YouTube producers can provide clear answers for transgender individuals

March 15, 2017

Stevie Berberick

By Stevie Berberick, post-defense doctoral candidate at Penn State

Mainstream media obscures a number of topics that are of import for transgender individuals, leaving them and their allies at a loss when it comes to finding answers to questions. According to research I recently conducted, independent transgender YouTube vloggers illustrate that  for strategic communication practitioners social media matters.

YouTube is a promising platform for non-profit organizations who serve queer communities. The producers I worked with during this research are experts at creating content that is seen and shared by many. Their knowledge can increase the reach of financially strapped non-profits that hope to serve and assist transgender people. The trans masculine producers I traveled to meet and interview (in Maryland, California, Oregon and New York) offered detailed content and form suggestions for non-profits.

The YouTube producers I worked with said that the most common questions they receive include: How do I find a doctor? How long will transition take (especially in regards to seeing effects of hormones)? How do I find out what is covered by insurance? How do I obtain insurance? What is it like to date/how do I tell partners? What resources are available to transgender people?

Therefore, producers recommend YouTube videos that:

  • Instruct people on how to find and obtain insurance
  • What to expect from medical practitioners,
  • Listings of trans friendly medical professionals
  • A language tutorial (pronoun use, etc…)
  • A video that lists trans resources across the nation
  • A video on rights and protections (this would vary by state)

Additionally, understanding form and virality is vital to ensuring that responsible representation and important information is accessible to those who may not have the ability to travel to an on-site location for assistance. There is a recipe for virality in the YouTube sphere.

Non-profits creating digital videos should consider that thumbnails matter. The image that accompanies the YouTube video is of great import. Pick something that grabs the attention by using a striking image, bright colors or photographs. Photographs are a fantastic way to compress a great deal of information in a short amount of time. Also, good background music helps move the video along, but be sure to obtain copyright permission.

Time is also important in the world of YouTube, as vloggers state that videos over four minutes often lose the attention of the audience. Narrative also matters. Non-profits should connect with audiences through providing a diverse group of transgender stories that illustrates that there is no one way to be transgender. Switching between various voices and faces also keeps the viewer tuned in.

If non-profits utilize YouTube to create an archive of valuable information, they should be aware that they are likely to receive a great deal of audience questions and commentary. Replying to these is vital. Be sure to have time allotted to take care of the audience interaction.

Finally, representation isn’t just about who is in front of the camera, but also who is behind it. Socially responsible non-profits should be aware of their own hiring practices and strive to bring the underrepresented people they serve to the production table.