Trans YouTube content creators: Informal economies for the production, distribution, and consumption of trans-supportive DIY undergarments

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Streck, Kyra Gertrude
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Reddy-Best, Kelly L.
Sanders, Eulanda
Dubisar, Abby
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Apparel, Events and Hospitality Management
Queer and trans individuals have fashioned their bodies in various ways throughout history; however, there have not always been commercially-produced clothing available aimed at addressing the wants and needs of queer and trans consumers. Although there are increasingly more clothing options intended for queer and trans customers, there remain significant gaps in the market due to lack of product variety, access to products, and product cost. The purpose of this research is to examine how trans communities engage with fashion and informal economies via the Internet. Through this research, I aim to create conversations about trans fashion narratives, and build on past literature exploring marginalized communities’ negotiations of style, fashion, and dress. By identifying and analyzing the trans-supportive undergarment DIY methods that are circulated on the Internet, product developers, researchers, and designers can create undergarments to better address their needs. Due to the dearth of scholarly literature on trans identities, fashion, the Internet, and informal economies, I ask: how do trans people construct, negotiate, and/or distribute DIY dress in online spaces due to the lack of commercially available objects to fashion their sense of self? How do community building and participation intersect with the informal economy associated with these DIY practices? How do other identity intersections influence these negotiations? To address these questions, I used a qualitative approach and grounded theory, guided by intersectionality, feminist theory, critical race theory, queer theory, and disidentification. I analyzed 24 YouTube videos from openly-trans content creators who produce content about the DIY production of trans-supportive undergarments. I evaluated visual and audio components through content analysis and developed themes through open, axial, and selective coding. Through my analysis of DIY trans-supportive undergarment videos, I revealed six overarching themes: community building practices and heightened attention to expected roles; language, gender euphoria, and disidentification; accessible making; product satisfactions and dissatisfactions; contextualization within trans identity; and overt discussion of monetization. I substantiated these themes using examples, such as quotes and visual observations, from these videos. For instance, many content creators referred to their genitals using disidentificatory (Muñoz, 1999) euphemisms, which I argued may relate to experiencing ambivalent feelings about gender expression. This research suggests that these trans DIY undergarment content creators engage in community building, interact with the formal economy and mainstream fashion industry, maintain relationships with their bodies, and construct clothing in unique and varied ways to meet their gender expression needs and share these critical making practices with the broader trans communities. Through my project, I hope to bring more public awareness to the relationships between trans individuals and dress to encourage empathy and understanding. Additionally, fashion students and the mainstream fashion industry can read about these relationships to gain a better understanding of some trans consumers’ preferences, how trans people feel excluded from the formal fashion economy, and alternative garment construction methods.