For the past couple of years, a flurry of online commentators, often carrying the labels of “skeptic” or “anti-social justice warrior,” have emerged to the forefront of political and ideological discussion on sites like YouTube. Some of the older channels were once primarily occupied with promoting ideas like atheism, but plenty have gradually moved on to criticizing feminism, anti-harassment movements, LGBTQ activists, etc.
There are a myriad of possible foundations for these beliefs, and people within this community may be conservative, alt-right, “classically liberal,” etc. But Baltimore-based former philosophy student and trans woman Natalie Parrot, on her YouTube channel “ContraPoints,” has held a critical lens to some of these folks’ biggest talking points in her vibrant, pink-lit short films and video essays, and she’s garnered quite a fanbase.
Through characters like Tabby, the Antifascist cat-girl, or Abigail Cockbane, the feminist academic in fear of trans women in her bathrooms, plus plenty of other colorful characters, she tackles difficult topics under the umbrellas of gender, politics, and activism, with a satirical gravitas unlike the un-nuanced, humorless caricature of a queer YouTuber which her opposing contemporaries have drawn up.
I spoke with Natalie, or Contra, recently, to get her perspective on the impact of her work, as well as a few key topics she’s covered in the past.
Your YouTube presence seems to offer a peculiar concoction of Leftist academic thought and John Waters-esque theatricality. What are your thoughts on the goals of your aesthetic?
Well, thanks. I think there are a lot of available resources for people who are looking to get information about social justice movements, or about queer/trans/gay liberation movements, or about Black Lives Matter, etc., but it’s all often presented in a way that is very academic or a little preachy. I think there are two audiences that I’m trying to reach with the John Waters-y content. There’s one: people who are “normies”, who are influenceable and not already onboard. I think that some of them will prefer straightforward academic information, but there is a personality type who enjoy irony and madness. The other group is people who are already Leftists, but want to have fun with an entertaining presentation of information.
I definitely think it’s a breakaway from the dry perception that queer and social justice circles get categorized as.
Yeah, it’s also really a response to “anti-SJW” YouTube, who have stereotyped queer and social justice-promoting content creators as always angry and preachy, and offended by everything. So the idea was to create a narrator who violated all those characteristics.
For sure. Also, I wanted to ask about your recent autogynephilia video. Do you think you could briefly explain what that theory is, and how it’s affected trans women like yourself?
So, autogynephilia is a theory developed by sexologist Ray Blanchard, and it basically reduces trans womens’ motivation to transition as purely sexual. He believes that the motivation is a homosexual male motivation to sleep with straight men while fitting into society better, or the motivation is “autogynephilic,” which is this idea of heterosexual men who are erotically fixated on becoming women. It’s a theory that I argue is wrong, and most trans women would argue is inaccurate to their experience, but after that video, a lot of people told me that they delayed transition for years because their therapist believed this. It’s an idea that has done a lot of damage to trans people. It was somewhat risky, talking about something so controversial. But I think it really paid off, because it was comforting to people.
I definitely thought the video was bold, and I personally had no idea what autogynephilia was until I saw your video. Do you think that the theory is implicitly portrayed in popular media?
For sure, it’s on the outskirts of a lot of tropes about trans women that we see. Buffalo Bill from Silence of The Lambs is, I guess, one of the biggest autogynephilic pop culture figures; of course he’s a serial killer, who is in front of a mirror asking “Would you fuck me?” while he’s murdering women in the basement. So it’s a pretty dark concept that people have. Some people argue for “autogynephilic liberation,” opposing the stereotypes about autogynephilia. But the thing is that autogynephilia, for the vast majority of trans women, is wholly inaccurate, so I don’t feel a need to do that. The main issue is this massive mischaracterization.
I would agree. About TERFS (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists), conflict between them and more queer-centric feminist figures has been a controversial topic in some circles for a bit; what do you make of the ongoing debate as of late?
Its very frustrating. I don’t really have anything good left to say about TERFs; it’s basically just transphobia, ignorance, and disgust toward the community. This masquerades as radical feminism, and it’s veneer for this reactionary idea about gender.
To be fair, we wouldn’t have the Abigail Cockbane character if not for TERFs.
That’s true; they’ve done at least that for us.
Cover image courtesy of Facebook