Several weeks ago, I wrote my article on the alt-right pipeline, the means by which progressively reactionary content radicalizes young men. However, as I was researching, a specific aspect lingered in my mind, one that I never covered in the initial article. That aspect was the role of marginalized groups in the pipeline, particularly queer people like myself.
The alt-right pipeline features content that traditionally appeals to white men, who are attached to white male personalities. However, there are exceptions. Token representatives of oppressed demographics engage in similarly harmful reactionary rhetoric, ostracizing members of their own communities. I wanted to explore how queer reactionary YouTubers manipulate and damage their queer audience, similar to how reactionary content radicalizes cishet audiences.
For this exploration, I will focus upon two of the most influential queer reactionary YouTubers: Blaire White and Kalvin Garrah. These two, both transgender, are among the most-subscribed personalities on the platform, conservative or otherwise. They harness their identities and assert themselves as a “voice of reason” in their community. They are infamous for their “hot takes” on LGBT discourse ranging from gender identity to acceptance in society.
Many of their views are problematic, but I want to focus more on their impacts. The ideas showcased by personalities like Garrah and White only damage the self-esteem of the LGBT community and lend to their real-life harm. People limit their own expression for fear of being mocked or out of a need to fit in. It is a pipeline of internalized queerphobia.
The preexisting vulnerabilities within queer people show why this phobia is so present. Entities like the alt-right pipeline feed upon vulnerability — isolated people with preexisting insecurities and anxieties. No community is more insecure than the LGBT+ community. Nearly 40% of its members suffer from mental illness and they are six times more likely to face symptoms of depression. They are isolated, perhaps facing hatred from friends and family, and must hide in a dark closet. The community’s mental fragility is open even more to toxic values and viewpoints. They are receptive to content that validates them, even if such content invalidates others.
This need for validation is where White and Garrah come into play, as much of their content involves them removing themselves from mainstream queer thought. White is a center-right conservative who voted for Trump. A trans Trump supporter already lends to a captivating personality. Through her videos, particularly early in her career, she decries the leftist mainstream gay community and blames Trump’s 2016 win on their toxic discourse. These are similar talking points by traditional reactionaries but now from a trans viewpoint.
Garrah functions similarly to White, though less outrightly political. He shares contrarian takes on issues, particularly in the trans community, such as whether or not being trans requires a medical diagnosis. The existence of polarizing viewpoints is not toxic in itself. Exposing questioning people to a variety of views can be healthy. There is not just one way to think as a queer person.
Furthermore, Garrah, as a trans male, portrays himself as a masculine figure who plays lacrosse and has a girlfriend. Meanwhile, White adheres to conventional feminine beauty. They show there is no one way to present as a queer person.
White and Garrah are entitled to their values and have an opportunity to present diverse viewpoints in a healthy manner that encourages healthy conversation, allowing the insecure community to solidify their own values. Still, the issue lies in how queer reactionary YouTubers distinguish themselves, not in the distinction itself. White and Garrah are entitled to their beliefs, but they apply these beliefs by mocking fellow gay people for their own benefit. This application is where the damage comes into play.
White’s and Garrah’s most popular videos center around them poking fun at other community members for their choices of presentation. For example, White reacts to TikToks from non-cis creators without their permission. She makes snide remarks about their behavior. This “behavior” is usually them sharing their takes on popular discourse that White might not agree with or identifying in specific ways with which she might not agree.
She openly mocks these individuals — who are often children — for how they present themselves. It is bullying, plain and simple. This mean-spirited behavior is typical across Garrah’s account, with entire videos directed toward queer people and their identities — identities that rarely hurt others and simply serve to make the individual more comfortable. These reactions feature pipeline rhetoric like “SJW cringe,” but the people doing the cringing are the same groups featured in the videos.
Queer reactionary YouTubers bullying personalities like these reveals their sense of superiority. By promoting these reactionary ideas, they hope to prove they are “not like other gays.” They are “normal,” unlike all the mentally unstable people who change their pronouns or devise distinctive sexualities. The LGBT people who watch this content might feel the same way. They want to be accepted, and acceptance, unfortunately, often involves pushing others aside who are less “acceptable.”
Say a young gay teen feels insecure about who they are. They feel lonely because they are not loved or understood by their family and friends. They are angry about their isolation, and people in anger often seek a reason for that anger. For white men and their isolation, marginalized groups supposedly seek to erase what identity they have. For isolated queer people who watch queer reactionaries, it is their fellow community members who make them look bad.
The gay teen may use White’s and Garrah’s videos as a reason for their social isolation. They need to distinguish themselves from certain kinds of queer people to fit in. Furthermore, they may feel insecure that they don’t fit the ideal of what an LGBT person should be. Thus, they may turn to queer reactionary YouTubers to validate these feelings. They don’t need to fit an ideal because that ideal is cringe.
This planted hatred among the community begins a new pipeline, leading to an intense hatred of the self and others. This self-hatred is tangible and reflects the true extent of Garrah’s and White’s actions. Garrah’s downfall began with pointed criticism of a specific personality. As a result of bullying or harassment, this targeted individual fell into depression. They lost faith in their own identity due to external perception. Meanwhile White framed a trans female athlete for competing in female sports, which was revealed as a blatant lie, one piece of a mounting pile of harassment allegations. Due to White’s deceit, this athlete was harassed. Words are destructive, not just demeaning or divisive.
How can one counteract the hatred, both internal and external, that these queer reactionary YouTubers initiate? You cannot change an algorithm, but you can perhaps invoke acceptance. People can have strong support networks, such as positive influences outside of the internet, with an open-minded group of queer peers who do not mock someone’s expression. It can also be on the internet, with YouTubers focusing on self-love and more healthy debate on queer discourse. Ultimately, White and Garrah constantly claim they are confident in their identity. The problem is many others are not, and the two are certainly not helping.