Research Culture Seminar: Olu Jenzen - Unicorns and Rainbows

Guest speaker Olu Jenzen leads this week's Research Culture Seminar with an exploration of the aesthetics and strategies of LGBTQ youth digital activism.


Unicorns and rainbows - exploring the aesthetics and strategies of LGBTQ youth digital activism


Today’s LGBTQ youth grew up with the internet and online resources and spaces are important to these communities. This paper explores the conditions and changing style of LGBTQ young people’s public cultural and activist output in today’s digital and social media. Exploring the employment of commercialized aesthetics and neoliberal modes of expression as well as potential acts of resistance and subversion in the digital realm, the paper raises questions about the conditions of LGBTQ youth activism as framed by neoliberal discourse. 

Drawing on ethnographic data detailing a group of trans youth’s engagements with LGBTQ social media counterpublics and the wider web, and their movement between these spheres, in combination with close readings of online material identified as salient by a larger group of young  LGBTQ participants, this paper argues that in the face of homo and transphobia and cis coded online paradigms, LGBTQ  youth respond both critically and creatively.

More specifically, I highlight how they resist prescribed user protocols of mainstream social networking sites as well as employ pragmatic strategies for navigating a binary gendered online world, staking out their own methods and aesthetics for self expression and community formation.

Having examined the content and style of social media examples highlighted by the participants, I suggest that LGBTQ youth’s consumption and production of online and social media is significantly more diverse than research to date has recognised.

Speaker Biography

Dr Olu Jenzen is Principal Lecturer at the University of Brighton and the Director of the Research Centre for Transforming Sexuality and Gender. Her research ranges over different themes in Media Studies and Critical Theory with a particular interest in the aesthetics of protest, social media and LGBTQ activism and popular culture. She has published in journals such as Gender, Place and Culture and Social Movement Studies and is the co-editor of The Aesthetics of Protest: Global Visual Culture and Communication, Amsterdam UP, 2019. 


There is no need to register for this event; all are welcome - please just turn up on the day. Please note there is limited capacity in the seminar room and spaces will be available on a first-come first-served basis.

Research Culture Seminar Series

These seminars, organised by the School of Sociology and Social Policy (SSP), generally take place every Wednesday in term time, from 12 - 1.30pm in Room 12.21/12.25 on Level 12 of the Social Sciences Building. Please check back on the website event listings for details of future seminars. Details are also emailed out to current postgraduate students and staff.

If you have any enquiries about this seminar series, please contact Tanisa at with the subject "Enquiry: Research Culture Seminar Series".