Discussing Gender Identity on YouTube by Bea Herzberg
NOTES: Origins and Context | See Also
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Origins of this content
Written for LFYT 2015 final by Bea Herzberg.
Conchita Wurst is an Austrian drag queen who sang "Rise like a Phoenix" and received international attention after winning Eurovision (a European singing contest) in 2014. Rise like a Phoenix became a chart topper in a few European countries. When Wurst won the competition she said, "This night is dedicated to everyone who believes in peace and freedom," Wurst said, brandishing the glass trophy. "You know who you are. We are unity, and we are unstoppable." [cit]

Wurst has received much hate for her performances. Especially from Russia where they have laws against LGBTQ people. "Conchita Wurst's Eurovision win has been branded 'the end of Europe" by Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky." [cit]

The article "Top 5 Most Influential Transgender YouTube Creators Who Have Helped Build The Trans Community Online" discusses major transgender YouTubers who have greatly affected the YouTube gender non-conforming community. '"Transgender" is an umbrella term used to refer to people whose gender identity differs from their assigned sex at birth. For many transgendered individuals, YouTube has become a platform where they can connect with others and see examples of people living as a transgender male or female in society." [cit]http://newmediarockstars.com/2013/08/top-5-most-influential-transgender-youtube-creators-who-have-helped-build-the-trans-community-online/

Emily Alpert Reyes wrote an article for the L.A Times about specific YouTubers and the culture and community gender non-conforming individuals have created on the video platform. "For those taking hormones, changing their names and feeling socially isolated, posting and watching videos lets them feel that they're not alone."

"Thousands of teens and twentysomethings who are transgender--identifying with a gender that is different than their sex at birth--have turned to YouTube as a kind of public diary. As they start taking hormones or using new names, many are documenting their journeys on video, baring their souls and revealing their changing faces to strangers online." [cit]
Out of all the really bad things about YouTube--the disingenuous YouTubers, corporate takeover, consequential passivity, how it really is an undemocratic platform where only popular videos get seen, to name a few--I would argue that the LGBTQ YouTube presence and community has created a wonderfully educational, supportive, and entertaining space inside of YouTube.

Video personalities and content vary, as well as the specific themes discussed in the videos.

Common video tropes are diary style videos where the YouTuber speaks directly to the camera. Not only do these types of videos help a community of people who are struggling with the same kind of issues as the person filming, it helps the YouTuber be able to openly express their gender identity, and to be free to introduce themselves the way they want to be understood by their community and the world.

These videos are often interactive and emotional. YouTubers interact with their subscribers' comments and questions. Once you've watched a video or two, you feel that you know so much about them, their style, interests, way of being, etc. They seem to try to stay positive and supportive of people who are going through similar challenges.

My transgender friend Roxana uses her YouTube channel as a way to express her story and identity in a relatively safe space. When she watches videos made my other users, she feels supported and understood. She uses YouTube as a way to connect with other transgender woman and keep herself up to date on political transgender related news. YouTube is a space where she can find resources to learn tips and tricks about doing her make-up, health care, and advice on how to explain her identity to cis individuals. Roxana didn't even know the concept of transgender until she moved from the Iran to the U.S a couple of years ago. She started watching videos and saw many people like her, struggling with similar issues she was working through. Soon after she started making videos. YouTube has helped her feel more empowered and hopeful for the future.

There are databases, talks and interviews, featuring LGBTQ celebrities talking about gender identity and their experiences growing up. These databases and talks are all an attempt to give hope to struggling transgender people and to help educate about the complexities of gender and to destroy the socially acceptable, yet false understanding of the gender binary.

The archive of videos surrounding the topic of gender identity is vast. YouTube shows us the issues that were dealt with in our generation (rise like a phoenix) They have kept a record of the triumphs and setbacks. These videos and archive have normalized, alternative gender identities and the LGBTQ community.