“White [Queer] Tears”: Tracing the evolving understandings of ‘Tenderqueer’ on Tiktok and X

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University of New Brunswick


Wishing to investigate an academically unexplored queer online phenomenon, this thesis traces the discussions happening surrounding the term tenderqueer on popular social media websites X and Tiktok. Employing a critical thematic analysis informed by critical race theory and homonormativity, I explore how users employ the term tenderqueer as a descriptor for young white queer people insularly focused on self-victimization. Through my analysis, I highlight how tenderqueer discussions are intimately connected to the white domination of queer spaces, the (re)enforcement of the Palatable [White] Gay, and homonormative morality policing. I argue that tenderqueer behaviour involves the weaponization of marginalized identities and advocacy language to create a culture of white [queer] enablement where racialized queer people are silenced in online spaces. I also link my research to the recent wave of sexual morality politics online and propose it as an off-shoot of emerging right-wing populism throughout the global North.