5 restricted videos lgbtq youth should see
The new restrictions on 'inappropriate content' are blocking valuable stories about coming out and the reality of teen gay life.
"This video is probably one of the most difficult I have ever filmed in my life," says Rickey Thompson in I'm Out and Proud, the intimate confessional about his sexuality that he posted to YouTube. Thousands of commenters on the video commiserate with Thompson and each other about the difficulty of coming out in small-town America, and elsewhere. But Thompson's video and others like it are not accessible to all queer youth any more.
Last weekend, several LGBTQ YouTubers noticed their videos were hidden under the platform's "restricted mode" feature. These videos included heartfelt coming-out stories like Rickey's, as well as gay marriage proposals, and tutorials for trans youth. YouTube's professed aim with the restriction is to "use community flagging, age-restrictions, and other signals to identify and filter out potentially inappropriate content." Why scores of inoffensive, educational videos from the queer community are deemed "inappropriate" is unclear.
As a pubertal, pimply youngster living in the remote suburbs of Toronto, I often felt like I was the only gay kid on the planet. But YouTube was a portal into a big gay universe I'd never imagined. It was a place where I could sift through the voices of people like me who shared their stories and their advice on how to navigate gender and sexuality. YouTube was instrumental in my journey to coming out, as I'm sure it was for many others. There are already very limited resources for queer and trans youth. Cutting off access to queer-affirmative content is disastrous.
Social media saw trending hashtags like #YouTubeIsOverParty and #YouTubeRestricted, where users voiced their concerns about the types of videos being flagged as "inappropriate content" and questioned whether the feature was necessary at all. The Google-owned video sharing website promised to look into concerns, responding with a Twitter post where it explained how "proud" it is to host the voices of the LGBTQ community and thanking content creators for "making YouTube such an inclusive, diverse, and vibrant community".
Still, video creators and users remain firm in their skepticism. So in light of this controversy, here are five restricted videos LGBTQ youth should see.
Tré Melvin's 'My New Years Resolution'
"I've woken up one too many mornings hating myself, not even wanting to be alive because of what society tells me is right and wrong. No one should ever have to feel that way." This is a shared reality for many LGBTQ youth, which is why this video is important. Often times, the knowledge alone that someone out there understands what you're going through can make all the difference. Tré Melvin's tear-jerking video, in which he reveals he is bisexual has over one million views. He discusses his fight to accept his sexuality and his journey to love himself for it. Sexual duality seems to confuse people. Its existence solicits the inevitable responses that someone who is bisexual must choose who they are attracted to, either men or women--you can't possibly have your cake and eat it too. Tré refuses to be what anyone wants him to be. Melvin takes an inspiring approach to the invalidation of bisexuality: he resolves to be himself, unapologetically.
Kat Blaque's 'How I Managed Dysphoria'
"The people I saw on the street were new people. They were different people. I would probably never see them ever again, so I had no obligation to be what they thought I should be." Kat Blaque gives a 14-year-old transgender person advice on how they can manage their dysphoria while transitioning. People who have gender dysphoria have the strong feeling that their internal gender doesn't match their physical sex. These feelings often result in severe distress, anxiety, and depression. Throughout this video, Blaque reflects on her own experience transitioning, describing how her parents felt about her gender. Kat Blaque has been discussing all things LGBTQ since she joined YouTube on Christmas Day, way back in 2010. Seven years and nearly 400 videos later, Blaque continues her online activism, spreading advice with weekly videos in which she mulls over the complexities of identity and sips from her "True Tea" mug. With all the confusion trans youth may face, YouTubers like Kat Blaque are crucial in their quest to understand what's going on with their bodies.
Rickey Thompson's 'I'm Out and Proud'
Rickey Thompson grew up in North Carolina, where he says the decision to come out had always taken a backseat to his fear of judgment from the religious community he came from. This fear hung over his head throughout his life, worsening when he imagined how his parents might disown him upon learning of his sexuality. To his surprise, when he came out, it didn't seem to bother anyone. The idea that LGBTQ youth will face ostracizing after coming out seems to drive kids further into the closet, where acceptance seems impossible. It's important to understand this isn't the case: that being yourself and embracing who you are does not guarantee your exile. Thompson says if someone refuses to accept a person for who they are, they should always know there are other people who will love them unconditionally, no matter who they are. Hearing positive words and advice from someone who is beginning to navigate their sexuality with confidence is something all LGBTQ youth should experience.
Gigi Gorgeous's 'Transgender Q&A'
After her discovery of YouTube's restricted mode, Gigi Gorgeous picked up her camera to respond on her channel, where she said, "Someone's coming out video is what a 10, 11, 12-year-old — or younger — might need to see. That video might be the ultimate tipping point for them — in their transition, in their gender identity, in them becoming the best person they can be. And I really do think that this YouTube restriction stops people from being their authentic selves." Gigi is among the most recognizable Internet personalities imaginable. At just 24 years old, the transgender YouTuber has appeared on myriad television shows, including Access Hollywood, The Avenue, and Project Runway: All Stars. Before publicly coming out as trans, her channel consisted of mainly beauty-related videos and makeup tutorials. Since then, she's begun taking an intimate approach to her content, posting confessionals and story times in which she discusses everything from being detained at an airport in Dubai to tutorials on spring makeup looks. In 'Transgender Q&A,' Gigi is in the early stages of her transition. She announced she was transgender just months prior and answers common questions people have for the trans community. In response to one question, she says, "People think it's stupid or unnatural to be gay or transgender....Everyone is born a different way. And I know we hear it all the time but, be yourself."
Rose Ellen Dix's 'So I Proposed'
The first comment you'll see at the top of the list under this video is "If these two don't make you believe true love exists, I don't know what will." YouTube couple Rose Ellen Dix and her long-term girlfriend Rosie are known for pulling their subscribers into moments of their personal lives through vlog-style videos. They often discuss the ins and outs of their relationship and address important issues in the LGBTQ community. While this particular video runs nearly 20 minutes long, every last moment is worth watching. Rose Ellen Dix documents her proposal to Rosie. She vlogged much of the process, without Rosie knowing, recording videos of herself musing over how she would soon propose on Rosie's birthday with the blessing of her mother and stepfather. A year later, the couple announced they would be having a child together. While it's easy to dismiss proposal videos as cliché or corny, it's just as difficult to deny the butterflies you get watching these two talk about how excited they are for their future together. It's rare to observe any marriage so intimately, and rarer still for a same-sex couple.
Text Connor Garel
Photography still from YouTube