Date of Degree
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Rhetoric
queer, liberation, tumblr, politics, marxism, autoethnography
This dissertation uses auto- and digital-ethnographic methods to analyze the literacy practices of bisexual TikTok users primarily during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States, during which time TikTok exploded in popularity among U.S. social media users, especially among young adults. It is also an exercise in neuroqueer composing, diverging at times from the norms of academic writing and the dissertation genre to perform and intentionally draw attention to neuroqueer styles of thinking and communication. I argue that bisexual invisibility and contemporary bi+ rhetorical activity must be understood within the context of LGBTQ+ political history, particularly debates around separatism versus solidarity. Videos posted in the #BiTok (bisexual TikTok) hashtag on TikTok show bisexual users using strategies such as humor, reparative reading (especially the fandom practice of headcanoning), reclamation of negative stereotypes, and intentional (although tongue-in-cheek) generation of new stereotypes to create a sense of shared bisexual culture and signifiers that differentiate bi+ people from monosexual lesbian and gay people while affirming bi+ people’s place within the broader LGBTQ+ community (or “alphabet mafia,” as it’s known on TikTok) and combatting heteropessimism. These literacy practices mark a positive evolution of bi+ social media culture (such as it exists) compared to the discursive environment on Tumblr approximately 10 years earlier. Throughout the dissertation, I also attempt to grapple with the ethical and political responsibilities of studying bisexual digital literacies during a time of historic attacks on trans people both in the United States and around the world, and how scholarly research sometimes exists at odds with more immediate political exigencies.
Wood, Olivia, "Digital Rhetoric of the Invisible: Bisexual Literacy Practices on TikTok, 2020–2021" (2024). CUNY Academic Works.