PragerU Makes Me Cry: On Trans* “Debates” and Mental Health

TW Transphobia, Su*cidal ideation
As a kid beginning at ages 6–7, I was an avid reader. It began with low-level (short, small-worded) fantasy books, and progressed to Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Holes, and The Chronicles of Narnia. During these years I would boast my eventual college reading level, competitively battling my peers to be top of the class. Having a subject that I excelled in, unsurprisingly, boosted my confidence; but it didn’t last.
During my final few years of elementary school and into middle school, I began using the internet. Playing multiplayer flash games like Animal Jam and Club Penguin (R.I.P.) led me to YouTube, which (embarrassingly) remains my go-to site for entertainment to this day. Although the types of YouTube content I consume have changed, my hours spent on it haven’t.

I brought up my reading history to 1) emphasize the space YouTube and similar media platforms have filled in my life as well as what they’ve taken from it, and 2) show the books ended up hurting me, too; J.K. Rowling publicly disagrees with my existence. Seeing parts of my childhood and parts of my current life turn hateful is angering and depressing.
When I came out at 11 (before 8th grade, the last year of middle school), my peers bullied me mercilessly. This made me even quieter and more socially anxious- I wasn’t yet the bold, pronoun-correcting kid I am now. I was deadnamed by every kid who remembered my deadname, and I was fearful every day. I truly wished to stop existing.
A lot of this bullying could be tied directly to YouTube rhetoric- during these years, nonbinary and trans identities were a “hot topic” (just as they are again these past few years). Popular content creators found revenue posting videos about their “opinions” about trans people, usually consisting of “there are only two genders”, attack helicopter jokes, and jokes about being “tr*ggered”. My identity was a debate, my existence was a debate, and I was simply a child demanding respect.

Nowadays, as I mentioned, trans identity and gender theory is again a topic of discussion in the mainstream. Nearly all of this attention is negative: cis women are interviewed about trans women’s place in sports, bans are placed on gender-affirming care for minors (even with parental consent), and YouTube is at it again.
To get personal again for a moment, I am very emotional. “Sensitive”, “dramatic”, but I usually like to say empathetic. When I am attacked, I experience sadness and fear rather than anger. When others are hurt, I cry for them (to a ridiculous extent- I’d cry at a strangers’ wedding).
When I see online hate, which I do daily, I hurt.

PragerU, the America First Foundation, and similar “organizations” pay for ads attacking trans people; trans kids, specifically. The J.K. Rowling/TERF attacks are used, one video even being titled “Transgenderism: The Unintended Victims”. These channels frequently use the words “young girl”, whether it’s to describe transmasculine kids like myself, or to describe the supposed victims of trans women (yes, they also believe “men in dresses” are “coming for the children”). This hate is commercialized- I’ve had to wait for a skip ad button. I’ve clicked on PragerU videos in the sponsored recommended tab before realizing the uploader. Each time, my heart drops, panic ensues, and I spend genuine hours, days, sometimes weeks trying to reconcile the fact someone sees the world this way. Someone- a group of someones- either wants to “save” me from my identity and from living a genuine and joyful life (transitioning has made me SO much happier, despite all this fucking hate). It’s hard not to take it personally, and it hurts.
(how are those videos not considered hate speech? Why can they be monetized when trans activists’ channels often can’t even be viewed by minors? Being trans is not an adult matter- we all have a gender identity, trans peoples’ just don’t match their assigned(/assumed) birthsex. Gender identity is not sexual in nature, and in California (where I grew up) gender identity vs sex is covered in biology, debunking both “kids need to be sheltered from transness” and “open a biology book!”)

The most frustrating though, to me, is the “think of the children” remarks. Being trans is not an adult matter- we all have a gender identity, trans peoples’ just don’t match their assigned(/assumed) birthsex. Gender identity is not sexual in nature, and in California (where I grew up) gender identity vs sex is covered in biology (debunking both “kids need to be sheltered from transness” and “open a biology book!”). These people hate trans children- they’re the parents of my middle school bullies, the parents who ostracized me for asking our school for gender-neutral accommodations. They are Rand Paul, equating Female Genital Mutilation with gender-affirming bottom surgery. They are the grown people who told me to commit suicide because of my identity, yet they are calling for us to think of the children? I was one.
It’s a bit like saying “white lives matter”; we already know they do. We’re already thinking of cis children and what impact trans kids EXISTING could have on them (it’s actually none, other than a possible expansion of their minds). What we aren’t doing is taking care of trans kids, protecting them in schools, sports, healthcare, on social media…

The suicide rate among trans youth is high because this world is cruel, not because their transness is bad or harmful. Finding your identity, on its own, is a liberating and exhilarating feeling. Coming out and facing the world, though, can provoke reactions like those from PragerU, and if you feel things as deeply as I do, hearing these opinions from a fellow human being can be absolutely crushing.

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