Alex Blaze

Dominic's YouTube video is back up

Filed By Alex Blaze | May 14, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: dominic scaia, ftm, policy, transgender, transsexual

Earlier this week I posted about Dominic Scaia, the transsexual man whose video was removed from YouTube for "nudity," even though he was only shirtless in it. I remarked that YouTube didn't seem to have a problem with male shirtlessness, and I sent off a few questions to YouTube to get some clarity on their nudity policy.

Yesterday I talked with a PR rep at YouTube who informed me that Dominic's video was put back up. She wasn't able to give more of an explanation on YouTube's nudity policy, so it seems vague and applied on a case-by-case basis. She said:

Occasionally, a video flagged by users or identified by our spam team is mistakenly taken down. When this is brought to our attention, we review the content and take appropriate action, including restoring video or videos that had been removed.

I asked about another trans man's video who was taken down for the same reason, and she emailed me back to let me know it's back up as well.

I also asked what steps were being taken to make sure this doesn't happen again:

We'll be doing some additional training around these issues. Thanks again for reaching out and bringing them to our attention, Alex. Please contact me if there are any more issues.

It's not the most in-depth explanation of what they're going to do, but since the video was put back up almost immediately there doesn't seem to be a policy already against trans men going shirtless on YouTube, just someone who's probably assigned to check out flagged videos all day going a little trigger happy.

Their "training" could be as little as clarifying the policy to the people who check out flagged content, who might be completely unfamiliar with tg/ts/lgbt issues. Increasing awareness of their own staff would go a long way to keep YouTube open to LGBT people (and it's already been doing a great job, considering how many LGBT YouTubers there are).

In the meantime, since the video's back up, here it is. It's takes a lot of courage to not only be so open about one's surgery and one's body, but also to fight for the right to be so open.

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Considering the quantity of material their screeners must have to wade through and the speed with which the issue was resolved, I'd say this is pretty clearly an honest mistake. It's silly that a woman's chest is obscene and a man's chest is not, but that's the community standard, so that's what they're enforcing. And this video looks like a woman's chest to me, too.

Hey Steven :D

I'm curious, and, if you don't mind, would like to know why his chest looks like a woman's chest to you.

Hi Antonia!

That's an interesting and tough question. I meant that, if I took a quick cursory look at the image, I would think it was a woman's chest.

(And that's an interesting question, too. Why do we seemingly involuntarily try to immediately mentally assign gender? Even with all my radical notions of gender and sexuality, I recognize that that is something my mind still begins to do before my more enlightened self says it's not necessary...)

So, why did I see this image as female? It's hard to quantify these things, we read so many conscious and unconscious signals to put together a visual impression of gender. With the caveat that I think it's a very subtle and largely subliminal process, I will still take a stab at the question:

The general body shape (soft curves, big hips) reads as female. And the shadow under the breasts (which on closer examination is, I think, more scar than shadow) makes the breasts look pendulous, which I read as a female characteristic. And his face somehow reads as female to me, though I'm not sure why, maybe just the haircut? There's also something feminine about the way he's gesturing with his fingers under his chest. Again, hard to quantify, but I think those are the more obvious signals I was reading.

That's why I ask those questions, lol. They are simple, really, but they get you to look at something about yourself.

And that's kinda important when looking at something like this. The "innocent mistake" is one that is predicated on the very same forces that you describe when you rhetorically wondered aloud in your parenthetical statement why people assign a gender of a or b without much thought.

That's heteronormative conditioning and one of the key social systems that work to oppress and push on LGBT people but are most visible and most readily exemplified by transsexual people.

And, to the key point, wouldn't you say that your assigning him a sex opposite what is his personal sex, even at that nearly unconscious, very basic level, is, in fact, telling him that he doesn't look enough like a man, and since he doesn't look enough like a man, he should be subjected to the treatment of a woman by the mores and norms of society (even though you are aware those mores and norms have a rather high degree of oppressive characteristics)? In effect, stripping him of his actual gender in favor of the one that you are assigning based on factors of appearance which cannot be universally assigned?

I want to stress, lest you think I'm "picking on you" or something, that I'm not. As you may recall, I enjoy this kind of hard discussion.

If you don't mind, I'd also like to point out another minor aspect of your response, which can be used to further illustrate the point I'm kinda making here (at your expense, I admit, but without malice).

You used "soft" to describe the curves on his body. You described his pectorals as breasts (man boobs! OMG!). These are all things we don't typically ascribe to persons we read as masculine or male, and, indeed, as my little parenthetical there shows, we look at "flabby" pectorals on men as breasts and call them out for ridicule as a means of saying the person is less manly for having them.

All of this goes into the sort of thing that this very article is kinda trying to raise into the light very indirectly. That indirect method is often less "confrontational" than the one I tend to use (which is where I ask those hard questions) but the issues and questions are still the same.

The problem here is that Dominic is very much a man, who is being told by others that he's not manly enough in his physical appearance, and so people are punishing him for it in various ways that all carry with them aspects of making him seem a like a woman.

Now, given we have a bit of knowledge about Dominic in general, what do you think the *excuse*, or the "rationale" people use to justify that immediate push into the "woman" category that they wouldn't have in cases where other men who are "out of shape" and have, at times, larger pectorals than he has?

Wow, Steven and Antonia?
Your interaction is a micro-cosom of my early days in the Navy. And Antonia is absolutely right.
Soft curves, lines of stitches and bruising and the faint outline of the binder he was wearing all make it appear to be a shadow line of brests are just the beginning.

Any male with 2 or more female secondary sexual charateristics is typically harassed or ‘down gendered’. The more female secondary sexual charateristics a male expresses, the more he will be identified as female. Until the person is only gendered as female.

The opposite is true as well. Once you are around enough Trans and IS people and work around them you find a funny hierarchy falls in place.

Natal male
Trans FtM
Natal female
Trans MtF

Heres the funny bit, the IS? Or Gender fluid? If they butch up male wise will be up gendered to the natal male reagion and if they go fem mode are down gendered to the Trans MtF reagion. It can be quite entertaining dressing just a bit more fem or masculine to see how people react.

Dominic is a rightous dude to show us his scars. He is far more man than I ever could be.

Toni, I agree with nearly everything you say. I would never argue that my nebulous impressions of what constitutes which gender I mentally assign on first glance should be used for any purpose except to examine and critique. Clearly, deciding someone else's gender for them based on these broad stereotypes is harmful.

I'm not saying, "Dominic's a man"; I'm saying "This is how I think I may have reacted to this video before I knew anything about who this person is."

I'll buy that a lot of knee-jerk conclusions about gender are reinforced by heteronormative conditioning, but can we really be sure that there isn't some deeper biological response happening? And by saying this I'm not arguing that following our instincts is always a good thing. I'm just trying to be open to any hypothesis. Has there been any study of this stuff?

Maybe I'm just a cockeyed optimist, but I don't see youtube's behavior as all that bad. I find it incredibly encouraging that they're dealing in a really straightforward and generous way with ideas that, let's face it, are still radical and somewhat disturbing to your average open-minded liberal. Images like this may be old hat to us, but they're riding the edge of many people's comfort level.

And I don't feel picked on. :-) I enjoy the hard subjects, too.

I'm actually with you on this one, Steven.

What it boils down to me for me is that it seems to be a case where someone spent all of about 5 seconds looking at the video and went, "Woman with her shirt off" and then went to the next video that had been flagged. They didn't think about it and they used their gender stereotypes to judge the video.

Does that make it right or okay or anything remotely similar? No. In fact, it's a great reason to emphasize why it's so important to pay attention to YouTube users accounts. (A simple look at more of his videos would explain "trans man shortly after surgery" and not "woman with shirt off." But it doesn't look like they did that.

Whew! (call me a tad gunshy still)

Well, now let's look at at what you said once more in relation to the issues this bring up.

The idea of using those nebulous impressions to examine and critique is, ultimately, what I'm referring to.

Should you be doing so publicly, or for any purpose other than allowing you, as a single individual, to decide on how to react to someone else?

Is it *fair* to do so in a situation where your ideas have some measure of authority or social standing greater than that of Dominic's (and note that you cannot escape this particular dynamic, since there's a crap load of isms tied into all of this)?

More so, you may have unintentionally made a gaffe: It's apparent that you are, in fact, saying that Dominic is not a man. He does not appear as a man to you, and that is the very issue that's at the crux of all of the problems he's facing in particular.

Can we be sure there's not some deeper biological response involved? Well, yes and no. It would be inaccurate to say there isn't some sort of a physiological response involved (since most of this occurs int he brain and the brain is, after all, an organ of the body, it's kinda illogical to note otherwise). However, the nature of that understanding is informed by the culture in which one lives.

Not all of the signs we in the US (or Western cultures in general) are taken as similar signs in other cultures, nor is the rigidity of binary thought found as a universal (both in regards to time and space).

So to a great extent, the response itself is probably physiological, but the interpretive aspects of that response (the cues that we say are x or y) are not, logically or reasonably, inherent. They are part of the social milieu.

As for study, yeah. Tons of it, lol. Going back at *least* to the M & J studies and the Kinsey stuff, and even today with the research into facial responses and preferences by economic situation that are often fodder for science pages in newspapers. The UK stuff has been pretty cool overall, and while the "Science channel" parts of it that are often shown don't always deal in the particulars of trans folk, the effects are reasonably predictable thus far.

Part of the reason that I'm bringing this up and asking the questions I've asked so far is that I am aware you don't see the actions of Youtube as all that bad.

Indeed, you dismissed it as an "honest mistake". That's an active reinforcement of the kinds of very subtle conforming behaviors that consistently work against trans folk.

Although you didn't answer the earlier question I asked, I'm sure you were aware of the direction -- people make that kind of consideration *because* Dominic is Trans, and open about it, and these kinds of thoughts and actions -- this "allowing it to happen" is ultimately all possible because he's Trans and open about it.

If he wasn't trans, then this wouldn't be a problem, and there wouldn't even be an article on it because it would never have happened.

So when we try to excuse them for their actions or their thoughts, what we are saying is "oh, it's ok for someone to take away the gender of a person just because they don't fit out preconceived notions of what is man and what is woman."

And that's just as wrong as the action that creates that thought.

Although you didn't answer the earlier question I asked, I'm sure you were aware of the direction -- people make that kind of consideration *because* Dominic is Trans, and open about it, and these kinds of thoughts and actions -- this "allowing it to happen" is ultimately all possible because he's Trans and open about it.

I misunderstood the chain of events here. I didn't realize that the youtube screener knew that Dominic was trans. I was under the impression that the video was pulled because a screener made a quick judgment upon viewing the video that it was a "naked woman." If the screener knew that Dominic was trans, then it's a different story and, to my mind, not such an innocent mistake.

I'm not saying we should excuse them, whether they knew or not, but I am saying that I think this went down in a way that's encouraging. They did something offensive, they got called on it, they realized their error and corrected it. Dialogue leads to understanding which leads to this stuff happening less frequently, no?

I'll just take a moment and keep my comment to a simple thought: Thank you, Alex, for interceding with YouTube on the issue.