A few days ago Rowan Ellis uploaded a video called ‘YouTube is anti-LGBT’, in which she pointed out something that has been noticed by creators this past week: the restricted mode on YouTube, which is supposed to be a helpful little tool to make sure children are not exposed to things such as pornography and violence, has been censoring LGBT+ related content.
Sadly, the most common response to this is that YouTube is doing a good job by protecting children from ‘harmful’ gay content. Most people seem to have a very generalised, stereotypical idea of what the LGBT+ community of video creators is like, pointing to videos that talk explicitly about sex and the more adult aspects of relationships. But the truth is that a lot of the videos made by and for queer people are not like that at all, but are just honest and family-friendly accounts of what it is like to be queer in this day and age. Coming-out videos are being blocked, videos that are watched mostly by young people figuring out their sexuality and in need to guidance and help. There are countless comments on videos of that kind by people saying how grateful they are that the creator was brave enough to upload their story, and how much it helped them tell their own.
Educational videos like Tyler Oakley’s ‘8 Black LGBTQ+ Trailblazers Who Inspire Me’ have been censored as well, which, in Tyler’s own words, is perplexing. The channel Queer Kid Stuff, a channel dedicated to LGBT+ children, has had its videos on gender blocked. This completely denies the whole purpose of the channel, and makes it incredibly hard for smaller YouTube creators to keep up their work.
What this entire censorship comes down to, as Rowan Ellis pointed out in her video, is the sexualisation of queer people. When we ask for more LGBT+ visibility in children’s movies and media, we get the same response: we cannot expose them to sexuality at such a young age. Yet straight sexuality never seems to be a problem. This is a sad and damaging double standard, which implies that queer people cannot exist and have an identity outside of what is sexual, while straight people can. It is a similar situation to that of the trans bathroom issue, which boils down to the same problem: trans people, queer people, are ‘perverted’ and inherently sexual, and thus we cannot allow them into straight, cis-gender spaces, for they might ‘contaminate’ our innocent children.
Apart from LGBT+ videos, YouTube has also been censoring other content that is incredibly important for young people, like videos on mental health and eating disorders. This has been excused by saying that those videos, especially the latter, might traumatise the young audience and give them wrong ideas. But the truth is that an incredible amount of teenagers face issues of mental health and eating disorders, and those videos being censored is not going to do anything to help them understand that the situation they are in is dangerous.
The first apology, if that is what you want to call it, released by the YouTube Creators’ Twitter account, stated that the restricted mode does not, indeed, censor LGBT+ content, and that they are sorry about any ‘confusion’ the situation has caused. This statement received a great amount of negative responses from creators, who were especially annoyed at the word ‘confusion’, which is often used to twist a situation in such a way that it puts the blame back on the other person by making them ultimately nothing but ‘confused’.
Shortly after this backlash, YouTube released a second statement, saying that they were actually sorry for the way the restricted mode was malfunctioning and censoring content that should not be censored. They have announced that they will be working on improving this tool, but it is still not enough. What YouTube needs in regards to this mess is transparency: let content creators know when their videos are being censored, and release an official list of what qualifies as ‘inappropriate’. Young people need LGBT+ content, and by taking it away from them you are doing nothing but harm.