Youtube and Marginalized People Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

New Media and Opportunities for Ordinary Citizens

Content Bringing People Together

This paper examines how YouTube is able to provide a strong lifeline for marginalized people. YouTube is the fundamental public forum and is one which is able to offer individuals a means of showcasing their story for the world. YouTube offers people who are minorities, repressed or otherwise pushed to the fringes of society a means of sharing their story and of showcasing their unique experience. For some, YouTube allows them to show the violations of government and civil rights -- this creates a level of accountability along the world stage. For others, YouTube helps them foster an online community of marginalized individuals otherwise sharing their story. This paper will look at two specific groups of marginalized people: transgendered teen and ordinary civilians in Venezuela and discuss how YouTube is able to offer them a means of sharing their story while bringing people together in a sort of online community.

For transgendered youth, creating videos on YouTube which share their story is a means of building a sense of community and strength, helping these often discriminated against youths share their collective experience and grow stronger as a community. "Thousands of teens and twentysomethings who are transgender -- identifying with a gender that is different than their sex at birth -- have turned to YouTube as a kind of public diary. As they start taking hormones or using new names, many are documenting their journeys on video, baring their souls and revealing their changing faces to strangers online" (Reyes, 2014). One of the aspects of this very experience is that the fact that these youths are creating a public diary at all is revolutionary. Many of them have long been told that it's in their best interest to abandon their former selves post-surgery and post-transition. Essentially, this advice made life easier for all the non-transgendered people as they didn't have to confront this person's alternative choices. Abandoning one's former self was simply advice given so that narrow-minded people within a narrow-minded world wouldn't be challenged or wouldn't be taken out of their comfort zone in any way. YouTube videos in a sense are a way of combating this mentality. YouTube is creating a permanent and public diary which is helping these individuals share their story -- regardless of whether their journey of transformation makes people uncomfortable. When the old norm used to be stuffing down and suffocating one's personal story, the new norm is one of sharing and disclosure. As one transgendered youth recounts, hiding one's personal story used to be a necessity, or else one would lose everything, including dating opportunities while making oneself vulnerable to violence. "Three years ago, a national survey of more than 6,400 transgender and gender-nonconforming people found that 71% had tried to avoid discrimination by hiding their gender or gender transition. Sharing their stories remains risky: More than a third of people who were gender nonconforming or had a transgender identity before graduating from high school said they had been physically assaulted, the National Transgender Discrimination Survey found" (Reyes, 2014). If only violence and bias were the worst case scenarios for this marginalized group: in reality, society tends to have difficulty accepting these young people for who they really are by virtue of the type of surgery they've had. Consider the experience of members of the gay community: gays and lesbians "come out" and essentially showcase who they really are: transgendered youths are worth that this sharing and disclosure actually does the reverse, making people think that they are actually less than the real men and women they claim to be.

When it comes to conflict overseas, it's generally agreed upon that Americans are often overly concerned about their own country and their own problems -- so much so that this can create a sense of both indifference and ignorance about the injustices and horrors that are occurring overseas. In the case of the Venezuelan student protests, YouTube has been able to provide a platform and meaning to these students, showcasing their struggle and plight in ways that professional journalists are not allowed to. This is no small feat. The Venezuelan government has a strong track record of sequestering and concealing the realities of their own actions and life within their country. All acts of violence and intimidation are swept under the rug via the state-run media circuits.

Consider the events of just a few months ago: "The Venezuelan government has expelled CNN reporters from within its borders, as unrest continues to intensify within the country. The expulsion comes after multiple warnings that the network would be banned from the country if they did not bring coverage in line with the message of the state-run media. 'Enough war propaganda,' President Nicolas Maduro said on Thursday. 'I do not accept war propaganda against Venezuela. If they do not rectify things, get out of Venezuela, CNN, get out.' The move leaves almost no television networks left in the country aside from the state-run networks, which have largely ignored the national unrest" (Brandom, 2014). This excerpt is entirely revelatory of the climate of this nation. Having outside sources expose the realities of the nation to the rest of the world is labeled as war propaganda. The nation is so cognizant of the rampant injustices and terror which the government is allowing to thrive, they don't want any public record made of this. After the removal of CNN, more acts of violence against students continued to thrive. Students protesters were shot to death, "including the recent death of Genesis Carmona, a 22-year-old student who had been named Miss Tourism 2013 for her home state of Carabobo" (Brandom, 2014). Luckily for the people of Venezuela, this is still the time of social media, and there is a strong level of accountability that can't help but occur. Within the realm of social media with video sharing platforms like YouTube, it becomes more and more difficult to hide this form of state-induced terror. Venezuela's tactics might have worked twenty years ago, but nowadays, there is simply too much exposure and too much of an opportunity to share one's experience with the world. Social media makes it truly difficult to repress people and get away with it.

One nascent filmmaker made a short film entitled, "What's Going on in Venezuela in a Nutshell." This film was so important as it provided an uncensored snapshot of the struggles, violence, injustice and oppression which is occurring in this nation, and to which the rest of the world would have been ignorant. "There were three confirmed deaths of students in last week's protests, all gunshot-related. The film shows one protester being hit over the back with a gun by an armed policeman, and then kicked in the head. At one point, Nash's voiceover stops while the footage rolls -- oblique-angled street scenes, patches of sunlight cutting across shadowy long-range views of tiny demonstrators pouring down a road, while a whip cracks relentlessly, the sound of rapid gunfire. Nash took the images from the Venezuela Lucha Instagram page, which has been documenting the violence" (theguardian, 2014).

Characteristics of the Participants

For transgender youths, they come from a range of backgrounds and cultures, along with a range of socioeconomic classes. Transgender youths can be found all over the country, and some originate from middle class or upper-middle class homes, others are from lower middle class homes. They can be either male or female and originate from a range of different races. However, what is so distressing about some of the facts in connection with transgendered youth is that they are at risk for more hazardous behavior than non-transgendered youth. Consider the following facts: "33% of transgender youth have attempted suicide; 55% of transgender youth report being physically attacked; 74% of transgender youth reported being sexually harassed at school, 90% of transgender youth reported feeling unsafe at school because of their gender expression; 78% reported having been verbally harassed; 48% reported having been victims of assault, including assault with a weapon, sexual assault or rape" (CDC, 2011). These youths may come from a range of ethnic and varied socioeconomic backgrounds, but the reality is that certain negative experiences plague them unanimously and with a certain level of consistency.

Feelings of victimization also go hand in hand with certain high risk behaviors and hazardous consequences of such behaviors. Furthermore, it was discovered that youths who had experienced negative situations like being bullied at school or otherwise victimized were more likely to be diagnosed with an STD, used intravenous drugs, had multiple sex partners over the number of four, often had unprotected sex. Moreover, the school environment simply did not represent as a safe place for these youths, the way they did for other children: more and more transgendered youth reported feeling unsafe at school, and reported higher drop-out or suicide rates or rates of homelessness (CDC, 2011).

On the other hand, many of the student protestors in Venezuela, are…

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