Society for Medical Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Transgender individuals experience multiple barriers to accessing gender affirming medical care, including a shortage of providers and health insurance programs that categorically exclude the provision of gender-affirming hormones and surgery. Like people seeking financial support for healthcare related to illness or injury, many transgender people turn to online social networks to help crowdfund medical transition costs. Although user generated content on social media and social networking sites has the potential to subvert the traditional means of media production and enable the emergence of historically marginalized voices, it also has the potential to reproduce and reinforce transnormativity, whiteness, and neoliberal conceptions of the self. This paper uses a dataset of 410 transgender crowdfunding narratives collected online to ask: how does the digital environment of crowdfunding sites structure the representation of trans lives, bodies, and health? The majority of online campaigns in the dataset were used to fund chest surgeries among young, white, binary-identified trans men in the USA. On average, campaigns raised only about 25% of their fundraising goal. Using thematic narrative analysis, I find that the crowdfunding platform elicits normative transition narratives anchored in deservingness and progress. By utilizing medically sanctioned, normatively gendered transition narratives, campaigns privatize inequality by failing to acknowledge their collusion in a neoliberal project that centers white, able-bodied, middle-class masculinity. I conclude with a consideration of how to incorporate a “revolutionary etiquette” for web-based medical crowdfunding.