By Leo Garcia (Tolerant Human)
This week, YouTube unveiled a new feature on their platform: Restrictive Mode. This feature filters out content that is branded as “LGBTQ+” from viewers. Although it is being advertised as filtering inappropriate content, it is effectively blocking out a narrative that is crucial for the public to hear-- the narrative of the LGBTQ+ community. Their content and lives are being ignored and placed in the shadows once more. And in these shadows, hatred thrives.
The fear of the unknown is the cause of discrimination. By filtering out the content of LGBTQ+ creators, the lives they live are effectively blocked out from the public. If the public is unaware that using words such as gay and queer in a negative manner results in self-esteem issues within youth, this issue will never be corrected. It is nearly impossible to rid the world of discrimination if people aren’t made aware of the negative impact these habits have. By blocking out an entire community, the similarities that we all share are erased and the divide widens.
Additionally, YouTube is branding the LGBTQ+ community as inappropriate for those under 18, while millions of children are struggling with their own identity. Again, the public tells them that homosexuality is unacceptable and should be removed from the community. Again, the public is reinforced in the belief that homophobia is acceptable and reasonable. The issue does not lie in that YouTube is trying to filter out content that may be inappropriate; it is that LGBTQ+ is being branded as inappropriate. This results in outwards homophobia, and internalized homophobia as well. It is difficult for a child to embrace their sexuality or gender identity when society continues to push forward the notion that their nature is inappropriate for society. The LGBTQ+ community is being ignored. The belief that they are equal is being thrown out and being replaced with a button that effectively labels them as everything but equal.
The power of literature, art, and things of that nature is that it provides you with an insight into the lives of others. It allows you to empathize with them. It allows you to grasp the unknown and consequently, you become aware of issues beyond your own experiences. But this exchanging of experiences is diminished through this new feature. The similarities and the differences that exist between the LGBTQ+ community and society are not able to be shared between the two. The constructive content found in blogs, narratives, art, and throughout the LGBTQ+ YouTube community is filtered out. How does one expect someone to learn to accept homosexuality, when they hold no insight into the lives of the community? It is impossible to empathize with a community that is hidden away. While this may allow people to block out the LGBTQ+ community digitally, their lives remain. The issues that exist within the community are not erased, but rather ignored. Restrictive mode is a bold attempt to once again push the LGBTQ+ community onto the back-burner, to avoid dealing with the diverse issues the community faces.
In order to combat discrimination, it is important that we all learn to embrace the many similarities we share, study our differences, and marvel at the many experiences people live daily. At the end of the day, we are all humans who deserve to coexist on all platforms. Through this convergence comes love, understanding, acceptance, and tolerance. Learn to embrace the unknown and strive to understand it more and more every day. This quest for understanding is what binds us as humans. Admit your prejudice and work daily to correct them. For “[w]hen we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too” (Paulo Coelho).
*Here's how author Leo Garcia suggests you can get involved: Human Rights Campaign