On the Peculiar Popularity of T-girls on Instagram

I’m too old to be part of the Instagram generation (let alone newer phenomena like TikTok). After years of purposely ignoring it, I finally created an account to reserve my username. I posted a picture or two so that it wasn’t completely empty, and I got about one follower, which was probably a bot. That seemed about right to me – Instagram was a platform for influencers to post photos of the aurora borealis in Norway or the neon lights of Tokyo, edited to pristine, color-corrected, picture-perfect beauty; who would go beyond to look at the selfies of an aging crossdresser?

About a year later, I noticed that a lot of the other gals posting to the /r/crossdressing subreddit were referencing Instagram, so I took another look. I was surprised to learn that not only were some CDers on Instagram gaining more than single digit follower numbers, but some were reaching about four orders of magnitude more than that. The most popular one I know of has six figures of followers.

Bored by California’s permanent lockdown, I started looking into Instagram more seriously. I’d shot from the hip before, making no real effort at visibility. I focused on establishing some CD friends to grow my social graph. I realized that unlike Twitter, hash tags actually mean something, and started using them. I learnt that it was possible (but unintuitive) to post photos at a 4:5 ratio, which was more conducive to showing off outfits than Instagram’s traditional 1:1. I made it a project to post every few days to establish cadence.

With some effort, I was able to grow my follower count pretty consistently. I eventually got to high four figures, which was far beyond my wildest expectations. Although still very unimpressive compared to more popular Instagrams gals, it wasn’t bad. (By the way, Instagram followers, I <3 you :)

Some of this is explained by the simple that photos of girls are, and big surprise here, a popular commodity. Gorgeous genetic girls posting selfies in cute outfits or as they visit exotic locales is an industry so big that many of them are able to monetize it. T-girls are undoubtedly enticing to some guys, but are certainly niche to the point that most of us don’t get huge pickup on most platforms.

So what’s going on? Is the world suddenly obsessed with CDs?

One thing that’s struck me about Instagram compared to other social platforms is how international it is. When I’m using Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit, I’m interacting purely with English speakers, most of whom live in English-speaking countries. And in the cases they don’t, countries where many people speak English well, like a Germany or Finland. On Instagram, I’m interacting with people the world over, many of whom speak no English at all.

Unlike text-based content, photos are a universal medium for communication. Even for people who can’t read the associated caption, the core message is loud and clear. Interaction on the platform is also language agnostic – anyone can hit the “like” button, and even in commenting, it’s common convention to post comments made up entirely of emoji (“🔥🔥🔥🔥😍😍😍😍😍”), or just single English words (“beautiful” – people there are way too nice to me :). It’s also not uncommon to have people just comment in their mother tongues. I’ve seen French, Spanish, Italian, and more.

So how can a crossdresser be so popular on a very mainstream platform like Instagram? I believe that it’s because the whole world community is coming out. Instead of audience size being restricted to a handful of English nations, it’s reaching from Budapest to Bangladesh, from Seoul to Saudi Arabia.

As anyone who’s read my complaining on Twitter can attest, I’m certainly no Instagram apologist, but it does help pull the corners of the world a little closer to each other, and that’s kind of beautiful.

September 11, 2020 (4 years ago) by Frey·ja