I think, a full two weeks after turning it in, I’m finally prepared to say it–or at least type it: I wrote a thesis.
Nope. It still doesn’t feel real.
I haven’t really had time to slow down and appreciate that the thesis actually happened since the second I handed it in; now that I think about it, I couldn’t even appreciate all the work I was doing while I was toiling over it. But now, scrolling back through that 30-page document, that culmination of all the stress and joy I’ve been through this past semester… It’s very gratifying to just look at that paper and go, Yeah, that was me. I WROTE that.
A lot of people were surprised to find out I was writing my gender studies thesis in my junior year, since most people do it their senior year. And I guess I’ll never know if it would’ve been better to wait. What I do know, though, is that I’m so grateful I got the opportunity to write my thesis with this amazing class. My thesis classmates not only had fascinating thesis topics, they also were so supportive and kind and gave really wonderful feedback to me. And of course we also had the help of our advisor, the flawless Alison Tracy Hale, who deserves every award and vacation and pay raise and whatever other good things professors get when they’re awesome. You think I’m only saying that because this is being published publicly on the UPS blog, but trust me, I’d say it anyway. She’s that good.
So despite the actual paper not feeling real yet, I can recognize that the experience of writing this thesis with this class was an experience I’m so glad I didn’t miss. I got to work with these amazing classmates on their amazing papers. I got to workshop my thesis at a Lewis & Clark gender studies conference. I got to meet the creators of my main primary sources. I got to present my thesis to literally over a hundred students and faculty who attended our gender studies thesis presentations. Our campus body is so supportive and passionate about gender studies, and it should come as no surprise that my thesis classmates were just as supportive of each other and passionate about each other’s topics. It was a wild ride, and one I’m very glad I didn’t miss.
So basically, my thesis was about queer narratives in Internet storytelling, and how the Internet acts as a platform through which more progressive, accurate queer characters can thrive. The Internet provides a space where artists may produce queer narratives without censorship, so these representations often offer more diversity and complexity than the negative, stereotype-based queer representations that are more common in more mass-consumed fiction.
I looked a lot at how the podcast Welcome to Night Vale and the webcomic The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal represent their queer main characters, and how those representations and storytelling forms influence both queer and non-queer audiences alike. These interactive storytelling platforms allow queer audiences to participate in creating their own narratives, and also work to establish supportive communities online, which is particularly important for queer youth. Plus through certain storytelling forms and narratives, non-queer audiences may even be able to relate to queer characters. (Crazy concept, I know.) This may give non-queer audiences more depth to their understandings of queer experiences.
Both of my main primary sources focus on interracial relationships between cisgender men, but there are a variety of Internet stories that feature queer women and trans* people. I just chose to look at these two similar narratives to more closely examine the storytelling form and the influence of the Internet as a platform on these representations and their reception. I guess if you’re interested in reading the whole paper, the finalized version is here, I put it on google docs so my family could read it… but be warned, it’s a looong read. As amazing as the experience of writing it was… it’s even more amazing to have it just be done.