Date of Award

Winter 12-10-2021

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Cassandra White

Abstract

The global shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic brough the social media app, TikTok, to the forefront of online communication and creativity. My own use of the app brought me to a series of videos that focus on LGBTQ+ experiences, issues, rights, and relationships. I was especially intrigued by a series of videos that discussed experiences with being “in the closet” and “coming out,” meaning to obscure or reveal one’s sexual identity respectively. The focus of this ethnographic project is to understand how creating and engaging with these kinds of videos on TikTok impacts the coming out and closeted experience of men who love men with particular attention being paid to internalized sexual stigma. I argue that the coming out journey can be understood as a rite of passage and to be stuck “in the closet” is to be stuck in the liminal phase of that rite. I then argue that Closeted TikTok is a kind of heterotopia, created by the performative utterances of its users, that alleviates the experiences of internalized stigma which accompanies being stuck in this liminal stage. By simply speaking about their experiences, these accounts create a space for closeted men to feel like matter in place rather than matter out of place, a sentiment that is all too rare in their everyday lives.

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