Imagine you’re searching through Twitch looking specifically for LGBT+ streamers. You click the LGBTQIA+ Twitch tag expecting to find those identities represented. Yet many of the resulting streamers are actually straight allies.
This is, for the most part, well intentioned. Cis het streamers want to ensure their streams are a safe space for LGBT+ viewers. By using the tag, though, they are inadvertently erasing the voices of queer content creators.
It’s a long-running issue that has once again surfaced online, with LGBT+ Twitch streamers asking allies not to use the tag in their streams.
Who is the LGBTQIA+ Twitch tag for?
Much of the confusion lies with Twitch itself. In their list of tag definitions, they note the tag is for “streams in which the streamer chooses to identify as a member or ally of the LGBTQIA+ community”. By definition, then, the tag includes allies.
What’s more, some folk believe the A in LGBTQIA+ specifically stands for ally, instead of asexual, thereby erasing those people from the community.
In practice, however, the tag is used by LGBT+ streamers to represent their own identity. Further, it’s used by viewers to find streamers who identify as LGBT+. When Twitch is rife with toxicity, homophobia, racism and misogyny, it’s imperative that minority communities are able to find one another, support one another, and connect on a very specific level.
As streamer Jeff Brutlag says in a Twitter thread on the topic: “I can connect differently with someone who’s gone through similar experiences, and I have a different sense of enjoyment when watching them.”
When self-proclaimed allies use the tag it dilutes the queer identities also using it. Instead of supporting the community, it reduces the ability for the community to thrive.
Twitch streamer PleasantlyTwstd notes that tags aren’t used for other identities to show support, so why the LGBTQIA+ tag? “Y’all wouldn’t use a ‘Black’ or ‘Disabled’ or ‘Indigenous’ tag, being lily white and able-bodied saying ‘I just love minorities doe’ – so WHY DO YOU DO IT W/ LGBTQ???” she says.
How allies can support LGBT+ streamers instead
For allies looking to support LGBT+ streamers, there are other methods besides using the tag.
That begins with a moderated chat. Using the LGBTQIA+ tag alone does not ensure a safe space for people from that community. Instead, this needs to be enforced by using Twitch’s moderation tools, banning inappropriate users, and making LGBT+ viewers feel welcome.
A big part of that is education on LGBT+ issues. Using the tag is seen as performative allyship, whereas understanding and actively engaging with LGBT+ issues allows allies to make informed decisions when curating their streaming community. And that goes for all minorities outside of the LGBT+ community.
There are other ways of showing allyship, such as using the ‘about’ page to state allyship, list rules, and speaking on allyship on stream. Streamers are hugely appreciative of allies on Twitch, but it’s important to promote allyship in an appropriate way.
Of course, this also begins with Twitch itself. The definition on the rules page is certainly confusing and exacerbating the issue. More moderation tools and severe punishment would also be welcomed to remove toxicity across the platform.
What’s more, trans streamers are repeatedly requesting a specific tag in order to highlight trans representation on the platform and allow trans streamers and viewers to discover one another. Twitch have acknowledged the request, but no solution has been put forward.
With Twitch becoming such a colossal platform with a wealth of diversity, it’s imperative that the diversity on the platform is uplifted and celebrated. Allies using the tag might be well-meaning, but the impact is anything but.