Written evidence submitted by LGB Alliance

 

DCMS Influencer Consultation

Fri 7th May 2021

 

DCMS Committee is inviting written submissions addressing the following areas:

  1. How would you define ‘influencers’ and ‘influencer culture’? Is this a new phenomenon?
  2. Has ‘influencing’ impacted popular culture? If so, how has society and/or culture changed because of this side of social media?
  3. Is it right that influencers are predominantly associated with advertising and consumerism, and if not, what other roles do influencers play online?
  4. How are tech companies encouraging or disrupting the activities of influencing?
  5. How aware are users of the arrangements between influencers and advertisers? Should policymakers, tech companies and influencers and advertisers themselves do more to ensure these arrangements are transparent?

INTRODUCTION

LGB Alliance submission to the DCMS Committee inquiry on Influencer Culture

https://lgballiance.org.uk/

This submission is made on behalf of LGB Alliance. We welcome the opportunity to respond to the Committee’s inquiry into influencer culture and hope this submission is of interest. If you have any questions regarding our response, please contact kate.harris@lgballiance.org.uk

LGB Alliance is a group that represents the interests of a rapidly growing number of lesbian, gay and bisexual people. We represent thousands of LGB people who have grave concerns about the loss of our rights, specifically in relation to moves to replace, in law and elsewhere, the category of ‘sex’ with ‘gender identity’, ‘gender expression’ or ‘sex characteristics’.

We are long-time gay and lesbian activists who fought for the rights of people with a same-sex sexual orientation. These hard-won rights are now under serious threat.

Why we are interested in this inquiry

We have serious concerns about the role that influencers in the media, especially social media, are playing in promoting a culture based on certain beliefs. These beliefs, which are linked to queer theory, teach that everyone has a ‘gender identity’, separate from their biological sex, and that this ‘gender identity’ should take priority over biological sex in all areas of life, including health provisions, prisons, sport and – the area of primary concern to LGB Alliance – sexual orientation. These beliefs are being promoted to children and young people as if they were facts instead of beliefs. We believe this is causing grave harm.

Is ‘influencer culture’ a new phenomenon?

Certainly not. It has always been the case that certain groups in society congregate around certain newspapers, tv or radio channels etc. Indeed, it could be said that ‘influencer culture’ dates back to opinion writers such as Addison and Steele publishing their views (and promoting coffee houses) in the Spectator in the early 18th century. However, the rise and growing dominance of social media have transformed this culture in three essential ways:

  1. Quantitatively. The sheer number of media outlets means that people can choose from a vast repertoire of opinions. They can choose a single influencer, or group of influencers, with a particular point of view on YouTube, Tumblr, TikTok or Facebook, and ignore virtually all others.
  2. Accuracy. Most influencers are not subject to fact checking. Conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated opinions spread like wildfire without any authoritative control mechanism to curb them.
  3. Youth. Since young people who have grown up in the internet age tend to be more tech-savvy than older generations, they have taken control of social media. This has led to a troubling reversal, in which older generations are expected to defer to the young. Refusing to do so leads to abuse, threats, boycotts, and in some cases loss of work or livelihood.

We will now list some of the changes in contemporary culture that are specifically relevant to LGB Alliance and that we believe can be attributed to a large extent to the spread of gender identity theory by hugely popular influencers: celebrities, once trusted human rights organisations that are now advocates for a specific world view, and young vloggers such as those on YouTube.

The following paragraphs describe these developments in more detail. Our submission will focus on the emerging scandal of the medicalisation of confused children to illustrate the issues surrounding influencer culture.

Background

The following article gives an overview of the state of current evidence relating to the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones in children: Current Evidence - Transgender Trend.

In summary, little is known about the long-term side effects or what effects hormone blockers have on the development of the teenage brain or children’s bones.

The role of influencers

None of these assertions is supported by current medical evidence.

 


Much activism takes place on other channels such as Tik Tok, Tumblr, Facebook and so on. Last April, a 17-year-old girl described being distressed about her female body and wishing she had a flat chest. These are the responses she received on Tik Tok:

A screenshot of a cell phone

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How do we know professionals fear to challenge it? Because they write and tell us.

Tavistock trust whistleblower David Bell: ‘I believed I was doing the right thing’ | Transgender | The Guardian

RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS

1 How would you define ‘influencers’ and ‘influencer culture’? Is this a new phenomenon?

We take quite a broad view of the definition of ‘influencers’. The term is mainly associated with those who influence the consumption of products and services. It is also used in relation to media and popular culture. Our own submission focuses on the latter. However, we wish to say that beyond the UK, especially in the United States, drugs like puberty blockers and surgical operations such as mastectomies are regarded as consumer products and promoted in the same way. We will illustrate our point with a couple of examples. Indeed, the conflation of popular culture, health solutions, and consumer products is itself a troubling development that should be addressed elsewhere.

Example: A medical practitioner dancing around some vegetation with a musical background while advertising double mastectomies as ‘Teetus deletus’

https://images.app.goo.gl/BYCiQkZ1o7zw7jjCA

Another ad for double mastectomy

https://twitter.com/S0uthRiding/status/1227331481716056065?s=20

The influencers we discuss in our submission have multiplied exponentially in recent years. Those discussed here follow and promote an ideology that takes society back to pre-Enlightenment days.

Science and evidence-based dialogue no longer carry weight. Freedom of speech is replaced by a series of mantras which must be learned by heart and repeated by believers. Biological facts established over millennia are dismissed as transphobic, frequently hateful and sometimes not worthy of being heard in civilised society. Such ideas are promoted by the small but powerful group of gender identity or queer theory influencers and repeated by celebrities.

2. Has ‘influencing’ impacted popular culture? If so, how has society and/or culture changed because of this side of social media?

Influencing has a major impact on popular culture, especially with young people. Influencers gloss over the unresearched, ideological and potentially very harmful outcomes of gender identity theory.

First, campaigners teach that everyone has a gender identity – a feeling which is more important than biological sex. Those of us who insist we do not have a gender identity and find the idea sexist and regressive are dismissed or mocked.

Organizations once set up to campaign for people with same-sex sexual orientation now focus on ‘gender identity’ instead. Stonewall, for example, no longer refers to same-sex sexual orientation; it says same-gender attraction instead. Let’s spell out what that means. It means that two males, both with a penis, who identify as women, can refer to themselves as a ‘lesbian’ couple. It is hard to put into words how offensive that is for lesbians, who see our rights and even our own definitions for ourselves swept away. Young lesbians are pressured to say they would consider male-bodied people as potential sexual partners. Otherwise they are called ‘transphobic’. Worst of all, this attitude is marketed as ‘progressive’. We maintain it is the exact opposite of progressive.

In 2015 Stonewall recommended to the Women & Equalities Select Committee that there should be:

https://www.stonewall.org.uk/women-and-equalities-select-committee-inquiry-              transgender-equality

What this means is that in Stonewall’s ideal world, there would no longer be any places for lesbians or gay men (or indeed women) to be together without the opposite sex.

Another example is the careless promotion of the largely unknown effects of puberty blockers, cross sex hormones and surgery – which are all presented online as if they are nothing to worry about. Indeed – double mastectomies for girls wishing to live as boys is euphemistically called top surgery. At the most recent count, over 34,000 girls are fundraising on GoFundMe to finance the removal of their breasts.

3. Is it right that influencers are predominantly associated with advertising and consumerism, and if not, what other roles do influencers fulfil online?

As we have shown, there is a trend in popular culture, especially in the United States, to see those demanding specific solutions to their health problems as consumers rather than patients requiring unbiased expert assessment, diagnosis and treatment. There is a harmful conflation between commercial products, health solutions, and cultural kudos. Influencers are driving and/or exacerbating this trend. The influencers we are concerned about use harmful incorrect data (debunked suicide stats, reversibility of PBs, pause button, misrepresentation of the law regarding single-sex spaces (EqA 2010) to promote this ideology. Most frequently they refuse to engage in debate and block those who ask questions. Much of their output uses emotional blackmail techniques which serve to shut down any critical engagement. (‘Don’t discuss this or I will feel unsafe? Is this a “safe space”?’)

  1. How are tech companies encouraging or disrupting the activities of influencing?

Tech companies facilitate the activities of the influence culture that we are discussing. For instance, Amazon refused to allow Abigail Shrier to promote her book on their site. Twitter, Facebook, Medium and YouTube frequently restrict or shut down accounts that promote women’s or LGB rights and challenge gender identity ideology. In addition, social media companies make no attempt to correct or prevent the influencers’ dissemination of ‘fake news’ in support of gender identity ideology. They behave as if the ideas put forward by gender critical people are abhorrent. In other words, those who promote the rights of women and people with same-sex sexual orientation are now regarded by social media companies as bigots – and censored.

What this means is that Twitter, Facebook, Medium, YouTube and Amazon are themselves among the most powerful ‘influencers’ in promoting the gender identity ideology that is causing so much harm. They bear a heavy burden of responsibility – which will eventually become clear.

  1. How aware are users of the arrangements between influencers and advertisers? Should policymakers, tech companies and influencers and advertisers themselves do more to ensure these arrangements are transparent?

A few months ago, BoyzMagazine was bankrupted by influencers who were angry that BM had suggested that its readers watch an LGB Alliance webinar. The angry mob brought pressure to bear on advertisers, and one by one they all caved. Every publication is fearful of losing its advertising revenue. Although most users are probably unaware of these underlying mechanisms, the power of aggressive influencers to protest and to shut off advertising revenue has become increasingly clear. This poses a serious threat to freedom of expression. Transparency itself cannot solve this problem.

 

 


[1] See https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/bjpsych-bulletin/article/sex-gender-and-gender-identity-a-reevaluation-of-the-evidence/76A3DC54F3BD91E8D631B93397698B1A

[2] See https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18981931/; https://www.genderhq.org/trans-children-gender-dysphoria-desistance-gay