YouTube fails to protect trans people from misgendering or deadnaming
YouTube has ignored advocates’ calls to establish and enforce a policy that bars its creators from harassing trans people
Right-wing media figures on YouTube, including Ben Shapiro and Joe Rogan, are deadnaming and misgendering trans people, which are forms of harassment that involve using a trans person's former name or incorrect pronouns. Though YouTube’s existing guidelines allegedly protect trans people, the platform has failed to create a policy that explicitly bans creators from intentionally misidentifying trans people.
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.
YouTube’s hate speech policy states that the platform will “remove content promoting violence or hatred against individuals or groups” based on attributes including sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex or gender. Moreover, the platform’s harassment and cyberbullying policies prohibit “content that targets an individual with prolonged or malicious insults based on intrinsic attributes. These attributes include their protected group status or physical traits.”
But YouTube has failed to enforce these policies consistently. In November 2020, the platform removed two anti-trans videos from right-wing propaganda network PragerU’s The Candace Owens Show for comparing being trans to having a mental illness. However, Media Matters identified several other videos that remain on YouTube and make the same comparison.
YouTube has also fallen behind other social media platforms’ efforts to stop anti-trans hate. Notably, Twitter’s hateful conduct policy goes further than YouTube’s policies and explicitly prohibits “targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals.” GLAAD’s Social Media Safety Index -- “the first-ever baseline evaluation of the LGBTQ user safety experience across the social media landscape,” which provides recommendations to make platforms safer for LGBTQ people -- has noted this difference and called on YouTube and other platforms “to follow the lead of Twitter’s Policy on Hateful Conduct, which includes a specific prohibition against misgendering and deadnaming.”
YouTube’s right-wing videos are rife with deadnaming and misgendering
Prominent conservative pundits on YouTube have regularly used the platform to harass and misidentify trans people, including targeted misgendering of kids, parents, and public figures. Here are some of the most extreme examples, which have accumulated over 9 million views:
- During the March 13 edition of his show, Daily Wire Editor Emeritus Ben Shapiro repeatedly misgendered a 15-year-old transgender girl who was profiled in The Washington Post. Shapiro justified harassing a teenager by stating, “On this program, we use biological pronouns because biological pronouns are the pronouns that have historically been used for to describe people’s sex.” The video has over 1.3 million views.
- On July 13, Shapiro repeatedly misgendered two trans parents who were subjected to a right-wing harassment campaign after being featured in a Facebook Watch docuseries about pregnancy. Shapiro also demeaned the parents, calling the mother “a pervert.” The video has over 1.3 million views.
- In a video posted to YouTube on July 15, conservative influencers The Hodgetwins also misgendered and ridiculed the couple, saying, “If you guys was my parents, man, I’d probably be a fucking serial killer.” The video has over 700,000 views.
- The Hodgetwins also misgendered Leyna Bloom, the first trans cover star for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, in a July 20 video. The video has over 300,000 views. Additionally, Shapiro and The Daily Wire’s Andrew Klavan misgendered Bloom in separate videos posted on YouTube that received over 380,000 views and 9,000 views, respectively.
- The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh repeatedly misgendered U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Rachel Levine on February 16. Walsh derided Levine for supporting best practice health care for trans youth, saying that her support “should qualify you for a mental institution or prison, not for a position in government.” The video has over 45,000 views.
- During the April 26 edition of his show, The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles repeatedly deadnamed and misgendered Caitlyn Jenner while discussing her run for California governor. Knowles asserted, “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.” The video has over 125,000 views.
- In September 2020, Joe Rogan also deadnamed and misgendered Jenner. He also claimed that she became transgender because she lived with the Kardashians, who he referred to as “crazy bitches.” The video remains on YouTube and has nearly 5 million views.