(Special to the Los Angeles Blade) My name is Rosalynne (Rose) Montoya, I am a Latina, bisexual, transgender woman. I am a social media content creator and before Monday December 14th, 2020, I had grown my audience to 300K+ followers on my TikTok account. (@RosalynneMontoya).
One of my videos about injecting my estrogen was reported. Shortly after I posted it, I received a notification that my account was permanently deleted and banned for violating the community guidelines. This was wrong. I’m always sure to follow the community guidelines of the platform I’m posting on. Myself, alongside many other creators, especially BIPOC, LGBTQPIA+, and those living with disabilities, are being targeted by trolls who are intentionally falsely reporting our content with the goal to delete our videos from the app.
TikTok’s algorithm allows these discriminatory actions to censor our content.I have appealed the decision to delete my account, but received the notification that they have reviewed my appeal and “it was determined that my account violates community guidelines and cannot be restored.” I am eagerly waiting TikTok’s email for a full explanation.
I use my social media accounts to educate people. I share my story, my transition, my surgeries, etc. I also invite my sister who is Deaf to help me teach people ASL.
I recently started a series on TikTok about trans history after receiving a hate comment stating that being trans is just a new trendy thing, when in fact we have always existed. I often respond to hate comments with humor and education. I strive to live by the words: kill them with kindness. Working as an educator can be difficult, but it’s important and fulfilling as well. I receive thousands of messages from people thanking me for the work I do, for inspiring them, and even for changing their minds.
This last month, as my following has exponentially grown, I’ve noticed more and more hate comments and trolls. Having been a content creator for a long time, I’m used to blocking hate comments and even death threats. However, the community guidelines violations on TikTok work differently from the other platforms I use. The guidelines in place are general and vague. There is little transparency on why TikTok removes or does not remove content. They also do not give reasons on why an appeal was denied. The community guidelines should be in place to protect the community. Creators shouldn’t have to put up with discrimination, hateful comments, or death threats. The algorithm should work to protect marginalized people, not discriminate against us.
From what I’ve gathered, if enough people report a video on TikTok (even if it’s a false report) the video is removed automatically, regardless of whether the video actually violated the guidelines or not. This can be appealed and if approved by a computer program, the content will be available again.
The problem, though, is that this leaves a flag on the account reported. After enough violations (even if appealed and deemed to be appropriate) an account can be deleted. The current algorithm is flawed and is allowing many people who are breaking the community guidelines to slip through the cracks, and many of us who follow them are being deleted and censored due to hateful trolls with an agenda to have our content removed from the app.
In the last month I have had many videos reported and removed due to false claims of violating TikTok’s community guidelines. The majority of my appeals were approved and most of my content was allowed back on TikTok. At the same time, I was also warned multiple times while live-streaming that my content was ‘vulgar’, even though I wasn’t breaking any of the community guidelines.
After being continuously reported, my appeals to go live were declined. I was banned from live more than 4 times for being a trans Latina woman while speaking about beauty tips, music, and my transition while wearing tank tops or bralettes. Each time I was reported the timespan of the ban was increased.
In the few weeks before my account was deleted, I had to consistently block the same person over and over ( @ey.yo.wtf ). His goal was to use my content for his own gain while spreading discrimination against my community. He would screen record my content (including a video with my 17 year Deaf old sister) then use it to spread hate on his page. He has reposted at least 7 of my videos (without tagging me) followed by his crude commentary.
These were brought to my attention thanks to my followers who sent them to me. I reported these videos, but TikTok’s algorithm concluded that they do not violate their community guidelines. After blocking him, he made another account and spammed my videos. Every time I blocked him, he came back again and eventually his friends joined in as well. From having so many wrongful reports of violating community guidelines, I was notified that my bio had been deleted. I appealed this and it was immediately restored. I had no idea these trolls held the power to have my entire account deleted from the app. These creators laughed when my account was deleted and are already spamming my new account.
After my appeal was denied, I went live on my new TikTok account, one of the trolls entered the live and reported me. I was banned from livestreaming for 24hours for “serious pornography.” I was wearing a tanktop.
Many fellow creators have noticed that they are also being targeted for being BIPOC, LGBTQPIA+, living with a disability, etc. Our content is being wrongfully reported by discriminatory haters. As a result, TikTok’s algorithm allows our content to be censored, banned, and deleted. We are just as deserving to use the app as these other people. Internet trolls should not hold more power than content creators.
I would like to ask TikTok to sit down with myself and other creators to discuss their community guidelines, and how they can improve the app to be more inclusive. I want my account back and the funds I accrued through the TikTok Creator Fund, but I also want to see real change to the algorithm and transparency with how their community guidelines function.
Real people—not just computer programs— should be involved before accounts are deleted. The community guidelines should not be able to be used as a tool to discriminate and target marginalized people.
I applaud other social media platforms that have created advisory boards where content creators can hold the platform accountable. I want to create content on platforms that protect the community, but I don’t wish to create content on platforms that censor my content simply for being trans and Latina.
Rose’s ‘TikTok Deleted My Profile Because I’m A Latinx Trans Woman’ YouTube video:
Sign her petition here: https://www.change.org/tiktokcommunityguidelines
Christian Conversion therapy almost killed Garry
Can we agree to end this? Banning conversion therapy in the US and the UK has proven very difficult
Why would a successful doctor struggle with suicide?
By James Finn | Garry is a young MD in with a reputation as a sharp, caring GP. He runs a successful practice, loves his husband, and enjoys the respect of family and community. But his fulfilling life almost didn’t happen. A few years ago, a stint in Christian-sponsored conversion therapy left him obsessed with suicide.
An intervention led by genuine mental health professionals brought him back from the brink, and now he’s gone public to push for legal bans of the type of Christian “therapy” that almost killed him.
The issue is huge now in the UK where Garry lives. He told interviewer Claire Byrne of RTÉ Radio 1 that he’s speaking up because it’s time for his native Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK to stop dragging their feet and finally ban conversion therapy.
Banning conversion therapy in the US and the UK has proven very difficult
Both leading political parties in the UK have promised for years to ban conversion therapy. Neither has managed. In the US, a national ban is a political non-starter. In US states that have banned conversion therapy for minors, religious loopholes are so big experts acknowledge the bans are little more than symbolic.
Programs like the one Garry attended operate all over the US, often targeting minors, even in states that ban the practice for minors. France is also struggling with a resurgence of conversion therapy despite a national ban.
In the UK, stiff religious resistance has torpedoed proposed bans, though that may be changing this year as the governing Conservative Party has recently recommitted to passing legislation.
The question is, how effective will any law be in the face of religious opposition? If the US, France, and Germany are any example, hardly effective at all.
Battling ‘unwanted same-sex attraction’
Have you heard the phrase “unwanted same-sex attraction?” It’s a new buzzword in conservative Christian circles, from Evangelical to Roman Catholic, all over the world.
It pops up in places you’d never expect.
I wrote a story last week about how hundreds of Catholic priests and bishops in German and Dutch speaking countries are holding public church services this month to bless gay unions. They’re calling it the “Love Wins” campaign, promoting it as #liebegewinnt on social media.
Jan Korditschke, a Catholic priest in Berlin who will be blessing gay couples in his church, told the Associated Press why “Love Wins” is so important to him:
I am convinced that homosexual orientation is not bad, nor is homosexual love a sin. I want to celebrate the love of homosexuals with these blessings because the love of homosexuals is something good. The homophobia of my church makes me angry and I am ashamed of it.
The “Love Wins” message resonates powerfully
LGBTQ people in Germany are celebrating this week with much of the German population. Rainbow flags are waving on church grounds, and news sources are filled with positive stories about loving same-sex couples.
When I tweeted my story, I met with an (expected) mixture of skepticism and joy from English-speaking LGBTQ people. I never expected my tweet to attract advertisements for conversion therapy, but that’s what happened. Two Catholic priests in Bavaria responded to promote a Catholic Church network that offers to help people “struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction.”
Garry from Northern Ireland would recognize that language
He told RTÉ Radio 1 that program leaders promised him “there was good hope that I could turn to live a heterosexual life, and they said that, yes, I could live quite happily without same-sex attraction.”
I was surprised to see the tweets in response to my story, because while I know the Catholic Church in the US is increasingly embracing conversion therapy despite historically opposing it, I did not know the practice was on the rise in Germany. My surprise led me to more digging that revealed the increasing extent of the problem in France, where it is more an Evangelical than Catholic phenomenon.
But this isn’t conversion therapy!
Here’s the problem. Programs like the one Garry attended — and like many networks in the US, France, and Germany — claim they don’t actually offer conversion therapy. They carefully avoid explicit promises to end same-sex attraction while implying strongly that they can deliver that result.
When the Massachusetts Catholic Conference recently opposed a state ban on conversion therapy for minors, they illustrated the problem clearly with their objection:
If a minor is struggling with unwanted same sex attraction or gender identity, this law would prevent a licensed professional from counseling the minor towards a resolution to those unwanted urges. A counselor would hesitate to provide such therapy for fear of losing his or her license to practice. These professionals, with years of education and experience dealing with mental health issues, would be removed from the process of helping a young client struggling with these highly personal issues.
“A resolution to those unwanted urges” obviously implies changing sexual attraction. No reasonable observer could understand it any other way. That phrase happens to be the exact language groups like Desert Stream/Living Waters Ministries employ as they partner with Catholic dioceses all over the US to offer conversion therapy they claim isn’t actually conversion therapy. It’s the exact language used by the Church conversion therapy network in Germany that advertised under my tweet.
Resolving unwanted same-sex attraction is conversion therapy
Many people have an inaccurate idea of what conversion therapy is. Decades ago, licensed psychiatrists and psychologists promised to turn gay people straight. They sometimes used harmful methods like shock and chemical aversion therapy. They relied heavily on talk therapy as well, but religion was seldom part of the mix.
Those medical practices all but died out by the 1980s in the US (and much of the rest of the world) without the need for laws. The mental health profession regulated itself, motivated by data that convinced them trying to change sexual attraction doesn’t work and causes serious mental health problems.
Psychologists and psychiatrists run afoul of their professional associations today if they offer conversion therapy, risking loss of board certifications and licenses.
Today, religious groups offer to “resolve unwanted same-sex attraction.”
Garry’s experience is typical of today’s conversion therapy. It’s almost always delivered by networks of unlicensed Christian counselors who combine religious practice like prayer with talk-therapy borrowed from the mental health world. Counselors promise they can “resolved unwanted same-sex attraction” by making it go away, by strengthening opposite-sex attraction, or by helping gay people feel content to live a life of celibacy.
As Garry attests, the results are as ineffective and toxic as when licensed professionals used to use them.
He says he became so depressed he had suicidal thoughts “almost on a daily basis” by the end of his unlicensed therapy. He started drinking heavily “every night just to get to sleep” and “to get rid of the thoughts” that were traumatizing him.
Conversion therapy keeps coming and going in waves
In the 1990s and early 2000s, a wave of “ex-gay” Christian conversion therapy swept through the Evangelical Christian world in the US, led by groups like Exodus International. These networks run by men who claimed they overcame their own same-sex attraction have collapsed as leaders admit their efforts proved both ineffective and toxic.
But even as that wave died out, new groups like Desert Stream are emerging to take their place. Garry’s traumatizing experience in Northern Ireland isn’t unusual, and that’s a big problem. Conservative religious organizations are heavily invested in the idea of homosexuality as pathological. They claim God doesn’t want people to be gay, and they believe strongly that they can help people “defeat sin” that is ruining their lives.
The trouble is, their programs are as ineffective and harmful as ever. However they try to finesse their language, they’re making promises they can’t deliver, harming people profoundly in ways mental health professionals call inevitable.
It’s possible that legislation will never be able to effectively deal with the problem. In the US and the UK, religious liberty principles make passing truly effective bans very difficult. It’s hearts and minds that have to change.
To those who believe unwanted same-sex attraction can be “resolved” —
Can we talk? When you tell LGBTQ people we’re suffering from an illness, when you offer to heal us, when you assert you can change how we experience sexual attraction, you’re causing tremendous harm.
What you’re offering isn’t new. Christians have been trying it for decades, and the numbers show nothing but trauma and mental health crises in result. Large networks of sincere believers have closed down after decades of operation because they saw the harm they were causing.
Christians all over the world have acknowledged they lack the ability to discern God’s will in a practice that has caused so much trauma and spiritual alienation.
Whatever your beliefs are about homosexuality, can you join that part of the Christian world that leaves God’s judgment to God and decisions about sexuality to personal conscience?
Garry was lucky. He lived to find joy and tell his story. The real tragedy here is all the people who didn’t. Can we agree to end this?
James Finn is a former Air Force intelligence analyst, long-time LGBTQ activist, an alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY, an essayist occasionally published in queer news outlets, and an “agented” novelist. Send questions, comments, and story ideas to [email protected]
Homophobia wins in the Puerto Rico Senate
Bill to ban conversion therapy died in committee
By Alberto J. Valentín | It is a sad day for Puerto Rico, and it is a sad day for human rights on the Caribbean island.
Last Thursday, 11 senators decided to turn their backs on children and human rights in Puerto Rico. A new Senate majority proved to be weak and on the wrong side of history, again. Eight senators from the legislative committee reviewing Senate Bill 184 to ban conversation therapy on the island voted against the bill’s report.
Today, thanks to these senators, any mental health professional can freely charge a father for “curing” his son of homosexuality or of a gender identity/expression that does not conform to social standards of “normality.” Although there has been an executive order in Puerto Rico banning conversation therapy since 2018, this order is only applicable to health institutions that have a specific connection with the government. Executive orders state mandatory requirements for the Executive Branch and have the effect of law; however, any governor can revoke them.
Senators received scientific evidence and several testimonies from LGBTQIA people who testified during public hearings. These senators also received evidence of permanent depression and suicide attempts caused by conversion therapy. However, 11 senators decided to condone hate and the intolerance towards the LGBTQIA youth on the island. One of these senators, Wanda Soto, said during one of the public hearings that “… with love anything is possible … ” in reference to her belief that kids’ sexual orientation and gender identity can be changed or cured. This senator even compared a bad personal experience with a dentist she had when she was a kid with LGBTQIA opponents’ testimonies of their experiences of going through conversion therapy.
Suicide and depression rates among LGBTQIA youth are staggering and are the highest in the entire United States compared to other reasons. These indices are a direct consequence of the intolerance, discrimination and lack of validation that our society perpetuates. LGBTQIA youth go through difficult times in their lives, including personal and family acceptance that trigger years of depression and anxiety among LGBTQIA people.
Today again, hatred wins. Today, Puerto Rico demonstrates why it is the number one jurisdiction for hate crimes in the entire United States. Today again, these 11 senators make evident why gender-based crimes continue to dominate local headlines. Today these senators are an example of the ignorance and lack of cultural competence that persist in our island. Today, these senators will be responsible for the depression and the stigma that the LGBTQIA community will continue to suffer. Today these senators are responsible for perpetuating intolerance. We take a step back as a society, demonstrating again that we cannot tolerate those who are different and who do not meet our standards of normality.
Neither the tears of Gustavo nor Elvin or Caleb, who presented their testimonies before the Puerto Rico Senate, were enough to move the hearts of these senators. The hypocritical hugs and words of support that some senators gave to these LGBTQIA people after their testimony and personally meeting them make it much harder to understand how they turned their backs on our children. Today these 11 senators are responsible for perpetuating hate crimes on the island and make our path to be a more inclusive society even harder.
Homophobia won in the Puerto Rico Senate last Thursday. There was no difference when the pro-statehood Senate majority defeated SB 1000 (banning conversion therapy) back in 2018 and now with a new majority lead by the Popular Democratic Party. Different senators, different bills, same result, but the same homophobia. Many Puerto Rican voters believed that furthering human rights would be easier to achieve on the island with a new majority in the legislature. Unfortunately, the reality is that our legislature is just a mirror of our society, and the lack of cultural competence persists among us. But we will keep fighting; this is a single lost battle, a battle among many others yet to come.
These are the 11 senators who voted against SB 184 or didn’t vote:
- Sen. Rubén Soto – Against
- Sen. Ramón Ruiz – Against
- Sen. Albert Torres – Against
- Sen. Ada García – Against
- Sen. Wanda Soto – Against
- Sen. Marissa Jimenez – Against
- Sen. Joanne Rodríguez – Against
- Sen. Thomas Rivera – Against
- Sen. José L. Dalmau – Absent
- Sen. Marially González – Absent
- Sen. Javier Aponte – Absent
Happy Mother’s Day
The publisher, editor, and staff of the Los Angeles Blade wishes all of the mother’s a very happy mother’s day and thank you for all that you do.
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