Photo Credits: Sydney Wills/Achona Online/Adobe InDesign
Trisha Paytas is a 31 year old American media personality who embodies every argument that is used to denounce social media and discredit social media influencers. Since her YouTube career began in 2013, Paytas has uploaded a slew of controversial and offensive content that has resulted in her being deemed the joke of the internet, specifically YouTube. In one video, Paytas publicly and forcibly outed her then-boyfriend, Sean Van Der Wilt, as gay after receiving paparazzi photos of him with other men. In another, she loudly rants about the topic of immigration.
No matter what audience her video offends, or what attention-seeking clickbait title and thumbnail she chooses to accompany it, Paytas’ scandals always follow the same formula: an offensive video followed by an apology video in which she sits on her floor, face free of makeup, sobbing while begging her viewers for forgiveness. This display has managed to save some semblance of her public image thus far, but many viewers believe her most recent video uploaded on October 8, 2019, titled “I AM TRANSGENDER (FEMALE TO MALE)” has gone too far.
In her video, Paytas announces to viewers that she has decided to identify as a homosexual man rather than her birth-assigned gender of female. This fact is evident to viewers right off the bat through her loud, direct video title and a thumbnail featuring an image of her dressed up as a man. Herein lies the first problem with Paytas’ video. Every day, people are sexually harassed, assaulted, or even killed for identifying as trans, and with one attention-seeking clickbait title, Paytas manages to belittle all of their experiences.
Kara Petitt (‘20) agrees with this point. “The majority of things Trisha Paytas does is for attention, that’s pretty obvious through her video titles alone. I just feel that when it comes to a video concerning something as serious as your gender identity, her attention seeking behavior becomes offensive, especially to transgender people who are just trying to quietly live their lives without being harassed on a daily basis,” she said.
In addition to its title, the video’s actual content also contained material that many viewers found extremely offensive. The majority of the video revolves around her reasoning for identifying as a gay male, which many considered extremely invalid and detrimental to how others view the trans community and gender norms in general.
Paytas’ main lines of reasoning are as follows: “I don’t identify as a woman because I’m not catty or competitive”, “I’m transgender because I’ve always hated my name, having long hair, and always having to do my makeup and get dressed up”, “I choose to identify as a man because I like to assert myself.” With these quotes, Paytas pushes an extremely dated agenda of gender stereotypes by claiming that men can’t enjoy wearing makeup and dressing up, and using this as reasoning for identifying as a man. Through this, Paytas presents an extremely toxic perspective on gender and masculinity to millions of impressionable, young viewers.
Emilia Drell (‘22), who has watched Trisha’s videos for years, said, “Trisha claims that she has an issue with labels yet she consistently throws them around throughout this video. These are labels that can be really offensive for many viewers.”
— leifi 🌙💉//4// (@vhspml) October 8, 2019
In addition to her gender-bias based reasoning for transitioning her gender, Paytas also claims that she still fully identifies with her assigned birth gender, completely contradicting the values of what it means to be trans. She also states, “I’ve always been attracted to gay men so thats why I think of myself as a gay man”. With this statement that is reiterated many times throughout her video, Paytas presents the idea that she is using a gender transition as a means to simply justify her unhealthy fetishization of a specific sexuality.
The offensive content within Trisha Paytas’ “coming out” video, in conjunction with its view-thirsty clickbait title, makes it extremely evident that she is exploiting the transgender community for views and attention. Her reasoning for identifying as male and consistent reinforcement of gender stereotypes demonstrates her clear lack of understanding for what it means to be a member of the transgender community. By presenting this negative image of the transgender community, Paytas is only contributing to the public’s already judgemental perception of it. In the process of publicly unpacking her own identity, Paytas is berating the experiences and tribulations of many others.