Habbo Hotel, detransition, Tumblr as the mall.

A stock photo from 2003!

A few thoughts for your Monday afternoon.

  • I had a very interesting conversation with a young man who used to do military role plays on Habbo Hotel, and he reminded me of something I’d forgotten about: roleplaying within games and reinterpreting the in-game environment. This functions exactly the same way any make-believe games function—you suspend your disbelief, and a virtual glass of water becomes, say, a pint of butter beer, so on and so forth. I also see this on TikTok, where children do videos that emulate the videos small businesses make to advertise their inventory. People will submit make-believe requests and the children will respond with creating fantasy desserts, fantasy subscription boxes, etc. What’s striking is that the viewer is always asked to imagine something fake or otherwise mundane is something else… again, just like real life play.

  • Was Tumblr a digital equivalent of the mall? Does TikTok serve that purpose today? I think a lot about the mall: the aesthetics, the smells, what it was like to work there, what the selection of stores in the one closest to my home meant for my own emergent sense of self.

    These days, it feels as though The Mall, not just as a place, but as a concept, is dead. But I wonder if it’s really gone or if it’s just moved online. Tumblr and TikTok seem to serve a similar purpose that the mall did: an unsupervised place for kids and teenagers to “hang out” that facilitates self-discovery through what you can buy and eat. What stores you shopped at, which food court restaurant was your fave, these used to say something meaningful about who you were, what subcultures you belonged to, what class you were in.

    Did you shop at Delia’s? Pac Sun? Abercrombie and Fitch? God forbid, J. Crew? Could you afford Bloomingdales? Saks?

    Nymphet Alumni recently explored some of these questions on their episode about Sugar Cookie Consumerism. I also thought they made some really sharp observations about the role food plays in women’s products too, but they say it better than I can paraphrase it… go listen!

  • Three trends that I think will pick up steam in 2022: apolitical millennial culture analysis, detransitioners sharing their stories, and sex negative influencers.

    Apolitical millennial culture analysis: Part of this is the flow of time, but I also think that there’s an impulse to differentiate the last 20 years.

    I’m not the only one saying, “It wasn’t one fluid moment, goddammit, things have changed.” You’re seeing a lot more public-facing archivists/historians/analysts of micro-trends, Tumblr/MySpace, mall culture, emo/pop punk. Why did I tack on “apolitical”? Because I think this kind of work does serves a purpose beyond nostalgia or documentation. It’s a refuge for people who don’t want culture war content, but still enjoy culture commentary.

    I don’t think the culture war is going to peter out any time soon, it’s still a cash cow. But I do feel like something has changed or fizzled out, and a growing number of people are just over it. Left and right. It’s not apathy or nihilism so much as burn-out.

    Further, my instinct is that as far as The Culture Wars are concerned, we’ll slowly see a priority-shift and the battleground will become more obviously centered on tech (Big Tech vs. techno-optimism/decentralized tech vs. anti-tech).

    Detransitioners sharing their stories: 2021 was a big year for detransitioner visibility, some might say a tipping point.

    But the concept of detransitioning still isn’t widely known, especially not to the same extent that being trans is.

    I have a feeling in 2022 that’s going to change.

    For the most part, stories about detransition are frequent installments in heterodox (how I hate that word) publications and podcasts, but they’re less visible in mainstream or progressive publications.

    You see them sometimes—like here—but it’s still a little bit too contentious. I think that grip is going to loosen.

    I don’t mean that we’ll see a 180 on the sentiment around transgender people writ large. Right now, it’s really difficult for individuals to talk about their lived experiences without being accused of being transphobic, which is about as loaded as being called racist. That’s not fair or true. It’s something that happens, and detransitioners should have the space to talk about it.

    The other thing is that not every detransitioner believes medical transition should be more regulated, though it’s true that there are many who do. I have a feeling we’ll be hearing more from the people who simply want to say, “I tried this, and it didn’t work out for me.” Maybe they’ll even get a New York Magazine cover.

    We’re a long way away from having an honest conversation about medical transition in the United States and the United Kingdom. However, I do have hope that in the near-term, detransitioners will receive better access to the healthcare they need to live comfortably as the sex they were assigned at birth. And that voicing this hope isn’t an indictment on people who are happy with their transition.

    (BTW, if you’re curious about detransition, I recommend Limpida’s and Grace’s Substacks respectively.)

    Sex negative influencers: I really need a better phrase than “sex negative.” I know it’s not quite right, but it is the one I’ve been using. Anyway.

    I’m working on an update to my infamous blog post, one that’s a little bit more robust and not just a manic stream of consciousness. Unclear if I’ll get it out the door before 2022, but one thing I’ve noticed is an uptick in people who are both hitching their wagon to these ideas and who wouldn’t be accurately categorized as right wing/right wing adjacent/trad (so on and so forth)…

    Interesting stuff. 🧐