One Equal World

The YouTube logo.

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In its constant push to make YouTube into a mainstream, profit-generating machine, Google has (hopefully inadvertently) started blocking content by LGBTQ+ creators. The introduction of a “restricted mode” for the service is designed to make it more “family friendly,” allowing parents to feel better about their kids poking around YouTube, which can contain a lot of profanity, hate speech, and nudity.

The problem is that somehow or another, the system used to define what is restricted has flagged some videos from LGBTQ+ content creators. The implication seems to be that content by and for LGBTQ+ people isn’t “family friendly,” an outmoded way of thinking for sure.

According to Tyler Oakley, a gay content creator, YouTube is “often the first place many LGBTQ+ youth around the world see themselves and their stories shared and celebrated.” Representation, whether of the LGBTQ+ community or other marginalized groups, is hard to come by in mainstream media.

For the most part, YouTube has, until some recent changes, been a place where anyone can post content and be seen. And while it’s still true that anyone can post content, it appears that not everyone is being seen. This comes at a time when LGBTQ+ visibility is more important than ever before.

For the record, Google has never taken an outward stance against diversity or the LGBTQ+ crowd, so it’s unlikely that the system is flagging such videos intentionally. The system uses “community flagging” and other signals to filter out content. There are literally millions of videos on the platform, so Google uses a software system to streamline the process.

But YouTube is also a place where bigots gather, so it’s entirely possible that somebody figured out that those videos could be blocked by flagging them as inappropriate. It wouldn’t be the first time that trolls abused a system to punish people they don’t like.

Two protesters holding a rainbow flag that reads, "not my president."

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The day after Trump was elected, there were people protesting in cities across the country. People were protesting the day after that as well. You’ll also recall the protests that took place in airports across the country after Trump introduced his immigration ban.

It’s likely that this is going to be a mainstay for a while, as people, scared and angry about his winning the election, take to the streets to vent those frustrations. Trump has called it unfair. Giuliani has called the protesters cry-babies. They’re both wrong.

Protesting is a right that we all share as Americans, and when you build your campaign on hate and violence to the degree that Trump has, you have to expect that people are going to protest you. Trump lost the popular vote, yet won the presidency, just like George W. Bush did in 2000.

This is not how democracy is supposed to work. If Clinton had won the electoral college but lost the popular vote, Giuliani and his cohorts would be complaining about it for the next four years and then some.

But despite what anyone thinks, these protests are legal and constitutionally protected. It’s an effective way to show displeasure with the new president, who many Americans have reason to fear. Trump’s campaign, and his supporters, want to deny other Americans a whole slew of civil rights. Fortunately, activists and protesters will never let that happen.

The protests will likely continue for a while, but eventually they’ll come less and less often, as people become accustomed to the “new normal” of whatever Trump’s presidency will entail. That’s when we should start to worry, not now.

Protesting is a sign that people are socially and politically engaged. It is a sign that people are paying attention and that they care about what is happening in the world. How on earth is that a bad thing?

People dressed up as superheroes at Comic Con, Los Angeles.

Comic Con, Los Angeles (2016).
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We often think of nerds as the picked-on rejects that band together over common interests such as Dungeons & Dragons or Star Trek. The theme of outcasts coming together is a popular one in fiction, and one that you would think would lead to nerd culture being progressive and inclusive.

And while that may be true for some people and groups, nerd culture has some serious issues with inclusivity. From the toxic nature of so many online video games, to the continued over-sexualization of women’s bodies in art, to nerd culture’s blatant courting of fascism during GamerGate and in support of Donald Trump. Nerd culture has a long way to go before it can actually call itself inclusive.

No one knows this better than EmilÆMaxima. EmilÆMaxima is a transwoman who wrote an essay for The Establishment about her experiences as a nerd before and after her transition.

When she came out and announced that she was transitioning, she was met with a lot of questions about whether she would still play video games or like Star Wars, as if those interests were reserved exclusively for men. She notes that, even though there had been girls in their social circles throughout her life, her friends still seemed to think of women as outliers in nerd culture, as if they somehow didn’t belong.

But she also found that women’s experiences of nerd culture were very different than men’s, and often quite hidden. She quickly learned that there were chat rooms and events that men weren’t privy to, where women could be themselves and not have to worry about being harassed or assaulted. She learned, first-hand, that women have a hard time of it in nerd culture, especially online, where anonymity often emboldens men to act like complete monsters.

Finding acceptance for who we are can be difficult, but it’s essential that we do so. And if ever don’t feel accepted by a certain community, it’s time we change the dynamics of that culture.

An elderly woman at a gay pride festival.

An elderly woman takes part in a gay pride parade.
Photo credit: Ivan Bandura at Flickr Creative Commons.

There are roughly 2.7 million Americans over the age of 50 who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, and that number of expected to hit 5 million by the year 2060. So why is it that a recent study from the University of Washington’s School of Social Work is the first to actually study this population?

The longitudinal study, called Aging with Pride: National Health, Aging, Sexuality/Gender Study, interviewed 2,450 adults aged 50 to 100. The study investigated factors such as race and ethnicity, relationship status, resiliency among HIV-positive gay and bisexual men, and transgender people who served in the military. Researchers found “higher rates of disability, cardiovascular disease, depression and social isolation” among this population, compared to other people in the same age group.

Studies like this are important because they help shed light on an underrepresented population. While the LGBTQ+ rights movement has scored some victories in recent years, the primary focus has been on the younger population. We have to remember that older people should be included in this movement as well. If anything, they should be front and center of it, considering that the previous generations paved the way for the rights we have today.

But we also need to remain cognizant of the fact that populations experience aging (and the medical, emotional, and psychological affects thereof) in different ways. That’s why it’s important to study populations through various lenses and remember that being gay and being old are not mutually exclusive. Information from studies like this allow us to better address the problems of the population in question and also allow us to better plan for the future. Everyone stands to benefit from this type of work, considering that we’re all going to get old someday.

A photo of a skyscraper with rainbow colors on it.

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Although the White House backed away from an executive order that would have allowed federal contractors to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people, it is still clear that this is not an administration that will go out of the way to defend the LGBTQ+ community. With a number of states having passed or considered passing various “bathroom bills” or “religious freedom” bills that would enshrine discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, the situation for LGBTQ+ rights is precarious.

But there are allies, especially in the one sector that conservatives value more than any other: business. As we’ve seen, discriminatory laws don’t work out well for the states that enact them, and in a number of cases, it is local and national companies that are first in line to oppose such bills.

For example, 82% of Fortune 500 companies explicitly forbid discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. In Texas, 1,200 companies came forward in opposition to SB-6. And in Tennessee, the Hospital Corporation of America, FedEx, Jack Daniels, and Country Music Television opposed a proposed law that would allow mental health counselors to refuse treatment based on their religion. In Georgia, Salesforce, Apple, Microsoft, Disney, Intel, and Home Depot urged the governor to veto that state’s discrimination bill, which worked.

Republicans have made it clear that they don’t listen to people who won’t tell them what they want to hear, and this administration will absolutely be no different in that. But that’s people. When it comes to businesses, they’re a lot more likely to listen. While it may bother many of us that companies have so much more clout with politicians than do the people of the United States, when they use that clout to help prevent the passage of discriminatory bills, it would be absurd to turn away such allies.

A photo of Vice President Mike Pence.

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President Trump stated that he would let President Obama’s 2014 executive order, which barred discrimination against LGBTQ+ employees by federal contractors, stand. This came as a surprise to many people in the LGBTQ+ community, who had been bracing for the law to be repealed. But what is even more surprising is that Vice President Mike Pence, notorious for the “religious freedom” law that all but tanked Indiana’s economy, has come out in support of this move.

Trump said that “discrimination would have no place in our administration” during his campaign trail. But he ran on a platform that promised to bar and deport immigrants, chose Mike Pence as his running mate, and less than two weeks into his administration issued an executive order that banned people from Muslim-majority nations from entering the U.S. The LGBTQ+ community, among others, can be excused for not believing anything Trump or Pence says about being anti-discrimination.

So while on the one hand it does seem like Trump and Pence will leave LGBTQ+ rights alone, it’s important to note that the executive order in question only bars discrimination by federal contractors. For businesses that don’t contract with the federal government, whether or not they’re legally allowed to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community is a matter for the state to decide.

“Religious liberty” laws have been trotted out in a number of states, to varying degrees of success, but they all hinge on the “right” of people religiously opposed to the community to discriminate against it. It’s a flimsy pretense but one that won’t go away, even in the face of increased acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community across the country. While it seems unlikely that Trump will be issuing any executive orders targeting the community in the near future, it is a safe bet that he, and his administration, will be supporting religious liberty laws wherever they crop up.

A protest held in support of LGBT individuals and others affected by the Trump administration.

Photo courtesy of mathiaswasik at Flickr Creative Commons.

According to Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, Trump’s use of power in the White House is working to “galvanize the outrage” of people who voted against him, who will be harmed by his actions, or who have realized that they made a mistake in voting for him. “People are activated and ready to fight back,” he said, while meeting with New Jersey Senator Corey Booker in Philadelphia.

The two senators were meeting with LGBTQ+ activists in the city to make the point that the community needs to come together and stand against any anti-LGBTQ+ actions taken by Trump’s administration or by Congress. They were careful to remind listeners that 25 Senate seats, currently held by Democrats, are up for election in 2018.

If Democrats lose even eight of those seats, they won’t be able to stop the Republicans when they band together. They won’t even be able to filibuster.

The senators have some good advice. The LGBTQ+ community hasn’t been directly attacked yet, but it’s still very early in this administration, with it’s willingness to ignore the judicial branch and it’s nearly unchecked support from the legislative branch. Trump wasted no time on his “Muslim ban” or his wall on the Mexican border, so there’s no reason to think he won’t take action against the community as well, especially with a notoriously homophobic vice president and advisers who support neo-Nazis.

The community is sure to face threats from the current federal government, perhaps the most anti-LGBTQ+ government in American history, and the only way to face that is to stick together. But the senators made a point that the community is not alone, and has to work together with others. Women’s rights and immigrant rights are LGBTQ+ rights as well, and it is only through building a coalition, a unified front, that any marginalized people will come out of this okay.