Lily Alexandre believes in better online communities

Video Essayist Lily Alexandre makes videos to help mend our broken online conversations

Lily Alexandre started her YouTube channel almost 10 years ago and has been producing videos on and off ever since. After a brief break in her output, she decided to start her channel back up when she became concerned about her job opportunities, having left Dawson College before graduation. So, deciding to use YouTube as a way to show off her skills to possible employers, Alexandre put out her first video in the “video essay” format. To her surprise, the video went viral.

The video that sent her channel soaring was released in January of this year, titled “Millions of Dead Genders: A MOGAI Retrospective,” which details the mostly forgotten “MOGAI” (Marginalized Orientations, Gender Alignments, and Intersex) community of 2010s Tumblr. This community, Alexandre explains, was largely comprised of early-teenage kids aiming to navigate their queer identities and formulate new names to put on their often confusing feelings that they felt did not fit neatly into existing “LGBTQIA+” categories. While often ridiculed for their incessant “micro-labeling,” Alexandre approaches this community with a critical lens to discuss why queer youth gravitated towards this outlook despite how it may have been detrimental to the ongoing process of some people’s gender exploration. Alexandre didn’t realize that this video would strike a chord with audiences so quickly.

“I was at work one day, packing orders at a warehouse and my phone started suddenly blowing up,” Alexandre detailed. “It was super exciting but I also had no idea how to approach it because I had made hundreds of YouTube videos and never had an audience over a thousand people. So, suddenly there was a lot of expectation.”

Since then, Alexandre’s channel has grown to have nearly 20K subscribers, and has released four more videos this year averaging about 30 minutes each, mostly discussing issues in online gender discourse.

However, with this focus on controversial topics in queer identity, as well as her being a visible trans woman online, Alexandre has begun to feel the burden of representing her community, where marginalized creators often feel the need to be more perfect and controversy-free than their peers in order to escape backlash.

Youtuber Lily Alexandre

“I think in my case, and in the case of a lot of queer and trans creators, it’s specifically a thing where

people have seen that they can relate to what I have to say and very quickly have become super attached to me, and kind of assumed that they know who I am and what I stand for outside of these videos,” Alexandre explained. “So, if I say something that goes outside the bounds of their image of me, there can be a lot of backlash, because I feel that people have gotten attached to me as a person and the idea that I have to live up to their ideal.”

Much of Alexandre’s catalogue focuses on where online conversations go wrong, and how we can start to piece our conversations back together. In her most recent video, “Do ‘Binary Trans Women’ Even Exist? The Politics of Gender Conformity,” she details the false dichotomy between non-binary and binary trans people and how both sides claim they are the ones that are more oppressed. This whole argument, Alexandre argues in the video, is reductive to the core, as it places all trans people into one of two boats, erasing important nuances in personal experiences.

Alexandre’s videos show viewers how to be more generous with each other online. Alexandre jokes in her videos about simply “logging off” of toxic conversations online, but she believes that there is truth to this suggestion.

“I think just engaging with people face-to-face builds a lot more empathy than we have online. I’ve been trying to carry that empathy into my online interactions too,” she suggested. “If I see someone with a ‘take’ I think is bad […] that doesn’t make us enemies. This stuff is just a lot lower stakes than it feels online.”

When producing videos spanning difficult topics like gender identity and mental illness, Alexandre is still learning how to balance her work with her own mental wellbeing. She finds herself sometimes getting overwhelmed when putting together videos with such heavy content. However, over the past few months, she’s been learning how to deal with these uncertain moments.

“In those cases, it’s been helpful to remind myself why I’m writing the thing I am. It’s usually not just to talk about ‘Hey, this is really awful, let’s wallow in it.’ It’s usually directional, it’s usually for a purpose,” Alexandre explained. “Because I’ve talked mostly about things I feel do have stakes, and my takes might move the needle in the right direction.”

Looking to the future, Alexandre plans to step away from videos along the topic of gender identity to focus on other issues. Worried she may get pigeonholed, she plans on also creating videos about art, games, music, and other interests.

All in all, Alexandre wants her channel to be a place of discovery and empathy, no matter the topic of videos she puts out.

“I’m hoping there can be a space for talking about these big questions in a way that isn’t super partisan,” explained Alexandre. “And I hope it can be an empathetic place where people are interested in understanding each other more than they are about being correct or being superior.”


Photographs by Catherine Reynolds


What’s up with Lilly Singh?

Lilly Singh’s comedy in her YouTube videos is overly theatrical for my taste.

However, there is no denying her accomplishments as an Indian and openly bisexual woman in the media. In an article from The Globe and Mail, Singh is praised for redefining late-night TV on NBC. Hosting her own show, “A Little Late with Lilly,” an accomplishment traditionally dominated by white men, is impressive, to say the least.

Furthermore, Singh’s jokes are not without their share of controversy, and criticism. Some ever took their disapproval to online platforms.

“The Curious Case of Lilly Singh,” a YouTube video by user j aubrey, nitpicks Singh down to her core. It should be noted that j aubrey is male and, well, white. He has been critical of many other large YouTubers such as Lele Pons and Tana Mongeau. In December 2018, Forbes released a list of the most successful YouTubers. No women were mentioned on this list, so Singh took to social media to voice her disapproval. “If you already have more success than you know what to do with, nobody wants to hear you complain about representation,” j aubrey said. The YouTuber criticizes her for “playing the victim” despite her financial success.

In her late-night show, Singh often uses white people as the focus of her jokes. What is wrong with this exactly? Well, nothing in my opinion, but j aubrey seems to think that if she wants to make jokes about race, she should do so in a creative manner.

He focuses on her “racism” towards white people with her punching-up humour. “It’s the way she shoves her identity down her audiences throat,” he said. This is hardly a step in the right direction. Singh’s punching-up humour is not racist towards white people. You cannot be racist towards a group of oppressors, sorry, j aubrey.

This is a dangerous mindset to have when it comes to race, feminism and the representation we see in the media. This is not where growth occurs, but rather where it remains stagnant. Singh is an oppressed minority, and painting her as some kind of bitter feminist for voicing that recognition in the workplace is still very much unequal, is another gripe in an unfair, white male power balance. We have been able to make small steps of progress in regards to discrimination, but these small steps have only occurred from speaking out. Prejudice is rooted in the framework of society. Having these discussions is vital in the fight for equality.

While the comments Singh has received from j aubrey are neither here nor there, she has been the topic of legitimate criticism from the Black community. McKensie Mack wrote a viral essay in 2017 on modern day blackface. Mack states that Singh also steps in and out of blackness, like many white people. That she performs “a stereotyped version of Black culture and identity.”  Singh has dressed in chains, rapped on a basketball court and worn cornrows for her YouTube videos. However, while on the cover of magazines, Singh’s chains are nowhere in sight. Mack criticized Singh for using Blackness as a costume, “she puts on Blackness in the morning and takes it off at night.” She has also made jokes at the expense of the Punjabi community on air. Singh told Jessica Alba while interviewing her on her show, that her children wrapping towels around their heads would look like her Punjabi friends. She later took to social media to apologize for the joke. Singh has failed to acknowledge how her comedy has been seen as offensive to the Black community. It would be worth acknowledging her mistakes with appropriation.

Though, as far as I’m concerned, if you are offended by Singh’s punching-up humour, then in the words of comedian Stephen Fry, “well, so what?” 


Graphic by Victoria Blair.


Blatant transphobic discrimination in Dubai

Why trans YouTuber Gigi Gorgeous was denied entry into the United Arab

On August 10, Canadian YouTuber and model Gigi Gorgeous was detained at Dubai International Airport and denied entry into the United Arab Emirates simply because she’s transgender.

Soon after, she posted in detail about the incident on her social media platforms. Gigi Loren Lazzarato described the experience as “one of the scariest moments of [her] entire life,” on her YouTube channel, and chronicled how she was detained for several hours before being deported.

According to The Advocate, laws in the United Arab Emirates dictate that the ‘imitation of women by men’ is strictly prohibited. Therefore, anyone who is transgender risks arrest, deportation or even imprisonment if they set foot in the country. According to TMZ, an immigration officer at the airport in Dubai recognized the internet personality and reportedly said, “I was told you are transgender. You cannot come into the country.”

After being denied entry to the Middle Eastern metropolis, Gigi flew to Sweden with her girlfriend to get away. As the news broke, I felt completely upset and confused as to why this happened.

In her YouTube video describing the situation, she said she had recently legally updated her passport to her female name and gender. I couldn’t believe that the airport officials would have an issue even after a transgender individual had legally decided to change their documents.

Being transgender is not a disease or simply a phase, and should not be treated as such. Education is part of the process, and being born in the wrong body should not be a crime. There is no justification for discriminating against an innocent person based on the fact that they’re trans.

It also aggravates me that trans people would be considered “imitations.” They are a person living their true identity, and I am a strong supporter of that. Should we allow discrimination and bigotry to persist and go unquestioned as a mere cultural difference? No. It is completely wrong to deny an individual into a country just because they are transgender.

Being transgender is not a crime, and people should not be punished for it. Even though cultures differ, it doesn’t make it right to treat a person in this manner. It boggles my mind that we still allow some countries around the world to disrespect certain people for simply being who they are.

Are we going to start denying people entry to Canada simply because they have blue eyes or a dark complexion?

Although Gigi was affected by this discrimination, as a social media personality, she can broadcast her experience and shed light on such an important issue. She has the power to potentially push for change, which I hope will happen over the next few years.

Hopefully, one day we will live in a world where we can be whoever we want without laws denying our existence. The United Arab Emirates needs to change their laws and should be more inclusive and respectful towards all members of the LGBTQ+ communities.

In the words of Christina Aguilera: “Who you love or the color of your skin […] shouldn’t decide how you will be treated.” It is 2016 and this discrimination needs to stop.

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