Twitch recently got called out for a series of anti-transgender ads which ran on their inaugural Overwatch League stream. To their credit, according to Pink News, Twitch hastened to remove the ads as soon as they learned of their existence.
Among other things, the ads, published by an almost-unknown Australian organization calling itself Parents HQ, which has previously accused the nation’s Safe Schools program – an anti-LGBTQ bullying campaign – of “queering children,” called children seeking treatment for gender dysphoria “a disaster,” and suggested that the Safe Schools program was “sexualising children.”
Prior to the ads being published, Parents HQ only existed as an obscure YouTube channel featuring a video titled “Queering Children” and an almost-bare Facebook page; how they were able to afford ad space on Twitch’s Overwatch League stream remains unclear.
But that’s not really the topic here; we know that these organizations exist, and we know what their rhetoric sounds like.
What is questionable is Twitch’s choice of language in responding to the Overwatch League ads.
While many would, and do, certainly argue the point, anti-LGBTQ language like that in these ads — particularly attempts to link LGBTQ programs to pedophilia — is not “political.” Trans existence and trans identities are not “political.” And if these ads were pointing at any other group — say, for example, an ethnicity — Twitch would not call them “political ads,” they would call them hateful.
Many others were unimpressed with Twitch’s response. One Twitter user asked: where is the apology?
So your problem with it is that it's 'political' and not that you had hateful, transphobic factually incorrect ad to air on one of the most character diverse games event? No apology? No damnation of that kind of ad? No statement for your trans and gender diverse audience?
— Sav Ferguson????️???? (@TimesNTroubles) January 19, 2018
That’s not just interpretation; the ads published by Parents HQ directly stated that one notable proponent of Safe Schools was “… not the only [Safe Schools] academic who endorses and advocates paedophilia and Queer Theory.”
According to Metro, over 10 million people watched the Overwatch League streams that the ads were aired during.
Efforts made to support the LGBTQ/transgender communities are laudable, and should be applauded, but they need to be made the right way. Suggesting that this is just politics is, essentially, agreeing with the (incorrect) notion that the legitimacy of transgender bodies and trans identities are up for debate, and suggests that Twitch doesn’t object to the debate itself, merely its inconvenient presence on their platform, exposing them to criticism.
So while it’s good to see Twitch take quick action to support the LGBTQ community and remove hateful content on their network, to really support them, they need to explicitly define that content as hateful. Positioning anti-trans content as a political debate they want nothing to do with is ultimately detrimental.
Thank you, Twitch. But please, do better.