Start the year as you mean to go on – i.e. by honouring the hotness of trans bodies, bellies, and happy trails. (Hat tip to Vaneet Mehta, from whom I shamelessly copied the idea for this Happy New Queer photo.)
This is what I was going to share on Instagram yesterday. In fact, this is what I did share – it’s just that the post was up for all of thirty seconds before the platform sent me a notification that they’d removed it. “It looks like you shared imagery that shows sexual activity,” the app informed me.
I was frustrated. I could see how it might look like I was wanking in the photo, but I’d felt so confident and sexy taking it. It had felt so good to start off the year by connecting with myself and my body, taking time to take a photo that felt like it really captured who I am, and I’d wanted to share a little of that moment.
So I re-shot the image, making it clear that I was not jerking off. My fingers weren’t stroking my dick, merely pulling down my boxers to reveal more of the hair that (after eighteen months on testosterone) now starts at my belly button. Except, just moments after I posted it, that image got deleted too.
“Your content goes against our Community Standards on nudity or sexual activity.” Like hell it does! While you can see some of my pubes, I don’t think the photo is actually all that explicit. I couldn’t help feel like the post being removed had more to do with me celebrating my trans body. It felt like my queerness was being censored.
Though that might sound hyperbolic, it’s not. Anna Iovine wrote about Instagram shadowbanning LGBTQ and sex ed accounts for Mashable in September. Content featuring heterosexual, thin, abled and cis people just doesn’t receive the same scrutiny from the platform. In Iovine’s article, artist Michael Kerschner said: “In a time where the mere expression of queer joy is becoming more dangerous, even deadly, it feels like an ominous practice for Instagram to play the role of arbiter of what society is willing to tolerate.”
Queerness is treated as inherently adult, but it’s not. My identity is not inappropriate. My existence is not sexual. Photographing myself has helped me see my body not only as male but as desirable. It helps me be kinder to myself, not only about my curves but also about my creativity. And trans people deserve to see depictions of bodies like theirs, a reminder that they are worthy of love and care.
I tried one final time to upload the photo: this time deliberately censoring my body to mock Instagram’s Community Standards. Once more, my post was removed. My love for my transness, my record of the joy I felt in my body and masculinity deleted. It was a rude reminder that we cannot rely on these platforms. We cannot let them dictate what “acceptable” queerness looks like.
Happy nude year folks.
I haven’t been publishing much here recently. If you’ve missing my writing, you should check out my newsletter! Genderbent delivers long-form essays exploring an aspect of gender or transmasculinity – from bodies and medical transition to existing as a trans person in public to grappling with my own fragile masculinity – directly to your inbox on a regular(ish) basis. I’m trying to get better at promoting my work, and it would mean a lot if you subscribed:
Quinn Rhodes (he/him) is a freelance journalist, sex writer, and professional transsexual. His work focuses on dismantling shame and queering sex.