For transgender people, YouTube is sometimes HateTube, according to a new research report from Media Matters for America.
While the platform hosts many trans creators and influencers, it also hosts far-right figures who deadname and misgender trans folks, and it polices their hateful speech inconsistently, says the report, released Thursday morning.
The offenders include Ben Shapiro, Joe Rogan, Matt Walsh, Michael Knowles, and a pair known as the Hodgetwins. They have gone after prominent transgender people such as Assistant U.S. Health Secretary Rachel Levine, actress and model Leyna Bloom, and political candidate Caitlyn Jenner, along with everyday trans Americans.
For instance, in February, Walsh, a commentator with the Daily Wire, a right-wing site, derided Levine’s support of gender-affirming health care for trans youth. That “should qualify you for a mental institution or prison, not for a position in government,” he said. Levine, the widely respected former Pennsylvania state health secretary, was nominated by President Joe Biden as assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services and confirmed by the Senate, making her the highest-ranking out trans person ever to serve in the federal government and the first to receive Senate confirmation.
Knowles, also associated with the Daily Wire, repeatedly deadnamed and misgendered Jenner in an April episode. “If you’re a man who thinks that you’re a woman and who presents yourself as a woman, you are a seriously confused individual. It might not be a good idea to give you a ton of political power,” he said of Jenner, herself a conservative who is seeking to replace Gavin Newsom as California governor. Rogan has likewise deadnamed and misgendered Jenner and said that living with the Kardashian family led her to transition.
Shapiro and the Hodgetwins aimed hate at a trans couple with a child, deriding the mother’s efforts to breastfeed the infant, as documented in a Facebook Watch series. Shapiro, editor emeritus of the Daily Wire, called the mother “a pervert” and misgendered both parents, while right-wing influencers the Hodgetwins said, “If you guys was my parents, man, I’d probably be a fucking serial killer.”
The Hodgetwins, Shapiro, and his colleague Andrew Klavan also misgendered Leyna Bloom, a film and TV actress and the first trans model on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Further, Shapiro repeatedly misgendered a 15-year-old trans girl who had been profiled in The Washington Post.
These videos are “some of the most extreme examples” of the anti-trans speech allowed on YouTube, and taken together, they have accumulated more than 9 million views, according to Media Matters.
The report notes that YouTube has a policy against hate speech, pledging to “remove content promoting violence or hatred against individuals or groups” based on characteristics that include gender identity and expression. It has sometimes taken down anti-trans videos, such as an episode of The Candace Owens Show that likened trans identity to mental illness. But several other videos making the same claim remain on the platform.
“If YouTube is serious about its ‘ongoing commitment to support the LGBTQ+ community,’ it would specifically ban content that promotes this kind of harassment of trans people,” including deadnaming and misgendering, the report says. Some other social media platforms have gone further, like Twitter, which “explicitly prohibits ‘targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals,’” Media Matters explains.
The organization and 19 others have also released a letter to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki. “As recommended in GLAAD”s Social Media Safety Index, YouTube should ‘follow the lead of Twitter’s Policy on Hateful Conduct, which includes a specific prohibition against misgendering and deadnaming,’” the letter says. “If YouTube is serious about being a safe place for LGBTQ people, it is incumbent upon the platform to protect trans people from harmful misgendering and deadnaming.”
In addition to Media Matters, the letter is signed by Accountable Tech, Athlete Ally, Center for Countering Digital Hate, CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers, Equality Federation, Free Press, Friends of the Earth, Gender Equity Policy Institute, GLAAD, MediaJustice, NARAL, National Black Justice Coalition, National LGBTQ Task Force, National Equality Action Team, ParentsTogether, PFLAG National, Reproaction, SumOfUs, and UltraViolet.