The LGBTQ+ panel took place on Saturday at Summer in the City 2018 in Panel Room A. It was chaired by Jazza John, and the panellists were Alex Bertie, Stevie Boebi, Riyadh Khalaf, Mollie Faux-Wilkins, and Machaizelli Kahey.
Each panellist introduced themselves with their name and pronouns, and gave a short explanation of what they do on their channel. Jazza then started the discussion by asking the panellists what the biggest change over the last ten years had been for them as creators. Riyadh responded that LGBTQ+ people have “hijacked the platform”, stating that YouTube is now definitely aware of the space that the community occupies on the site.
Jazza asked Stevie, who makes Sex Ed videos, whether she felt that her content was filling a gap on YouTube. She explained that she had grown up with no Sex Ed at all, LGBTQ+ or otherwise, and said that when she came out online, she started getting lots of questions as there were not many queer educators on YouTube.
Jazza then asked Alex, who was on the first LGBTQ+ panel at Summer in the City, what the biggest change since then had been. Alex said that there has been “an explosion of trans creators” on YouTube, and that this was likely because the platform was great for documenting physical changes. Alex added that he hopes he can be a voice for young people transitioning on the NHS.
Jazza went on to ask Mollie about her channel, which is dedicated to Sims gaming videos with a queer tilt. Mollie explained that when she watched other Sims videos, she saw a distinct lack of representation of the LGBTQ+ community. “It was all straight people with perfect families,” she said, explaining why her queer series started.
The topic then turned to recent difficulties that LGBTQ+ YouTubers have faced, like Restricted Mode blocking LGBTQ+ content, conversion therapy being advertised on the platform, and demonetisation of LGBTQ+ videos. Mac observed that YouTube’s behaviour implies that the LGBTQ+ lifestyle is not appropriate for kids, and Alex highlighted the possible consequences of young LGBTQ+ people not being able to access videos that could help them. Jazza concluded that YouTube was essentially stuck between a rock and a hard place, having to balance freedom of speech with its advertisers’ moral views.
Jazza also suggested YouTube should be more open about its algorithm, arguing that if users could read how it works, they could perhaps answer the question of “How does a self-learning algorithm become homophobic?”. Stevie emphasised that the algorithm punishes all LGBTQ+ creators monetarily, but since the community did not know how long this had gone on for, there was no way of knowing how much LGBTQ+ creators have lost out in comparison to their non-LGBTQ+ counterparts.
Jazza went on to ask the panellists about any stereotypes they break, and whether doing so is important. Riyadh replied that he did not start YouTube intending to break any stereotypes, and is instead trying to embrace them and make them visible to take away the fear of fulfilling them. He said he tries to be the role model he would have needed, and concluded: “All it takes is one video to change someone’s mind.”
Finally, Jazza asked the panel to recommend a smaller LGBTQ+ creator. Suggestions included Finlay Games (who is an older trans man), Olly Pike (who does LGBTQ+ versions of children’s stories), Rowan Ellis (who makes educational LGBTQ+ content), and Joseph Birdsong (who makes gaming videos).
Photos by Emma Pamplin.
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