or highly sexualised.
Tate McAllister is completing a PhD in Sociology at the Australian National University where he researches trans masculinity, gendered embodiment and prosthetics. He has previously worked in trans and intersex advocacy, and as Assistant Director in the ACT Government Office of LGBTIQ+ Affairs.
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