It wasn’t the first time Tumblr alienated its loyal queer userbase. In 2013, just after Yahoo bought the platform, Tumblr blocked #gay, #lesbian, and #bisexual hashtags on their iOS app’s search feature, and, in 2017, a blip in a new content filtering system temporarily censored LGBTQ+ content. Still, despite these missteps, in its heyday, Tumblr defined a generation of artists’ coming-out experiences and understanding of representation.
Queer creators overwhelmingly describe Tumblr’s early community as close and intimate. Unlike Facebook, Tumblr’s tendency toward anonymity leaves users free to shape their identity how they pleased and, unlike Twitter, the commenting system is more contained, disincentivizing bullying and curtailing the spread of hate speech. Hobbes Ginsberg, a Los Angeles–based photographer who grew up in Nicaragua, believes the emotional openness fostered on Tumblr is rooted in the intertwining of images and text. “Because it was so multimedia, it lent itself to talking about things next to sharing images,” she said. “I made a lot of really personal and vulnerable text posts alongside my photo work.” Today’s platforms, she added, are not as conducive to that vulnerability. “You can’t free-flow, diary-post on Twitter.”