YouTube is helping right-wing propaganda network PragerU to fundraise off of a March 29 video titled “Why Girls Become Boys,” which spreads disinformation about trans youth and health care -- despite YouTube’s Community Guidelines that include protections for trans people.
The video features anti-trans author Abigail Shrier suggesting that young trans people are not actually trans and that parents should reject their trans kids’ gender identities. Shrier is a major player in the crusade against the rights of trans youth and wrote a book misinforming about trans youth called Irreversible Damage. She also recently testified before the Senate against the Equality Act and has made multiple appearances on Fox News to lie about trans people.
The new video with Shrier uses the YouTube Giving program and has earned more than 285,000 views in one day and -- alongside other videos in PragerU’s fundraising campaign on the platform -- has raised more than $51,000. The YouTube Giving Program’s rules say that nonprofits must follow the platform’s Community Guidelines, which supposedly protect trans people. In fact, YouTube has previously removed videos from PragerU and other channels that spread harmful disinformation about trans people, including suggestions that they have a mental illness.
One of PragerU’s other fundraising videos on YouTube features Selina Soule, a client of the extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). YouTube has allowed the video to continue to fundraise on the platform even though it misgenders and makes hyperbolic claims about trans athletes. It now has over 1.4 million views.
YouTube’s hate speech policy prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and other characteristics that PragerU repeatedly targets
In its FAQ, YouTube Giving says that in order to be eligible for the program, nonprofits must “follow YouTube’s monetization policies both on and off of YouTube. This includes following YouTube’s Community Guidelines.” Those guidelines include a hate speech policy that 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, sex or gender, as well as race, ethnicity, and immigration status.
YouTube cites examples of content that violates the policy, including videos that “allege the superiority of a group over those with any of the attributes noted above to justify violence, discrimination, segregation, or exclusion,” and the platform has flagged PragerU videos as “inappropriate” for violating its community standards in the past. Despite this, the company has repeatedly allowed PragerU to fundraise tens of thousands of dollars off of transphobia -- suggesting that YouTube may be bending the rules for PragerU or that its Community Guidelines are not sufficient to protect the trans community.
PragerU’s video with Shrier is riddled with misinformation about trans kids
In the nearly six-minute video, Shrier encouraged parents to reject their trans children, misinformed about standards of medical care for trans youth, and suggested that they aren’t actually aware of their own gender identity.
In reality, affirming trans kids’ gender identities is considered best practice health care, is widely supported by medical professionals, and yields long-term mental health benefits. Research and personal narratives have demonstrated that affirming trans people is critical to their well-being. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement in 2018 encouraging parents and medical providers to affirm trans youth, which has been shown to reduce their risk of experiencing depression, homelessness, and suicidal ideation.
Furthermore, young trans and gender-diverse children are not undergoing irreversible treatments or surgeries until they are older. The Washington Post’s Samantha Schmidt recently explained the sequence of best practice medical care for trans youth:
Under medical guidelines in the United States, doctors do not perform most gender-affirming surgeries on transgender minors, requiring that they wait until they are 18. Doctors do not recommend any medical interventions before a child reaches puberty.
Once reaching puberty, medical guidelines say transgender children can consider puberty blockers, which are reversible treatments that pause puberty and give transgender children time to decide what to do next. Later in their teenage years, transgender adolescents can consider hormone replacement therapies, such as estrogen for trans girls and testosterone for trans boys, which create more permanent changes to their bodies.
Despite these facts, Shrier dangerously advocated against best practice medical care throughout the March 29 video, falsely claiming that affirming trans youth is “a solution that will almost certainly harm rather than heal” and causes “irreversible damage.” (Shrier made similar arguments in February on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight.)
Shrier repeatedly cited one of her go-to anti-trans myths to claim that children are coming out as transgender because of a “social contagion.” This comes from a flawed and since-corrected study by Brown University researcher Lisa Littman which suggested that trans youth -- primarily trans boys -- are rapidly identifying as trans due to “social and peer contagion.” Several researchers have criticized Littman’s study, which has been described by a colleague as “below scientific standards” because it relied on “survey responses from parents who had visited sites promoting anti-trans views” and did not actually survey trans youth themselves.
Shrier also misgendered trans masculine kids as “girls” throughout the video and claimed that teens are becoming trans as a “quick fix” to address higher levels of anxiety and depression. She also said that parents could prevent their kids from “being drawn into this dangerous and growing trend” by limiting “their exposure to social media as much as you can” and opposing “the teaching of gender ideology in your kids’ school.”
Perhaps most dangerously, Shrier ended the video by encouraging parents to reject their trans kids, saying, “You don’t have to agree with every identity proclamation your daughter comes up with. Knowledge of her identity will develop over time. Until then, being the adult in the relationship is the most loving thing you can do.” Again, medical professionals encourage parents and medical providers to affirm trans youth to promote their well-being -- doing so can be lifesaving.
If YouTube is serious about its Community Guidelines, it should not allow PragerU to fundraise off of anti-trans misinformation
Shrier’s claims are part of the broader right-wing campaign that fearmongers and spreads disinformation about best practice medical care for trans youth. Moreover, right-wing content misinforming about health care for trans youth often earns high engagement on social media and skews the public's understanding of the issue.
When trans youth and their families use YouTube, they risk being exposed to videos that push harmful misinformation about their community. What’s more, this misinformation -- perpetuated to large audiences by right-wing propaganda networks like PragerU, Daily Wire, and Fox News -- creates a completely false understanding of trans issues among the public and even decision-makers. This is especially dangerous as state legislatures around the country are advancing measures to ban and criminalize best practice care for transgender youth.
Trans advocate and ACLU lawyer Chase Strangio has described such measures as “forcing young people already receiving treatment off of it and removing them from care that has allowed them to manage distress and embrace their own, individual processes of learning about and celebrating their bodies and identities.”
YouTube set Community Guidelines for its videos with an even higher standard for its Giving program. If the platform fails to enforce those guidelines and continues to allow PragerU to earn money from spreading dangerous, anti-trans content, it shows that YouTube refuses to protect the LGBTQ community.