YouTube marked the Pulse massacre and commemorated Pride Month with a compilation video of some of their best LGBTQ vloggers. Bigots responded by making it the most “disliked” video on YouTube’s official channel within 24 hours.
“YouTube is a place where anyone can belong no matter who they are or who they love,” YouTube announced in a press release for the video on Tuesday. “That is why today we want to help people honor and celebrate who they’re #ProudToBe.” The video featured vloggers from every walk of life—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, genderqueer, and more—coming out and encouraging others to be proud of who they are. But if anything could discourage young LGBT people from coming out to their peers, it’s what happened next.
First, the comments below the video got so bad that they had to be disabled. A YouTube spokesperson explained to The Daily Beast that YouTube bans hate speech “including the promotion of violence on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.” “Given the number of comments on this video that violate our policy, and out of respect for the creators who appear in this video, we have decided to turn comments off for now,” the spokesperson added.
Before the comments were deleted, Fusion highlighted some of the most egregious ones like “You’re all freaks of society” and “So this is what our troops fight for … disgusting.” Commenters reserved a special level of vitriol for genderqueer vloggers in the video who don’t identify as either male or female: “There is only three gender [sic]: 1) Man, 2) Female, 3) Mental [sic] disturbed.”
Then, after YouTube disabled comments on the video itself, some particularly vociferous bigots began posting their comments to the video’s press release, calling the featured LGBTQ vloggers “fags” and “tranny mutants.”
An unprecedented number of people also clicked the “dislike” button on the video itself. As of this writing, the #ProudToBe video has racked up over 230,000 dislikes—the most out of any video ever published on the official YouTube Spotlight channel.
The reaction to the #ProudToBe video is particularly troubling in the context of the Orlando shooting and recent attacks on transgender rights. LGBT-themed YouTube Spotlight videos that didn’t feature as many transgender and gender non-conforming people have not been greeted with the same disdain.
In 2013, for instance, YouTube produced a #ProudToLove video primarily featuring gay men and lesbians that received nowhere near the same level of negative attention and only about 15,000 dislikes.
“This video didn’t have as much hate as the newest,” one recent commenter on the three-year old video pointed out. “I don’t understand?”
An anti-LGBT troll provided the answer: “This video doesn’t include made-up genders or sexualities.”
Indeed, the trolls who targeted the #ProudToBe video reacted especially poorly to identities that they believe are “fake.” The video features vloggers like Chandler Wilson, who identifies as agender, and Hugo Nasck, who identifies as non-binary. Others use terms like “pansexual” and “omnisexual” to describe their sexual identity.
Some of these terms may be unfamiliar but the identities they describe are only confusing to those who wilfully refuse to familiarize themselves with them. Agender people do not identify as having a gender, non-binary people stand outside of a male/female dichotomy, and pansexual people are attracted to people of any gender identity. Easy enough.
Fortunately, YouTube’s LGBTQ vloggers are undeterred the hate that has been hurled their way. YouTube is also standing squarely behind the campaign, as evidenced by their careful attention to the comments section. “As a non-binary person I believe that more than ever this is the moment to speak and be heard,” Nasck said in a statement.
“As far as the hate on that video goes, it is outrageous and it is so upsetting to see but it’s not something that surprises me,” bisexual vlogger Dion York said in a response video. “We’ve a long way to go and sometimes the only thing we have is to be proud of who we are and be strong.”
Some of the most popular comments on York’s video are proof that the world does indeed have a long way to go: “There are three types of genders: 1) Male, 2) Female, 3) HIV-positive” and “As someone who identifies as an attack helicopter, I agree with this video.” But in posting this kind of hate to LGBT-themed videos, bigoted trolls are only delaying a future that will inevitably be more inclusive. More millenials are openly identifying as LGBT than any generation in history—seven percent according to a recent poll from the Public Religion Research Institute—and that number isn’t likely to go down. Words like “pansexual” and “non-binary” aren’t going anywhere, nor are the voices—on YouTube and elsewhere—that give them life and meaning.
No amount of “dislikes” can change that.