Trans Digital Storytelling: Everyday Activism, Mutable Identity and the Problem of Visibility
Mainstream representations of trans people typically run the gamut from victim to mentally ill and are almost always articulated by non-trans voices. The era of user-generated digital content and participatory culture has heralded unprecedented opportunities for trans people who wish to speak their own stories in public spaces. Digital Storytelling, as an easy accessible autobiographic audio-visual form, offers scope to play with multi-dimensional and ambiguous representations of identity that contest mainstream assumptions of what it is to be ‘male’ or ‘female’. Also, unlike mainstream media forms, online and viral distribution of Digital Stories offer potential to reach a wide range of audiences, which is appealing to activist oriented storytellers who wish to confront social prejudices. However, with these newfound possibilities come concerns regarding visibility and privacy, especially for storytellers who are all too aware of the risks of being ‘out’ as trans. This paper explores these issues from the perspective of three trans storytellers, with reference to the Digital Stories they have created and shared online and on DVD. These examplars are contextualised with some popular and scholarly perspectives on trans representation, in particular embodied and performed identity. It is contended that trans Digital Stories, while appearing in some ways to be quite conventional, actually challenge common notions of gender identity in ways that are both radical and transformative.