Trigger Warnings: Sex, Lies and Social Justice Utopia on Tumblr

  • Lenore Bell University of St. Andrews


Inthe spring of 2012, a major scandal rocked the queer social justice communityon Tumblr. One of its most popular bloggers and activists, a 22 -year-oldtransman named Ira Gray suddenly faced by a deluge of sexual assaultallegations from multiple people via Tumblr. Despite the queer social justicecommunity's pride in being open and accepting, many of its practices are rigid,pedantic and counterproductive. The rise and fall of Ira Gray's celebritystatus has highlighted how truly divided this online community can be.Sexuality and gender identity were not the only lines of contention; mentalillness, race, class and trauma played dominant roles in the discussion. Thevery fact that the accusers had stayed silent for so long is telling. Throughanalysing the tumblr posts of the accused, accusers and othercommentators/spectators, one can see how mental illness, privilege andsexuality are negotiated in this small yet global community. For many queersocial justice tumblr bloggers, graphically detailed posts about theirexperience of sexual trauma lie side-by-side with explicit nude phone cameraportraits of the blogger tagged as "self-care." I argue that theethos created by this corner of the internet does not provide a queer oasis forthe user away from an overbearing, hetero-normative world. Instead, itintroduces a complicated set of rules and mores that presents newcomplications. The combination of naked exposure and online depersonalisationcan prove toxic.

Author Biography

Lenore Bell, University of St. Andrews
August 8, 2013
How to Cite
Bell, L. (2013). Trigger Warnings: Sex, Lies and Social Justice Utopia on Tumblr. Networking Knowledge: Journal of the MeCCSA Postgraduate Network, 6(1).