THE BLOG
05/12/2010 11:27 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

YouTube Removes Man's Video for Going Shirtless

Dominic Scaia, who created a minor stir in LGBTQ media earlier this year when he challenged Facebook's policy against transsexual men posting shirtless pictures of themselves, has had a video banned from YouTube for the same reason.

Dominic emailed me recently with a screenshot of the warning YouTube gave him:

The following video from your account has been disabled for violation of the community guidelines:

- 'Shirtless at 2 and a half weeks'

Most nudity is not allowed on YouTube, particularly if it is in a sexual context. Videos that are intended to be sexually provocative are also not acceptable for YouTube. There are exceptions for some educational, documentary and scientific content, but only if that is the sole purpose of the video and it is not sexually gratuitous.

Your account has received one community guidelines warning strike, which will expire in six months. Additional violations may result in the temporary disabling of your ability to post content to YouTube and/or the termination of your account.

That's not YouTube's usual reaction to men who appear bare-chested in videos on their site:

A site like YouTube is going to err on the conservative side of these questions, even though many of us (including myself) would have no problem with anyone going shirtless on the internet. Personally, I find the first ban on women going shirtless to be illogical and sexist in and of itself. We've come to accept it and, if YouTube wants to be allowed in schools and the workplace and conservatives' homes and all jurisdictions, they're going to do what it takes.

But Dominic is not a woman; he's a man. If they're OK with men, generally, going shirtless on their site, then there's no reason to discriminate against transsexual men who do the same thing. If their policy is more specific, like banning nude breasts from appearing on their site, it wouldn't apply to this video either. The "at 2 and a half weeks" in the title of the video refers to the amount of time after his mastectomy the video was shot. He's a larger guy, but even larger men who appear to have breasts aren't banned from going shirtless YouTube.

I can't show the video here, obviously, but Dominic sent along a screenshot of it and a description:

2010-05-10-videoscreencap.jpgAt the time the video was taken, I was two and a half weeks post-op. My chest was bare, and I was wearing jeans. It wasn't really gory, and most certainly contained no nudity, seeing as, I had no breasts anymore. I had the chest reconstruction specifically to create a male chest, after all.

It was just me talking with my shirt off updating people on my recovery.

There's nothing pornographic about that.

YouTube's community guidelines don't get any more specific about the definition of pornography:

YouTube is not for pornography or sexually explicit content. If this describes your video, even if it's a video of yourself, don't post it on YouTube. Also, be advised that we work closely with law enforcement and we report child exploitation. Please read our Safety Center and stay safe on YouTube.

They're applying their ban on sexual content inconsistently, and that inconsistency sends the message that YouTube believes that transsexual men aren't real men. It's a fairly common insult to transsexuals, that they're liars or posers pretending to be the opposite sex instead of people who are one sex who happen to be born with some or all of the anatomy of another sex. A transgender woman pointed out the irony of the inconsistency on my site: "I bet if I went topless they'd ban it too."

While I'm sure there are a lot of straight guys out there who've imagined what it would be like to have breasts (right?), having anatomy that doesn't conform to what your body thinks should be there is disconcerting. I've heard it likened to how amputees can still "feel" their missing limbs years after they're long gone. Or as a clever transsexual male blogger put it:

Why am I a transsexual? Contrary to popular belief, it's not due to some deep seated desire to conform to societal expectations. I could have done that far more easily (and cheaply!) without the therapy and weekly injections. I am a transsexual because I wake up every morning and wonder where my penis has gone.

Many transsexuals prefer privacy when it comes to questions of their own bodies. Dominic's chosen to document his transition on social networking sites, and he explains why:

Because I am proud of my chest, and because I have been documenting my transition on YouTube for the last two years and have been updating my viewers every step of the way. Uploading videos such as these, not only keep people updated on my transition; they also help to educate, spread awareness, and help other trans people make informed decisions.

Also, when you see videos of other people who are going through the same thing as you, it helps you to not feel alone. Videos like these also sometimes inspire people who may be questioning their gender, to do something about it.

There is a huge transgender community on YouTube.. and the site has become a very important tool for many who are either transitioning, questioning, or know someone who is.

It's a great source of information on trans issues, tips on how to transition, etc..

While YouTube is, of course, a private entity that can post and take down whatever it pleases, they've taken on the mantle (and the attendant attention, hits, and profit) of an online town square, so we absolutely should be questioning their decisions. It's YouTube, not GetOffMyPropertyTube. They should live up to their name, because, last I checked, transgender people are part of that "You."

I emailed YouTube some questions about this but they haven't responded yet. I'll post their reply if they do.

>Update: YouTube responded and put Dominic's video back up. I wrote a lengthier update on my site.