LGBT YouTubers spoke about their experience as creators, talked to fans and occasionally griped about YouTube’s algorithm on Thursday in a small yet packed room at Vidcon.
Blaque, who began uploading videos to YouTube about being a black transgender woman in 2010, asked the rest of the panel questions. Demonetization came up early.
“The biggest problem that I’ve had has been demonetization,” said Boebi, who makes sex-ed videos for lesbians. “YouTube’s response to it is ‘It’s not because you’re lesbian, it’s because you’re talking about lesbian sex.’”
As a YouTuber, views mean money. The higher a video’s views, the more likely advertising money will flow to the creator’s pockets. Additionally, sponsors often seek out creators with high view counts on their videos, providing them financial support in exchange for product placement.
But once YouTube demonetizes a video into a “red” zone, there’s no way to make any money on it, and creators can be left devastated. A lesser form of demonetization comes in the “yellow” zone, where the creator can collect advertising dollars, but there are often fewer ads to make money from.
“I’ve lost a ton of revenue,” Hardell said, though they pointed to age-restricted videos as even more harmful to their ability to turn a profit. “It’s so hard to get sponsorships when your views are going down because your content’s restricted.”
When speaking on behalf of a sponsor, YouTubers become a form of influencer, using often emotional connection viewers have with them in order to sell someone else’s product.
For LGBT YouTubers, the ethical quandaries of selling a commercial product to their audience are particularly prevalent, due to the YouTubers’ many teen, closeted viewers.
“It’s ethical to understand that you do have influence over your audience and they will give you money if you ask,” Hardell said.
Due to a lack of LGBT representation on YouTube, the relatively successful YouTubers on the panel said that they felt pressure to perform as if they were a model example of their minority. Wynn in particular said she felt anxious over her future as a YouTuber because she fears losing interest in creating content about her experience as a transgender woman, and never being able to move on to anything else.
“I’m always ‘transgender YouTuber Natalie Wynn’. I know there’s going to come a point where I want to move on,” Wynn said, but she acknowledged the potential futility of changing her identity as a YouTuber. “Unless I change my name and move to Guatemala, this is who I am now”
However, being one of the few visible LGBT content creators on YouTube meant something different to each of the panelists.
Wilson said that sometimes they’re frustrated with being seen primarily as an agender person, and hopes the rest of their identity isn’t ignored solely in favor of their gender identity. On the other hand, Boebi said that “I want every single person I run into to call me a lesbian.”
Blaque considers her life as a black woman more central to her identity than as a transgender woman.
“My story is my story,” Blaque said. “I cannot represent everybody, everyone has their own path, I might not be your perfect representation of a trans woman, but my path is valid.”
An editorial intern and news junkie with a hankering for all things spicy, Jackson gained a passion for journalism writing about housing and homelessness in the Bay Area for the Daily Californian and the Tenderloin Tribune. When not writing, Jackson can be found rambling to anyone who listens about old movies no one else cares about. He can be reached at email@example.com.