Warning: This article contains disturbing language.
I make educational YouTube videos for children, and I’ve become a target of neo-Nazis.
On June 23, 2016, someone posted my LGBTQ+ YouTube video for kids to a Neo-Nazi online publication. The headline read, “Sick Dyke Creates Educational Program to Brainwash Children Into the Homosexual Lifestyle.”
I woke up to a few more mean tweets than usual that morning, not knowing why. And then I checked my YouTube channel. The comment section was overflowing with hatred.
Here’s the thing though: I’m no stranger to these types of comments. I’ve made mostly queer work for young children for about three years now, and that makes some people angry.
When I was in college, I directed a play for elementary schoolers that features a young boy who likes to wear dresses. One of our touring performances got cancelled and I was devastated. Someone responded to a teacher survey we sent out about the show calling the material “inappropriate” and “disrespectful.” It was an early lesson in how cruel people can be about queer issues.
About a year ago, I turned to YouTube. It’s a free and completely accessible platform (for those with internet), and a space with lots of children. I called my channel Queer Kid Stuff. The opportunity to reach kids directly, bypassing their more conservative parents, was exciting.
The first episode of Queer Kid Stuff launched on May 10th, 2016. It has been featured on Huffington Post Queer Voices, Autostraddle.com, Pride.com, Curve Magazine, Gays with Kids, Hunny Mag, and shared by countless others. The video reached 20,000 views and counting. Comments on these articles, on the QKS facebook page, on the video itself, and from my friends and family have been overwhelmingly positive, heartfelt, and incredibly moving. But with this amount of public exposure, it couldn’t stay sunshine and roses forever.
A wave of hatred crashed over me. It arrived slowly at first, then all at once. The nastiness started in the YouTube comments.
You wouldn’t know it from looking at my videos. It’s a kid-friendly channel, so I heavily monitor comments. I will not tolerate hate in the sacred space I am working so hard to build. The sacrifice I have had to make in order to protect that space is that I must comb through and delete every single negative comment manually. I must read when people hurl “faggot,” “dyke,” “pedophile,” and my new favourite, “kike,” in my direction. I’ve come to see this task as a matter of personal safety. I read every comment to make sure there aren’t any death threats letting me know I should call the police — or the FBI (my dad’s personal preference).
After the YouTube comments, tweets started rolling in. Horrible messages targeted both the @queerkidstuff handle, as well as my personal twitter account. I was at least somewhat prepared for the homophobia. But I was unpleasantly surprised by the rampant anti-semitism. I saw a few “hail Hitler”s and many confederate flag/Donald Trump/Hitler avatars. These attacks felt far more personal, attacking my heritage and identity as a queer Jewish woman. I have absolutely no idea how they know I’m Jewish, which is frightening. There is no way to prepare yourself for the moment someone tweets a picture of a noose at you. Many of these accounts have only double digit followers. I know because I went through and blocked every one of them.
I’ve been employing a few tactics on my social media in order to stay sane.
– DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS! I did not respond to a single tweet, message, or email. Tweets were blocked and reported, YouTube comments and emails were deleted.
– Tighten your personal security. This one’s (hopefully) a no brainer. I went through all of my privacy settings and double checked everything. I might be paranoid but it put me at ease.
– Ask for support. The overwhelming positive response from my community has been absolutely incredible. Do not be afraid to be vocal. I found that sharing my vulnerability around this made the issue visible and served as a rallying cry.
– Fight hate with love and stay gracious. In my experience, I’ve been able to best express myself best through creative outlets; and it feels good and it’s also fun! I post messages of love on the Queer Kid Stuff Twitter page. I want haters to know that no matter what they do, they cannot touch my spirit and I will keep moving forward, doing exactly the thing they hate and there is nothing they can do to stop me. On one occasion, I posted a vlog to my personal YouTube channel and to my Facebook page, thanking everyone for their support and playing the chorus for “Shake It Off” on my ukulele.
– Use your anger. I subtweeted the crap out of harassing messages on my personal feed. It was very satisfying.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The joke’s on them. My videos are monetized. I get roughly a dollar for every thousand views. I literally have a penny for every name they called me. Their hate is putting money directly in my pocket. And that’s truly how I sleep at night.
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