In the following blog post, Ray Borck and Lisa Jean Moore share the underlying ideas behind their article titled “This is My Voice on T: Synthetic Testosterone, DIY Surveillance, and Transnormative Masculinity,” which was recently published in the journal Surveillance & Society.
We are both sociologists with specializations in gender and sexuality. We also teach at publicly funded metropolitan colleges with vibrant queer students. Over the years, we’ve had several conversations about gender, sex, sexuality and teaching. But recently we found ourselves returning again and again to conversations about testosterone and the surveillance of transmasculine bodies. Why is it that many transmen seem to present very similar, almost derivative, narrations and images of themselves on social media as they begin and proceed with using medical prescribed testosterone?
We are especially interested in the ways as testosterone, or “T”, becomes increasingly available to gender non conforming bodies in pursuit of masculinization, it also ushers into queer culture new templates, schedules and protocols for the achievement of masculinity. In other words, as people wish to change their bodies to reflect their gender identity, many individuals have pursued medically prescribed testosterone. A normative way to transition is emerging and transmitted through social media platforms.
In particular, thousands of DIY Youtube videos document how people use T and share, celebrate, and describe their bodily changes. We started this project by sending videos to one another and writing about the similarities and differences between videos. A script emerged from these videos that suggested larger social trends around documenting the use of T. These social trends indicate that there are socially expected effects of testosterone, hair, voice, muscle changes. Youtube videos are both an effect of social surveillance of masculine bodies on T, as well as a way of transmitting visualized ways to perform a surveillance of the self for those who use “T”.