We were personally victimized by James Somerton

You've heard of Cake Ace, maybe even Space Ace! Now get ready....for RAGE ACE! Because we were personally victimized by James Somerton, and we're finally ready to share our story.

Transcript

Courtney: Who here has felt personally victimized by James Somerton? Us. It’s us. We’re raising our hands right now. It’s just now occurring to me that you can’t see that because we are on a podcast, but you’ll just have to take our word for it, even though we didn’t cite our sources.

Courtney: Hello, everyone, and welcome back. My name’s Courtney. I am here with my spouse, Royce. And together, we are The Ace Couple. And this is a drama podcast, now, I guess.

Royce: Well, our first episode was “We created a podcast because ContraPoints tweeted something.”

Courtney: That was almost a willfully clickbaity title. We weren’t trying to drama that at all. But it did stir up a lot of Ace discourse, so we had things to comment on. But yeah, we’re going back to our roots. Thriving off of [laughs] controversy. Famous shit-stirrers, The Ace Couple. Listen, this was not especially an episode that we ever wanted to do, but one Mr. James Somerton has found himself the villain of the day for about three days in a row, as of the time we’re recording this, on the social media formerly known as Twitter. And we unfortunately have personal experiences with him that are yet untold in its entirety.

Royce: And in some cases, fill in parts of the broader observable problem that have not been spoken of at a large scale.

Courtney: Exactly.

Royce: Compared to, say, obviously, the video that Hbomberguy put out or the fact-checking video from Todd in the Shadows.

Courtney: Yeah. And if you haven’t [laughs] seen these legendary videos yet, we’ll, of course, put them in the show notes. But this is why these issues are in the popular discourse right now: because Hbomberguy released a four-hour — nearly four-hour — video about plagiarism on YouTube, and the sort of main character villain of that video was James Somerton. This was a surprise to some people who were watching the video. It wasn’t a surprise to us.

Royce: And I think that’s something important to keep in mind in the future, as this story passes and others inevitably rise. YouTube or general social media personalities, businesses, as more and more attention and money gets into that, we’re going to continue to see more and more of these downfall sort of things —

Courtney: Mmm. Mhm.

Royce: — where someone has gotten a lot of influence or power or money or — oftentimes, those three things are very closely linked together —

Courtney: Social capital.

Royce: — and has abused those things in some way. And pretty consistently, that abuse of power doesn’t just come out of nowhere. It’s been happening for a long time. It’s been observed for a long time, but it hasn’t been able to be spoken to and heard in a way that everyone picks up, oftentimes because of a power or influence disparity.

Courtney: Exactly. So, we’re here to share our story, because we do have personal run-ins with James Somerton, some of which fit perfectly into the broader conversation about these patterns of harmful behavior that he’s exhibited. Some might be, also, brand new to you.

Courtney: And we’ll try, as much as we can, to keep this to our personal experiences, because there are many creators right now that are sharing their experiences and how they have been wronged by James Somerton. We might add a couple of anecdotes to help fill in and connect the dots on the pattern as we can. And when we do, we will try to also add links to those in the show notes, but do be aware of the fact that a lot of these things we’re talking about happened a year ago, if not more. And, as of recording, James Somerton has pretty much nuked all of his social media accounts, so there are Tweets and references that cannot be accessed any longer unless someone has screenshotted them from long ago, kept them, and some of them are now being reposted. So we’ll see.

Courtney: In the off chance that over this last week and a half, you have not been introduced to James Somerton, he is a Canadian gay YouTuber video essayist. Not enormous, but certainly not small.

Royce: Yeah, a quarter million subscribers on YouTube is a lot more of a presence than we have, but there are certainly bigger channels out there.

Courtney: Right. However, the reason why Hbomberguy released a video is that it has come to light that he has plagiarized incredibly large swaths of these video essays. In fact — the two of us having known of these plagiarism accusations before this point — I was actually surprised, watching this video, the extent of it, because it went even deeper and further than I had observed myself yet.

Courtney: And, I mean, funnily enough, this is the first Hbomberguy video I’ve ever watched. [laughs] We were getting messages from personal friends of ours on the Sunday the day after this video got released, where our friends would be like, “Oh my gosh, I just watched the video, and I’m thinking about you guys,” or people just checking in, being like, “Man, Hbomberguy’s taking down James Somerton. I know you had run-ins with him.” And we’re sitting here like, “The video?” Logging into Twitter and seeing Hbomberguy trending alongside James Somerton, we were like, “What did we miss?” [laughs]

Courtney: So we sat down to watch it, and we were pausing it frequently to just stop and rant [laughing] because of our personal experiences. So it took us even longer than four hours to finish that video. And then very, very shortly, right on the heels of us finishing this video, Todd in the Shadows releases second video, dropped the second bomb — also a YouTuber I was not familiar with. Also, thank you, Todd in the Shadows, first video I’ve ever seen of yours also — fact-checking James Somerton, saying he has wild misinformation and he is sharing falsities, all these things. So it seems like that’s how these video essays are made: part plagiarizing others’ work, part rambling misinformation. And misinformation was interesting to us because that is also something we knew about.

Courtney: So, let’s get into this and let’s go back to the beginning of our experience with James. Most people have found him through YouTube first. They know him as a YouTuber. We really didn’t. We actually first heard about him and found him through what was allegedly a completely separate project that he was seeking funding for via Indiegogo. He was calling it Telos Pictures, and the pitch was to create an entirely queer production studio — to make entirely queer movies with queer directors, queer writers. This was the promise. But along with this promise, in the initial video he posted, there were several projects that he alleged were already in the works. He had names for the project, he had plot lines, he had the elevator pitch for, like, probably half a dozen different either film, short films, or mini-series.

Courtney: And a couple of them sounded very good. There was one, I remember, that stuck out, called Misadventure, that was about a young drag queen going on a road trip to LA along with her, like, conservative sibling where they wanted to make their dreams come true. And just the drag queen road trip kind of thing — I was very much reminded of To Wong Foo. I was like, “That would be great if we could have, you know, a new modern adaptation with this sort of concept that I really appreciated from an earlier piece of media and give it the spin of, ‘Here are relatives, one’s conservative, the other is queer.’” I thought, like, things like that, I understood the vision. And since it was also presented to us as, “We are already working on these things,” I assumed, you know, there’s already a draft of a script for these things, we know what the next step in the process is, but the next step requires money, whether that’s casting or equipment, whatever it may be. So we pondered for a while if this was a thing we wanted to contribute to.

Royce: Yeah, this was a couple of years ago and we had set aside a little bit of money and were looking at a few things that could positively impact the Ace community to try to put that money towards.

Courtney: Yes. And because that was a goal of ours, that we had money to contribute toward that specific goal, and we had already been contributing to a lot of Ace-run projects, a lot of short films, so this is already a thing that we have been doing. We had a precedence for funding things like this and contributing to things like Kickstarters, Indigeogos. And, for the most part, we’ve been very happy with the results of some of these things that we have helped crowdfund for.

Courtney: So, what we decided to do was, we will contribute to this if we get confirmation that this is, in fact, a queer creator who is inclusive of Asexuals and is intending to add some of that good, good Ace rep, because you never really know. As someone that we weren’t particularly familiar with, and you have, like, a white gay guy who’s like, “Queer film studio!” it’s like, do you even consider Aces to be queer? We didn’t know.

Courtney: So, we emailed him directly and we specifically asked, “Do you have any intentions of including Asexual representation? And are you intending on working with Asexual writers or Asexual actors?” I had also, at one point, because we do a lot of education and activism around disability, so I had also asked if he had any intentions of having queer disabled characters, whether or not they were Ace-specific. Ace-specific would have been great.

Courtney: And he had much more of a half-hearted answer for some of those, you know, disabilities or queer people of color, things like that. And those answers kind of, though a little wishy-washy, sort of boiled down to, like, “If we’re representing these identities, we really want to do it well, so we’d have to bring on different writers who could really do them justice, and that’s all something that would need to be down the line, once we have more money, we’ve been more established, we’re able to get these larger bodies of funding and whatnot.” Which, a little disappointing, but fair in the way it was presented to us.

Courtney: But on the Ace rep specifically, we were told by him in a private email in February of 2022 that he is already working with someone who is Asexual — they are already on staff — and that in the projects they’re already currently working on, there are already two Asexual characters. And he also said, “Oh, they’re not going to be like Sheldon types,” and saying, like, “These are going to be real characters. We are not going to use Aces as a punchline or a joke.”

Courtney: So, like, that sounds good. Great, you have already hired an Ace writer. You already have two Ace characters of these projects you’ve already pitched to us. This is fabulous. If we can fund this and get this going and get it out there so people are seeing it on a larger scale, then maybe we could also be, like — not that I had any intention of trying to micromanage any of these projects, because I fully believe in, like, fund the people you believe in and let them have their creative vision, but it’s like, maybe I could be a little bug in the ear. Like, “Man, you made a really great Ace character. Would you maybe consider making the next one disabled? Or maybe we can, you know, maybe we can get some Aces of color in there?” Like, you know, suggestions from one of your funders, you know?

Courtney: So this is the part that I’m nervous for. I didn’t ever want to share this because I am downright embarrassed by this, and I have been embarrassed by this long before this Hbomberguy video, and this is part of the reason why we never wanted to talk about this. So, please don’t feel worse of us. Don’t think worse of us, listeners!

Royce: I think this is something, to varying degrees, that a lot of people are feeling right now. Because anytime you realize that you are taken advantage of, that you are part of a grift or a con, there is an immediate feeling of guilt, as, like, “Why didn’t I see this? Why didn’t I prevent this from happening?” And Dan Olson, @FoldableHuman on Twitter —

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: — made a very long thread of this, mentioning that, as someone who is an expert in this sort of thing, they immediately saw all the red flags that you and I, not being from this background, wouldn’t have seen.

Courtney: Yeah. Which, we’ll get back to Dan Olson’s thread, too, because that was… whew! [laughs] It was illuminating. But, yes, we are not from a film background. We often comment on Ace representation in the media and our personal opinions on it, but our opinions aren’t coming from, “We went to film school,” or… We’re not even really film buffs. I have said on a number of occasions that I’ve seen, like, comically few movies. Like, I’m the kind of person that everyone’s always like, “Oh my gosh, you’ve never seen Star Wars? Oh, you’ve never seen Lord of the Rings? Oh my gosh, you’ve never seen this classic movie that everyone’s seen?” So, like, I’ve never been the biggest movie person in the world, but I really care about diverse representation because I know the personal impact that can have on marginalized communities, and I know that over time it can have an increased social good to see more diverse stories put out there. So I do care about it, and I will fund and support it when I can.

Courtney: But, oh boy. [laughs] So, we decided to sign on. And doing, unfortunately, not nearly enough research on James Somerton as a person or creator ourselves, I took him at his word that he was already working on these characters. It was coming. Regardless of whether or not we gave him money, it was coming. Like, I took him at his word. That is what I did. Because maybe I’m a little too trusting. Maybe I’m a little bit naive.

Royce: And, at the same time, when pledging towards this goal, you also mentioned that if we are going to be involved in this, if we are going to donate in this amount, it also made sense to have a position where we could potentially critique or…

Courtney: Offer insight to, to help consult — like, whatever it could be.

Royce: Yeah. This was happening, I believe, within the first 20 or so episodes of the podcast. We had already done some amount of Ace representation research and reporting. There was obviously a lot more of that to come. But the idea in mind was, “Not only can we help fund these characters, could we bring some of our own observations to the table to make sure that, again, many of the problematic stereotypes about Aces that exist in media aren’t a part of this?”

Courtney: Yes. So we paid James Somerton $1500 Canadian dollars.

Royce: That is the Founder tier that you can still see available on the Telos Pictures Indiegogo page.

Courtney: Which, at the time, was the highest tier, also. He later — like, after he was fully funded — he somehow added, like, Angel Investor, which was even more money, but that was after he was already funded, and he still has a link on his website where you can still give him that much money. Uh… [laughs knowingly] we’ll get to more of that. But that was like, what, $1200 USD, about?

Royce: It was something like that. I don’t have the dollar amount in front of me. I do have the Indiegogo page in front of me, which says $1104 right now, but the Canadian dollar’s dipped a little bit over the last couple of years.

Courtney: Yeah. It was about $1200 at the time, I think. And these were the promises for contributing at that amount. It was technically — and this is what really got me, too. This was, like, the final little insult to injury that, after revisiting and going back, logging into our Indiegogo account these last few days, it was technically $1505 Canadian dollars, because it was $5 for shipping on alleged merchandise that doesn’t even exist. [laughs] I was like, “Aaah, he took us for an extra $5! [laughs] Curse you, James Somerton!”

Royce: What can you even ship from Canada to the US for $5?

Courtney: Nothing. Look, I’m a small business owner. I have had to ship a lot of things, both within the US and many things internationally. I know how complicated shipping is and how incredibly expensive it is [laughing] a lot of the time, especially when it’s international. Like, this is just a guy who doesn’t know how merch works and didn’t have merchandise. Like, I don’t know.

Courtney: So, this is what it said. So: “You will be listed as a Telos founder. You will be invited to in-person screenings. You will get Executive Producer credit. You will get advanced online screenings. And your choice of merchandise.” I don’t know what this merchandise is because it isn’t. But we were like, “Alright, Executive Producer, invite to in-person screenings. So there’s a chance we could be in the room for this. Also, there’s a chance we could…”

Courtney: You know, I also foresaw us — like, if there is a really good Ace character here, like, as people well-established in the Ace community, we could help advertise and promote these things. Like, “Hey, we went to this advanced screening, we went to this live event for this awesome Ace character that’s coming out. Like, be on the lookout for it.” Like, this was what I was envisioning when we were having these conversations about the pros and cons of giving this guy this much money.

Courtney: And, Royce, when we decided that, yes, we’re going to do this and I sat down to click the button to make our contribution, do you remember what I said to you? This is what’s extra embarrassing. Do you remember what I said to you before I clicked that button?

Royce: In vague terms, but I have the feeling that it’s burned into your brain a lot more clearly.

Courtney: I looked over to you and I said, “Are we really about to give this much money to a cis white guy that we do not know personally?” And we had a final little, like, “If it’s for the Ace community, if it helps us, if we can get several bits of representation out there, it’ll have been worth it.” But there was a voice in the back of my head that was shaming me. The voice in the back of my head was saying, “Don’t you dare give this much money to a white dude that you don’t even know, who’s not even Ace himself.” Like, that voice was telling me that, and I ignored those alarm bells, and that is why this is so embarrassing. [laughs] But we did it and we have regretted it every step of the way. Because, first of all, after taking all this money, he raised… How much did he raise from that?

Royce: The Telos Pictures Indiegogo page says $63,495 USD.

Courtney: Okay. Oh, right, converted from, like, $86,000 Canadian.

Royce: Yes.

Courtney: Yeah. We, as backers, did not hear a damn thing from him for 14 months. It was July 5th, 2023, that he sent his first update since getting all this money. And we’d already started getting very salty and cynical and regretting that we had done this. Because, also now, at this point, what happened to the guy that took this much money from us? We haven’t heard from him. So we found him on Twitter, we followed him, we pulled up a couple of his YouTube videos and watched through a few of them. But that first update in July of 2023 was just, “We have finally incorporated the Telos Motion Picture Production Company, so now we can hire people.” And, like, that’s it. That’s allegedly all he had done in 14 months of taking our money.

Courtney: But in April of 2023, we started seeing some odd behaviors. Because now we had to, like, subscribe to his YouTube channel to try to keep tabs on him and be like, “What’s going on with this guy? Are there any updates here?” And he posted a video on April 1st that was so bleak. And it was like, “I have lost so much money in Patreon pledges.” And it was titled something really dark, like, “This might be the end,” where he was actually insinuating that if he didn’t start getting a bunch of new money coming in from Patreon — new Patrons or Patrons upping their pledge — and very quickly, that he might need to quit making videos and quit YouTube. So this is allegedly like, “I am going hungry, I can’t pay my rent,” kind of a thing. And as people that gave him over $1,000 a year earlier, knowing he raised over $80, we were like, “Um,… We haven’t seen anything from that pledge. Where did all that money go?”

Courtney: And it certainly didn’t help that Dan Olson — Royce, as you mentioned previously — commented on his Tweets sharing this video and talking about how dire this finances were. He straight up responded and said, “I don’t believe you.” And this is someone — like, we are not YouTubers. I do not know the ins and outs of YouTuber finances. I know enough that, yes, people get Patreon support, people get sponsors. I myself have had a Patreon for my small business, but nothing on the level of, like, what large YouTube creators use Patreon for. But he was saying, “I know your subscriber count. I see your Patreon count. I don’t believe you. This is not how the finances of this business work.” So that was a couple of really big red flags back in April of this year.

Courtney: We then — having now followed him on Twitter, trying to get any sort of update about what’s going on — just started seeing a lot of really unprofessional behavior there. A lot of, like, turning his account private and gossiping about other creators and complaining about how he doesn’t get more opportunities, and just a pattern of doing that a lot. A lot. Someone who I probably would have unfollowed for that behavior if I didn’t have some kind of financial stake now in what they were doing.

Courtney: So things really came to a head in November of 2022. So, technically speaking, all of our trust and respect had been lost for James by the time that question of finances came up. So this was just really more fuel on the fire to us at this point. Because in November of 2022, James Somerton released a video called “The Queer Erasure of Asexuality.” And this was a little bit of a different format for him. Normally it was just him talking scripted into a camera. Now we know it was plagiarized into a camera. But this was more of an informal discussion. It was between him and his writer, Nick Herrgott.

Royce: Yeah, this was actually the first episode that they tried this format, and it opens with them saying, “This is a thing called Gays Behaving Badly, which is a video recorded podcast.”

Courtney: Yes. So it was the two of them sitting together, and they decided that their first episode they wanted to do was about how the gays were behaving badly, or the broader queer community often erased Asexuality as a concept. Yeah, that’s totally a thing that happens, so we were quite intrigued to tune into this.

Courtney: And, as it turns out, Nick himself identifies as Ace — I believe, gay and Ace. To be more specific on the Ace side. I recall them bringing up aegosexuality. Which, just for the sake of clarity, also, I cannot find Nick’s social media account right now. I wanted to double-check pronouns because I know Nick does not fully identify as a man. I don’t recall if it is agender or if it’s more blanketly nonbinary, but I’ve seen he and they used, and from the website I found most recently, he/they pronouns are what’s listed. So that’s what I’m going with. If it’s out of date, I apologize.

Courtney: But immediately off the bat watching this episode, we were like, “Oh no. We gave this guy money to do Ace rep. What have we done?” It was bad, y’all. Right off the bat it was bad. I’m not going to say every single thing in that episode was bad, because later on, there was more of Nick talking about their own experiences and their perspective on things. And that was fine, and that was great, and I think those sections was what more people in the Ace community really resonated with as they were tuning in.

Courtney: But before getting to the point of sharing personal experiences, there were a lot of blanket statements that were absolutely factually wrong. And not only factually wrong, but very much erasing the real Ace experience, which was — the subject of this podcast was “We can’t keep doing this to Aces! We shouldn’t be erasing them.”

Courtney: And yet, the impression I got: James is clearly allosexual. He does not understand the Ace experience. Nick does identify as Ace and has his own personal experience. That’s fine and well and good. But I very much got the impression watching this that Nick perhaps first identified as gay before later learning about the components of Asexuality that are applicable to them. And that’s fine, that happens. That absolutely happens a lot in the Ace community. There’s nothing wrong with that. But there seemed to be a lot of blind spots in the broader Ace experience and issues actually faced en masse by the community. Nick seemed a lot more educated on gay issues than Ace issues. So despite being Ace, I’m pretty sure Nick has not spent a lot of quality time in and around the Ace community.

Courtney: So, with all this in mind, we decided to not only reach out to James about this, but we wanted to get ahead of some of this. Because it was within the first couple minutes of the episode, and these are topics we’ve talked about extensively, and we have shown studies and articles and reports and firsthand accounts of a lot of these discriminations that they are outright saying don’t exist. So we also wanted a public statement that’s like, “Here are the studies. Here are the facts.”

Royce: Yeah. That is one thing — if you’re curious, this is one video that has not been taken down. If you wanted to pull up the YouTube with an ad blocker installed, these things are mentioned within the first three minutes of the video.

Courtney: And I’m about to read our thread to you now. Because we were sitting here at home going, “Oh no. Oh no. Not this good-sized YouTuber saying this within the first few minutes of this episode, the first time he’s ever specifically talked about Asexuality on this channel.”

Royce: It took us a while to get through this 45-minute video, because we had to pause and rant.

Courtney: Yeah. Right. But we were also like, “We gave this guy a lot of money because we trusted that he would do good Ace rep.” And now, if we’d seen this video before the crowdfunding, I would have never given this person money to do Ace rep, not in a million years. So, we were like, “Alright, he knows us. He knows our name, The Ace Couple. He is fully aware of who we are and that we gave him a lot of money. We have emailed him. He has a personal email from us.” And so we’re like, “Let’s be as kind and gentle and polite as possible while also correcting this misinformation.”

Courtney: So the thread reads thusly: “We were excited to see @JE_Somerton” — that was his Twitter handle at the time. It is now gone, but we tagged him. “We were excited to see James Somerton center Asexual issues. It’s rare, and we desperately need more allyship for and from all corners of the queer community. But 4 minutes, we were disappointed at the inaccuracy. Respectfully, we want to add to the conversation. Statements like, quote, ‘While there might be no specific persecution for Asexual people in the way that gay people have faced,’ and, quote, ‘While there isn’t really any conversion therapy directed at Asexuals,’ unquote are factually incorrect, and we’d like to set the record straight.” So those were the lines directly from the video.

Courtney: We added to our thread, going on, “UK studies have shown that 10% of Asexuals have been offered or undergone conversion therapy, as opposed to the 7% figure for the entirety of the queer community. Overall, Aces are only beaten in percentage by trans conversion therapy, sitting at 13%,” and we linked to that source. “The full report also shows Asexuals reporting the lowest level of life satisfaction and are least likely to be out,” also with a link to that source. “Nearly every Ace who has joined an Asexual group on Facebook has been inundated with ads for libido medication. We aren’t always safe to come out to doctors. Thankfully, the video mentioned Asexuality still being considered a mental health disorder. This only scratches the surface. We understand that Nick, who made this claim, is Ace, and on matters of opinion alone, we try not to correct our fellow Aces. But we are still subject to many medical discriminations and outright stating that conversion therapy is not one of them is incompetent. As married Aces, we’ve also spoken at length about the legal issues pertaining to Asexual marriage in the US. Asexual persecutions happen. They just don’t make news headlines and are rarely reported appropriately. Same can be said with hate crimes.” And then I linked a previous thread of ours to that Tweet where we said, “Our four-part series on religious political discrimination against Asexuality and Aromanticism has concluded. It’s long, and these episodes are a doozy, but it’s really important to be aware of what our political opposition believes and what they are advocating for. Yes, these persecutions do happen. They just don’t make headlines.”

Courtney: The original thread continues, “A few years ago, an Ace teenage girl was very publicly murdered by an incel. It wasn’t reported a hate crime. Even though she’d come out and engaged with the Ace online community, her parents did not believe she was Ace and accused us of pushing our agenda when we were mourning.” That’s a thing we’ve alluded to in past episodes. I’m still not personally comfortable naming that girl because her family are very much still alive, very much recent enough history that this is… it’s always gonna be painful for as long as they’re alive. So I always kind of get on true crime podcasts that talk about, like, cases where family and friends are still alive and are still very much affected, so I don’t want to fall into those same things.

Courtney: But this was awful. This was widely reported. People knew this girl’s name. They knew her face. Everyone left out the fact that she was Asexual. We in the community knew that she was Asexual because she had, of her own volition, engaged with our hashtags, spoken to us, shown us her face. We knew all these things. And to be very publicly murdered by an incel, just a matter of a couple of days after she had been featured in an Asexual Instagram account — it was wild. And so we were mourning as a community. We were just saying, like, “How awful that she got murdered so brutally.” And her family was like, “Oh, these Aces are just pushing their agenda. She wasn’t Asexual.” Like, it was truly awful. But because of things like this, and because Aces very often aren’t actually included in legislation that protects against hate crimes, it’s not reported as such. So it hurts to see a gay man say, “Aces aren’t persecuted the way gay people are.” Like, yes, each community — we’re going to have our own set of unique considerations, of course, but you just clearly don’t know the history and you clearly don’t know the community. That was a side tangent, I’m sorry.

Courtney: Continuing on our thread: “Aces are also proven to be evaluated more negatively, viewed as less human and less valued as contact partners relative to heterosexuals and other sexual minorities.” Added a link to that journal. “We appreciate that James mentioned that he doesn’t agree with the takes that Asexuals aren’t queer because we aren’t persecuted, but please don’t then simultaneously ignore or minimize the issues that we do face. We were very excited to donate to Telos Pictures, and we still have hopes that you will help produce some more much-needed positive Ace representation. But we also hope that you will speak to more Aces from a wider variety of backgrounds in order to do us proper justice.”

Courtney: We were Tweeting these as we were listening, because then we added on and said, “We are now at the discussion of representation and Aces always being portrayed as Autistic. There is a legitimate point to be made in there that there are instances where Asexuality is simply a lazy shorthand for the character being weird and less human, but many Aces are Autistic. In fact, one of our favorite instances of Asexual representation in media is an Autistic character. There are good ways and bad ways to do Ace rep, regardless of neurodivergence,” and I linked to an episode we did previously on the TV show Everything’s Gonna Be Okay.

Courtney: Next tweet: “Australian studies have shown that gender and sexual diversity is far more common in the Autistic community than it is for our allistic counterparts. We think this should be celebrated rather than distanced from or treated as a harmful stereotype,” with a link to that source, of course. “Unfortunately, due to the heavy medicalization and pathologization of our orientation, and due to good old-fashioned ableism, the Ace community is really quick to distance from any kind of diagnosis, and this harms disabled and neurodivergent Aces, who also deserve meaningful rep. We appreciate your work and look forward to what is to come, but we’d also like to extend an invitation to discuss a wider variety of Asexual issues and perspectives with us. We do a lot of work pertaining to media representation, Ace discrimination, disability, and anti-racism. We’ve been engaged in Ace issues for over a decade, been a married Ace couple of eight and a half years, run an Ace podcast for just over a year, written about Ace history, helped organize the International Asexuality Conference, and founded several community projects. We have stories for days. And we’re happy to share them with you and or help consult on future efforts towards Ace representation. Feel free to DM or email us if you’re interested in talking personally and more in-depth. Thank you, James Somerton,” and tagged him again. And who’s taking bets on how he responded to that thread?

Royce: Well, first of all, you spent quite a bit of time gathering resources and writing that out, and we now know that James actively avoids doing research.

Courtney: [laughs] We gave him new material to plagiarize from, and he didn’t even plagiarize it! So the thing is here, we said, “We were excited to see you do this. It’s desperately needed. Respectfully, we want to add to the conversation. We still have high hopes for the representation you can bring us.” Thanked him. Said, “Thank you, James Somerton.” Extended an invitation to talk further. And again, this guy has our email address. He could have DMed us on Twitter, sure. Well, he would have had to follow us to DM us, technically, but he had our email address. He could have emailed us.

Courtney: But no, the response to this, instead: he posted a link on Twitter to a livestream on his channel, which he started doing with increasing regularity. He started… He got to a point where he was livestreaming, like, most Friday nights, most weekends, like, pretty regularly. He’d be like, “Friday night gay stream!” And I didn’t tune in to them. I wasn’t, like, an active, “I am a fan of this guy and I want to see all the things he does,” especially with the fact that we were continuing to lose trust, and I don’t tend to just watch YouTuber livestreams ever.

Courtney: But we tagged him twice. He did not respond to it. We had a couple people in our community liking, retweeting a couple of comments, and he didn’t respond. And it’s like, “Maybe he hasn’t seen it yet. That’s fine. I mean, he has over 10,000 followers here.”

Courtney: He made a very snarky subtweet about how, “Man, people are so mad that I’m talking about Asexuality, lol.” And if that was happening on Twitter, we would have seen that. We absolutely 1,000% would have seen that. We know Ace Twitter. [laughs] And it wasn’t. We had our thread, which I thought was as respectful as we could have possibly made it while still trying to correct the misinformation.

Courtney: But I decided to just search other areas of Twitter. I was like, “Maybe it isn’t Ace Twitter that’s doing this.” So I put in a link to his video in the Twitter search, because then you can see everyone who has linked to that video, and it was overwhelmingly positive. Every single person who linked to that video, except us, was just like, “This is amazing! This is great! Thank you so much for this! Outstanding!” Like, everything — rave reviews, except for our one little critiquing thread.

Courtney: And I was like, “Well, maybe it’s comments on the actual video itself.” So I went through the comments on the video itself that had been up so far. Nobody mad that he’s talking about Asexuality. I did not see a single comment like that at the time. So I was like, “Hmm, that’s kind of interesting.” But I am someone who gives an abundance of the benefit of the doubt, sometimes, naively, far too much. So I was like, “Maybe it’s happening on other social media platforms. I don’t have a Reddit account. Like, maybe there’s something going on over there. Maybe it’s Facebook. I don’t know.”

Courtney: But then someone in our community saw that snarky subtweet and, like, absolutely saw through his nonsense and knew exactly what he was doing and that this was about us. I wasn’t about to assume it was about us, but a member of our community — someone who’s been around a bit, we have talked to them, they have followed us for a while, we follow them, we’ve chatted a bit. So, like, this is a name that we know and recognize. This is someone I’m comfortable saying is, like, part of my community. And they commented and just said, like, “Somehow him dismissing criticism as ‘people got offended by this’ tells me that he’s not going to be terribly receptive to even this kind of polite and reasonable criticism.” And when I saw that comment I was like, “You know, we don’t know for sure that that Tweet was about us.” I was in my head, like, “Let’s just… We don’t know. It could be about someone else.”

Courtney: But then we absolutely know that it was about us. Because, despite the fact that he had not seen, liked, reshared, commented, nothing, said nothing specifically about our thread, he quote-retweeted them saying that in response to our thread very shortly after it was posted. So that actually tells me that he was watching this thread actively — without following it by liking it or Tweeting it or anything. He quote-retweeted them. And this is a personal account. This is someone who has, like, I don’t know, maybe a few hundred followers, just a private individual who often used this to, like, talk about their own personal likes, things happening in their life. This is not a public figure account. And you’re taking this small personal account and you are quote-retweeting it, putting them on blast to your 10,000-some followers.

Courtney: And it was very defensive. I wish I had the exact wording, but his Twitter account is no more, so I can’t give you verbatim, but I can tell you it was very much along the vibes of, like, “How dare you accuse me of this?” Because he was saying, “I’m actually having a very productive conversation with my Patrons about this behind closed doors, so I don’t have to Tweet everything that I’m doing just for you, for your benefit.” It was very… I don’t even know if it was passive-aggressive. It seemed outright aggressive. And to quote-retweet such a small account to rile up your followers, and to also out yourself as following this thread of ours without responding to it, is wild.

Courtney: And it also… What had me so upset about this was if you have a bone to pick, pick it with us. We are the public figures here. We are the people who have posted pictures of our faces. We are the people who have shared our names. We have a public podcast. I was somewhat of a niche public figure even before we started this podcast because of the work I do, professionally speaking. Like, we have had news crews in our house before. Like, people have known who I am, and people know who we are.

Courtney: So if you are angry, even though we don’t have nearly as many followers as James Somerton, like, pick a bone with us. We are putting ourselves out there, and we are the ones criticizing you. Don’t come after our friends and followers and the people in our community who have their small, private personal accounts. Don’t you be opening them up to harassment when we are the ones who started this conversation. And we tried to be polite. But if that upset you, fine, let’s open a dialogue about it, let’s have a conversation. We extended that invitation to you specifically to have this conversation. So that’s when I got upset. Because now it’s not only us but other Ace accounts — small, personal Ace accounts — who are now being opened up to harassment by his riled-up fan base. And so I got upset about that. I did.

Courtney: And not too long after he posted a link on Twitter that was like, “Oh, let’s talk about my recent Ace episode,” or something. And he popped on a livestream, and I happened to see when he Tweeted this. So I was like, “Alright, let’s chime in and see what he’s talking about here. Maybe he makes the correction. Maybe he talks about some of the new resources we sent. That would be great. I would love that for him.” Oh, no. That would be too accountable.

Courtney: So we’re sitting here watching this livestream. And pretty early on he goes, “Oh, people were so mad about the Ace episode. There were many attacks.” [laughs] I can still hear the way he said “attacks” and the way his eyes flared when he said “attacks.” Like, there was venom behind his voice. And all of the people commenting on this livestream, all of his very loyal followers, were like, “Oh no! Oh my gosh, what can we do? That sounds terrible. I can’t believe they’d attack you just for talking about Asexuality.”

Courtney: And he saw a comment something along these lines. Again, I don’t have the livestream, so these are not verbatim, but I was there, and I was watching it while it was live. And it was about us. Because then he specifically said and clarified, “It wasn’t so much that I was talking about Asexuality. It was because I said that Aces don’t face conversion therapy that people got upset and started attacking me.” And I know for a fact, because I already scoured all of Twitter, we were the only ones who brought that up to him. It was just us. We were the ones who did that. You know, the ones who gave him $1,200 to do Ace rep. And he knows it! He knows it! He knew we gave him that much money! Our Indiegogo account is listed as “Courtney Lane and Royce,” because Courtney Lane is my full legal name. This is something many people have publicly known even before we started this podcast. And Royce is just Royce, because you’re like Teller.

Royce: I mean, that’s one way to explain that. [laughs]

Courtney: Yeah! We’re —

Royce: The other is that I have not used my full name in any public capacity.

Courtney: Well, also, you are the Teller to my Penn. I am clearly Penn Gillette in this relationship. [laughs]

Royce: You are the more verbose one.

Courtney: Correct. I don’t even know if I got our whole name out there before that tangent, but our Indiegogo name — because we have funded other, like, specific Ace projects from smaller Ace creators, so some of them know of The Ace Couple. And so we are listed as, like, “Courtney Lane and Royce, aka The Ace Couple.” So there is no way in hell that he did not know that this was us. And we said in our thread, too, that we backed Telos. So — and exchanged personal emails with him. So, he knows who we are. He just fundamentally disrespects us. Because he is a con man. He knows that he scammed that money out of everyone. The disrespect was here from the very beginning. So what’s a little more disrespect, huh?

Courtney: So he talks about how, specifically, the conversion therapy. And what really strikes me when I was reading this thread back, in recent days, was how many times we added a “thank you” or a “respectfully” or, you know, “we’re still looking forward to this,” trying to make it abundantly clear to him that we are not trying to attack you, but this is a very serious issue. And we thought, if we had a very measured response, that he would be more receptive to taking it in. And that’s the important thing, is that someone’s receptive to taking it in. But I guess you can’t make someone care [laughs] about other communities or other people.

Courtney: But the other thing that really struck me was that this thread could have been so much longer. We tried to keep it as short and sweet and to the point as we could. Because we have so many other articles, personal stories, podcast episodes talking about these issues, academic papers. We have so many more things we could have talked about.

Courtney: But some of the resources we shared talked about corrective rape as a form of conversion therapy, and some of our followers quote-retweeting our thread were talking about, you know, corrective rape, also, as an individual facet of this, all stemming from this one thread. And he did give a little half-hearted, like, “Oh, they’re so mad just because we said that Aces don’t face conversion therapy. But as far as I know, they don’t,” completely ignoring the studies we gave him! And he said, “They don’t face conversion therapy. Apparently, apparently, sometimes Aces are subject to corrective rape, kind of like how lesbians sometimes are, which I didn’t know, and Nick didn’t know. So that’s news to us. But they don’t face conversion therapy. But if I’m wrong, I’m happy to be corrected. Like, by all means, if I’m wrong, let me know.” And we were like, “Ohhh. Bitch, are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?!”

Courtney: And I watched his followers on this livestream get more and more riled up. There was not anyone in that thread that… or in that chat, I guess? There were no people in that chat who were as knowledgeable about the Ace community. There were a couple of Aces there who were like, “It meant the world to me that you were talking about us Aces and that you haven’t forgotten about us.” And that’s what hurts my heart so much. Because we are so starved for Ace rep in this community. We are so often ignored by large creators and broad public conversations that it’s like, every time, it’s like, “Oh Senpai noticed me!” Every single time someone with a decent following who isn’t Ace talks about Asexuality, our community collectively fawns over them.

Courtney: And I don’t want to blame the Aces who do this, because I get that. I know why. We are so ignored and erased that it’s, in some ways, like a breath of fresh air. But sometimes, that comes at the expense of reasonable criticism when people do get things wrong. Because we’re so afraid that we’re just going to drive them away from ever talking about Asexuality again, and we need more people to talk about Asexuality, that it’s just blanket praise, uncritical praise, just thrust upon these people.

Courtney: And so there wasn’t anyone at the time, at this livestream, saying, “No, but there is actually conversion therapy.” There were just people going, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe people are attacking you for that. I can’t believe people are attacking you! Because, yeah, Aces don’t face conversion therapy like the gays do.”

Courtney: And to present this to your most loyal followers. Because these are the people who are going to see your live and click immediately. These are the people following you on Twitter who are going to see that you posted a link and click it. So these are the loyalest of the loyal followers. To go to them and talk about how you’re being so viciously attacked, to double down on the misinformation that you’ve already been corrected on, but then to pretend like you’re open to being corrected, that you’re an intellectual who cares about the truth, and that maybe you do get some things wrong but you’re happy to be corrected if you do — it’s unforgivable. It really is.

Courtney: And then he made a Tweet that was so… This gets exactly to the heart of every Ace’s fear when we just lavish uncritical praise on anyone who talks about Asexuality. He straight up said, “So many people were offended by my Asexuality video, and it’s stuff like this that makes me only want to talk about gay male issues from now on.” He literally said that. He, like — he’s holding the representation and visibility over our head and threatening to never talk about us again, when, literally, the original video is about how gays erase the Aces! And he’s like well, “I want to erase the Aces now, ’cause fuck ’em. Fuck ’em.” No, James Somerton, fuck you! I did not want this podcast to get so inflammatory. [laughing] I am genuinely sorry. I just want our money back! Give us our money back, and then I will retract my “fuck you.”

Royce: You know, this is kind of just hitting me now after seeing a lot of the [laughing] multi-hour YouTube essays about James Somerton and seeing all the discourse and talking back through this again. But in the moment, we were seeing this behavior and saying, “Wow, this seems like a really fragile person with a persecution complex.”

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: But it makes so much more sense if this is a calculated decision by a grifter who knows that their income is threatened.

Courtney: It’s probably a bit of both. It probably is someone who is incredibly fragile and does have a persecution complex, but it’s someone who has learned how to weaponize it. It is someone who knows, “I will get my most loyal followers to attack other people on my behalf. I will rile them up, and I will do it by setting myself up to be the victim. If everyone’s attacking me for my well-meaning representation, if people are attacking me because I’m gay” — that’s another very common thing. He’d say, like, “Oh, this creator who criticized me is actually just homophobic,” and everyone would just uncritically take that as fact and be like, “Wow, I can’t believe that creator is, in fact, homophobic. Awful! How dare they do that to my sweet little gay boy! And it’s his birthday! He’s just a little guy!”

Courtney: But the thing is for him to then basically threaten to never talk about Asexuality ever again because people are upset — “people” being us. Because, again, when he Tweeted each of these things, I searched for any new things. I searched James Somerton’s name. I searched his, you know, tagged mentions. I searched the link of the video. It was just us. We were the only ones he was talking about.

Courtney: So naturally, we did get some of his fans coming to us. Like, we did get people talking about, like, “How dare you criticize him when he’s trying to help your community? He’s trying to talk about your community that’s so under-discussed. Why don’t you appreciate it? Why don’t you appreciate it?” As if we should just be so thankful to the white gay Canadian boy for noticing us. I’m not playing that game. I am not playing that game. Absolutely not.

Courtney: But we had his followers doing that. We had his followers coming for us and our followers. Members of our community he was going after. And you do not come after our community. I will not allow it. If he was just coming after us, if he never opened up members of our community to this, I would never be throwing expletives on this podcast right now. You can attack us, that’s fine, and we’ll probably never talk about it. We probably won’t. There’s a reason why we haven’t talked about this until now. We tried so hard to be diplomatic about all of this over a year ago when this was happening. And a lot of our followers didn’t even know how heavily involved we were in this James Somerton drama™ until the last couple of days when we made a few Tweets about it now that it’s a trending topic, I guess.

Courtney: So in trying so hard to be diplomatic about this, we even mentioned it a little bit — but again, very diplomatically — in our episode last year that we had Evie Lupine on. Because we were talking to Evie a lot around this time, and Evie had also watched this video, also had the same criticisms that we did. And in talking to her, she was like, “Yeah, I’m going to leave a comment on this.” And she saw our thread about this, so she left a comment on the YouTube video as also a good-sized YouTuber who has a name that a lot of people on YouTube will recognize.

Royce: Yeah, that was a funny coincidence. Our episode with Evie came out November 30th of that year. And between scheduling and editing and everything, the time that we were talking with her just happened to overlap with all of this.

Courtney: Yes! So at one point during this interview, I think Evie was like, “Do we want to go here? Should we talk about what just happened?” And we kind of did. We went there a little bit, but we tried to be as diplomatic as possible and leaving the door open for growth and, you know, hopefully he’ll do better. So if any of you listened to our Evie Lupine episode last year, this was actually the full story about what was going on. [laughs] Between that little side tangent about the YouTuber who messed up about conversion therapy [through gritted teeth] that we paid $1500 Canadian dollars to. [laughs]

Courtney: And around this time we were also like, “Okay, so, this guy went on a livestream to complain about us.” Oh, and after the livestream — After the livestream, when he was talking about how angry people were about conversion therapy, he did actually retweet our thread at one point. And that’s when we got even more of his followers talking about, like, “How dare you do this to James Somerton? How dare? He’s trying to help you. Why don’t you appreciate his very generous help and support?” No, we very generously helped and supported him when we paid him $1500 Canadian dollars. [laughs]

Courtney: So in one of these quote-retweets where he took a small personal account from a member of our community and said, “I’m actually having a very productive conversation with my Patrons behind closed doors” — This is gonna be alleged, but… I don’t have screenshots or anything, so I will say allegedly, allegedly. But we got some interesting, uh, intel from some of our mutual fans, people who are fans of us and also fans of James Somerton. We had people contacting us saying, “Yeah, I’m actually in James’s Patreon. Uh, this is what I saw.” And according to them, he did not have a very nice, productive conversation with the Aces in his community.

Courtney: There were apparently several Aces in his community that, in his Patreon discourse — again, these are all people who are paying him money, probably not as much money as we paid him, but, like, a few dollars every single month for who knows how many months. Apparently, he was actually very short and rude to those people. Apparently, they were like, “Yeah, I was kind of upset with this thing that he said, because Aces do actually, you know, experience these things.” And apparently, he was very, very short to them, very rude, to the fact that some people then backtracked and apologized for even bringing it up in the first place.

Courtney: And as someone who does have a business that people have paid me real money for, I cannot fathom being outright rude to people who have paid me money. I just do not understand it. Or asking people for more money. Because I’ve done commission work where, partway through a project, I realize it’s a lot more complicated or going to take a lot more time than originally anticipated, and I’ve had full-blown anxiety attacks trying to, like, craft an email to someone about, “Hey, maybe I need a little extra money to finish this project,” and I have considered just eating the loss because I don’t want to write that email. [laughs] So I cannot personally identify with this at all.

Courtney: But not only was he apparently very rude to some of these folks, made some of them feel like they shouldn’t have said anything to him at all and that they should have just been grateful for the Ace rep that he provided them so graciously, but apparently, someone had suggested, you know, “Why don’t you talk to more Aces in the future? You know, bring on an Ace who isn’t Nick to talk about some things, who can correct the record on some of this stuff.”

Courtney: And James’s response, from what I heard from someone who was there, was to basically say, like, “We could have a round table with several different Aces and just get a lot of people together in the same room to talk about this. But this would take a ton of planning, it would take a ton of time, it would take an extraordinary amount of coordination to get everybody together.” Which doesn’t seem correct. I mean, we’ve organized really good panels in, like, a month, so I’m pretty sure. But he was like, “This would take a tremendous amount of time, so it wouldn’t happen anytime soon.”

Courtney: And so people started suggesting, “Here are some great people you can have on the panel.” They suggested Yasmin Benoit, a very popular Black Ace activist and lingerie model. I was told that a couple of people suggested us, Courtney and Royce from The Ace Couple. I heard other activists like Marshall Blount thrown around as, like, “Here are some people you can talk to.” But apparently, allegedly, allegedly, someone suggested Rowan Ellis, who is a YouTuber. Allegedly, she was the only one that he was like, “That would be a good idea.” Apparently, she’s the only one he acknowledged and was like, “That would be great,” and explicitly dismissed all of the other suggestions that were being thrown out. So, that probably tells me that he is not interested in actually providing meaningful Ace rep at all. He is just interested in growing his YouTube clout, getting more money, only talking to people he thinks will help his own social and financial capital, and just appearing to be a good Ace ally to the casual observers who are not actually deeply involved in Ace politics. Allegedly!

Courtney: And I was not about to give him another dollar of my money to corroborate these claims. They were from trusted listeners of ours and, based on what we had seen of his behavior, I would believe it. But I also wasn’t going to talk about it publicly. I wasn’t, at that time last year, prepared to put him on blast, because I hope you can see how much patience and diplomacy we had with this man.

Courtney: But many months earlier, there was a period of time where, on his Twitter account, he was talking about all these Patreon exclusive videos and podcasts and updates that he was giving. And, despite the fact that we were not getting any updates from Telos Pictures or Indiegogo at all, whatsoever, had nothing to show for it at this time, apparently, on his Patreon account, he was adding podcasts about Telos Pictures updates. And so I very angrily gave him a dollar on Patreon for, like, a day or two, because I was like, “What are these updates? What have you been doing with our money?” And so I listened to this podcast where it was him and Nick talking about exciting new Telos updates on his private Patreon, where Telos contributors would have had to pay him even more about this. I was really just given the impression that the only substantial thing he had done was move across the country to a bigger city and get a new apartment. Like, he and Nick were….

Courtney: The thing is, lots of people have kind of been going back and forth on whether or not Nick is culpable for some of these claims of misinformation or plagiarism. You can see lots of things about this on Twitter from some of the people we’ve talked about — Todd in the Shadows, Hbomberguy. Lots of people are talking about it right now, so I don’t want to rehash all of the observations other people have made when I could just link them. But yes, they did work together, and yes, Nick is credited as James’s writer in all this.

Courtney: But they were, like, roommates. I’m pretty sure in this Patreon-only podcast that they were living together and they are personal friends and roommates. Which makes me wonder, because a lot of people have treated this like an employer-employee relationship — and maybe it is. Maybe to a certain extent it is. But there is also a personal relationship here, where they were roommates and they were friends. So I don’t know. Allegedly, wild speculation, I don’t know if they’re both just in on the grift, if this is a truly far more collaborative scam.

Courtney: But they were talking about, yeah, they’re living together, they’re in a small area, they need to move to a bigger city so that they can cast for these projects. And so they were talking about the move and that they weren’t going to be roommates anymore, so they were going to have two different places. But James is moving to this big city, which — “big city,” to me, sounds like more rent, more expensive cost of living. So I was like, “Did you just take all our money to move to a cooler place or a nicer apartment?” Like, that’s what it sounded like at the time.

Royce: And that’s one thing I’m curious about and one thing I don’t know if we’ll ever get an answer to, but there was no transparency in spending. I know that Dan Olson, @FoldableHuman, did a breakdown very recently — like, within the past few days of recording this — on Twitter, where they mentioned, “I recognize this camera. I know how much this costs. I know how much this bit of equipment costs. I can see your timeline and can see that you are over-purchasing expensive equipment instead of actually making anything and that the dollar amounts are not adding up with you also saying that you’re out of money and need new Patrons.”

Courtney: Mmm, yeah. And so this is so interesting. I know of so many YouTubers now that I did not know before any of this. [laughs] This is wild. Because, yeah, at this time that I so begrudgingly gave a dollar just so I could try to get these other updates, there was also, like, a Discord that was talking about Telos projects, and there was a new channel for all the projects that they were apparently working on. So many of the original projects that were scrapped were not in there. There wasn’t a channel for them at all. But there were several brand new ones that we had never heard of before, just never heard of. And so we were like, “What the heck? What is going on with this?”

Courtney: So a combination of the fact that the projects you pitched to us that were allegedly in process, that allegedly had two Asexual characters, are just gone — you’re not working on them — you’re supposedly working on something else new and shiny, but the only thing you’ve actually done that you’ve told us that costs money is you’ve moved to a big city? What on earth? And by this point now, we’re also heavily starting to suspect that, like, oh yeah, the Ace writer that you hired and you’re already working with — it’s just Nick. It’s just the guy you’ve already been working with. It’s just the guy who is your roommate. Like, you haven’t gone out of your way to, you know, hire an Ace writer so you can do Ace representation right. It’s just this guy. So that was deeply upsetting and I canceled that Patreon dollar real fast. So technically, we have paid James Somerton… Oh no, it’s not a Canadian dollar. I was going to say $1,506 Canadian dollars, but I actually gave him a US dollar. [laughs]

Royce: You can just say “too much.”

Courtney: I gave him too much! And again was like, “Why aren’t we getting these updates on Telos?” So this also probably tells me that either he is hoping people who gave him money in Telos also become Patrons to continue giving him money every single month, or Telos was just a grift from the beginning that was originally trying to pump more money out of the people who were already his Patrons, because he was just treating it all as the same thing. It wasn’t the same thing! We didn’t sign up to your Patreon for your YouTube video essays. We wanted the movie production company.

Royce: By the way, I do still have the Telos Pictures Indiegogo page up. And when I was skimming, James has a post on February 21st, 2022. At that point in time, they had between $15,000 and $40,000. And these goals that they’re mentioning — they would have passed their third goal, which they’re saying was “Three short films and a web series.”

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: None of which were actually produced.

Courtney: No, nope. And so after I’ve made this dollar pledge and deleted it and got really upset that he had all these, like, “Ooh, Telos pictures” — and occasionally, they would just do, like, update podcasts that would be a combination of, “Here are some upcoming videos we want to do on YouTube” and, like, “Here’s what’s going on with Telos.” Sometimes they were livestreamed so they could get, like, questions from people. And so, like, during some of these livestreams or some of these Patreon-only podcasts, he would mention, like, really offhandedly, like, “Oh, yeah, we’ve got a new, exciting project in the works at Telos.” And it’s like, where are all the old projects? We have seen nothing.

Courtney: So at one point, we decided to just, like, search “Telos Pictures,” and we found the website. There was a website for it. And this is the funniest part, because they had, like, movie posters made out for not only the things that were in the original pitch, but, like, half a dozen brand-new ones, including, like, a documentary on gay porn. And it’s like, okay, that’s fine, that’s not what we paid for. Like, what order are we doing these things in? What’s going on? Where are our three short films and the web series that you explicitly told us you’d get to do at this amount? The movie posters, though, had been updated with Executive Producer credits on the bottom of the poster. And this is what’s really fun, because listed there in the executive producer credits: “Courtney Lane and Royce Layne.” Royce’s last name is not Lane. Royce doesn’t have a last name because Royce is like Teller.

Royce: I have never gone by Layne, L-A-Y-N-E, ever.

Courtney: Where did the Y come from? For those of you who are just listening and not reading the transcript or something, my name is spelled L-A-N-E, Courtney Lane. They said Courtney Lane correctly, but then Royce Layne was spelled L-A-Y-N-E. Where did they get that?

Royce: So the thing is —

Courtney: [laughs] How did that happen?

Royce: Courtney, you Tweeted a while ago, after the Hbomberguy video came out, like, “Hey, see if you can spot the cameo.”

Royce: [Courtney laughs]

Royce: One of these posters was put up there, and our names are on it.

Courtney: If you pause the Hbomberguy video when that movie poster is being flashed, and if you look real hard, you can see “Courtney Lane and Royce Layne.” [laughs]

Royce: But the thing is, there was never any communication about that. No questions were asked.

Courtney: No.

Royce: Someone working on this poster made that up.

Courtney: Yeah! And it’s like, I can see they were at least trying to go with Lane. But it’s also very weird to look at a queer married couple and just assume that we have the last name. Like, even if they spelled it correctly, even if they spelled Royce Lane L-A-N-E, what a wild assumption to just make when that wasn’t a thing we told you. And you could have shot us a super quick clarification email, like, “Hey, we need a last name for Royce, what is it?” Or “How do you want your names to be?” Or “This is what we have. Is this correct?” Like, none of that. We didn’t even know that this movie poster had been updated with our names, because we haven’t gotten the update. We just found this because we went to the website!

Courtney: So we were laughing about what a joke this project was just on our own, over a year ago, and we didn’t share any of this [laughs] because we still hoped to have some amount of a professional relationship with this guy that we paid this money to. But all that’s out the door now. So, yeah, that’s… We will award one million internet points to anybody who saw our little cameo [laughs] before we mentioned this. But yeah, because I paused on the poster too, because it goes by quickly and, of course, like, our names are tiny in the bottom of it. But we’d seen this poster before on the website, so I knew exactly what it was. So I paused it and I was like, “Royce, it’s the poster!” [laughs] We looked at it and it’s like, “Yep, Courtney Lane and Royce Layne, [laughs] there it is, that’s us.” So one and a half of us made a cameo appearance on the Hbomberguy video. [laughs]

Royce: Which, I think that leads into a bit more of this. Because I don’t know if you have a time frame on this, but there was a later Telos Productions credit roll type of thing —

Courtney: Mmmmmm.

Royce: — that, again, had these 15 Founders on it, and I assume that that poster was made before you made that Twitter thread criticizing the Ace video and that this later video happened afterwards, because our names were removed.

Courtney: Well, I’ve got… Our names were removed. I’ve got a bit of a hunch about that. There are a couple of theories. So this is literally, as of the time you’re listening to this, as of the time this episode is released, this was news to us as of a week ago. So once people started talking about James Somerton a lot — like, we stopped watching the guy a long time ago. He has lost all of our trust. He has disrespected us and our community. We saw not only us but members of our community getting deeply harassed as a result of that, so we were done with him. If and when he’d ever give an Indiegogo update, we would have gotten that.

Courtney: But someone just made a little snarky post, now that everyone’s talking about James Somerton, about, like, “Have you ever seen the intros to his YouTube channels? Like, this is the most self-indulgent thing I’ve ever seen.” And it was from a video that was just posted a couple months ago that we never saw. But it was for the video titled, “The History of Gay Hollywood.” And first of all, it starts saying, like, “This was originally released in five parts,” and presents the name of like five earlier video essays that he’d done — which were plagiarized and/or completely inaccurate, turns out. But then, he gives this little introduction, and the credits start rolling, and it says “Telos Pictures Presents” and it has, like, Telos Executive Producers. Um, our name isn’t on there. Our name is not on there. We’re gone.

Courtney: So, one of two things happened. Either he just outright removed our names because of how viciously we attacked him last year, or he didn’t even look at the people who donated to him on Telos and he just input, like, some of his Patrons, from, like, his highest tier Patreon or something. Either way, you’re putting this on your YouTube video saying “Telos Pictures Presents,” and excuse me, sir, but we are Telos Founders, we are Telos Executive Producers, we paid for that right, and you are not crediting us. Interesting. Interesting. Not that I want my name to be associated with plagiarized content, but interesting.

Courtney: Oh, because that was another thing. In one of these little Patreon updates about, like, “Oh, how’s this Telos deal going to work,” at one point, he said something that just gave me the impression that once they made these Telos projects, they were just going to go up on his James Somerton YouTube channel. And it’s like, “Mmm, what about all these live screenings? What about your previous promise to, like, submit them to indie film festivals and to use the festival circuit as a proof of concept to try to fundraise for bigger feature-length programs? Like, what happened with all of that if you’re now telling me you’re just putting this on your YouTube channel?” Mmm, not fond of that bait and switch, Mr. Somerton, not fond.

Royce: Yeah, there was an indication at some point that the James Somerton YouTube channel and the Telos Pictures production studio were supposed to have a hard line dividing them as two independent things, was the impression that I had.

Courtney: But yeah. And so, like, this, too — like, this “History of Gay Hollywood” — in the introduction, it says, “This video was originally released in five parts: How Hollywood Was Born Gay, Hollywood’s Golden Age (of Queercoding” — oh, “(of Queercoding” misses a parentheses, even. It’s one parentheses “of Queercoding,” no end bracket. [laughs] Why is there a typo in your opening? Okay, so anyway. “America’s War on the Gays and Communists, Where the Bury Your Gays Trope Comes From, and When Hollywood Came Out of the Closet.” So these have been collected here as one video to make it easy to watch the whole story. So these are all just previous video essays — some of which were explicitly stated as being heavily plagiarized — and he just mushed them all together into five pieces and says. “Telos Pictures presents,” and doesn’t even credit your Telos Founders. Sloppy. And again, like, I found out about this from a snarky Twitter villain of the day Tweet a few days ago, someone who just snipped a little tiny, “Look at how self indulgent his introductions are.” That’s how I knew he even released anything that’s allegedly from Telos Pictures. That’s how I found out!

Courtney: But anyway, before we get on to how this fits into the rest of the picture, there was one final thing he did that truly upset me around that Ace video last November. After he did this livestream about all his attacks and after his fans started coming after us and members of our community, he kept saying over and over — and, like, this livestream, it was just him. For at least a part of it, it was just him talking. And he’s like, “I didn’t even know this and Nick didn’t even know this.” He would keep saying, like, “Nick is literally Asexual, and people are getting upset at Nick for talking about Asexuality when Nick is literally Asexual.”

Courtney: And people have recently been pointing out that every time James Somerton has faced accusations of plagiarism over the years, he’d bring up his writer, Nick, and he’d say, “So if you’re accusing me of plagiarism, Nick is my writer, and I will not stand for you accusing Nick of plagiarism, because Nick is very good at what he does, and Nick has an academic background, and he can write these things better.” And, like, he would say all these things deflecting to Nick every time someone would say, “James Somerton plagiarizes.” He did the same thing with everything he got wrong about Asexuality. Every time, it was like, “Nick is literally Asexual,” even if it was something that James himself said. If James was like, “Aces don’t face conversion therapy, and I’m happy to be corrected,” it’s like, then he’d be like, “Well, and then the people getting mad at me are just mad because we’re talking about Asexuality, because Nick is literally Asexual! Nick is Ace. Nick is Ace, and this is just Nick’s experience of Asexuality.”

Courtney: And it’s like, oh my gosh, you always bring up Nick to deflect from any criticism of you! And a lot of people have been saying, like, “Oh man, poor Nick. Does he know? Does he know that James is using him as a meat-shield for all these accusations?” I’ve got a hunch that he does and he’s okay with it. I feel like this is an established tactic that they’ve done for multiple things — not just the plagiarism accusations. And maybe part of that’s with the hope that they’re presenting themselves as, like, an employer/employee relationship, so then James can defend himself even further by, like, “Oh, I’m defending my employees. Like, I’m not gonna stand for people talking ill of them.” But then there’s just, like, plausible deniability, because really, whose fault is it? But yeah, that upset me so much because there were things that James himself said that were spreading harmful misinformation about Aces, and he was deflecting to Nick every time.

Courtney: But he did add a pinned post under that video that said something along the lines of, “Just remember, this is one Ace’s experience. We’re not talking for all of the Aces that exist out there.” But he said, “My comments section is gonna be a safe place for Aces to share their experience. I will be moderating.”

Royce: And this is on the YouTube video that we’ve been talking about?

Courtney: Yeah, “The Queer Erasure of Asexuality.” He added that after this, you know, this livestream that’s blowing up on Twitter about all this. And so, just for funsies, I went through every single comment on that video, of which there were thousands. And, uh, either he wasn’t moderating at all and he just lied, or he’s really okay with acephobia and his moderating leaves a lot to be desired.

Courtney: Because I saw tons of personal attacks. I saw several Aces sharing their honest to God personal experiences about facing conversion therapy, as a direct result of what they said in that video, and there were people in the comments being like, “Okay, but Aces literally don’t have it as bad as gays. Stop pretending like you have it as bad as we gays have it,” to people saying, like, “Yeah, I got sent to a conversion therapy camp,” or, like, “Yeah, my doctor tried to cure my Asexuality.” Those did not get moderated.

Courtney: I saw vile things being said to Aces in the comments that did not get removed. I saw slurs. So here’s a really fun thing, which I believe neither James nor Nick know about this, probably. You have to either be really deep in the Ace community or really deep in the “I hate Aces” community to know about this. But the acephobes have done this really fun thing that’s been going on for a few years — so this isn’t new — where they have taken the good old fashioned F-slur and changed the first three words to A-C-E.

Royce: First three letters, yes.

Courtney: Oh! Yes. “The first three words.” [laughs]

Royce: We’re talking about one word.

Courtney: “Why, this slur is a sentence.” So they take the F-slur, replace the first three letters with A-C-E. So there are people who will, like, call us “acegot,” which we’ve made fun of on this podcast before, actually. Because we have said, like, “If you’re going to make up slurs for us, you gotta come up with something better than that. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. It’s clunky. You can do better than that.” So, like we can make fun of how bad of a slur that is, but like, this is a thing that the acephobe community does. Like, they will call us that, and you will see that on social media. You’ll see that on your posts. I saw that several times in that comments section. And that I could have given a pass on. Like, maybe you don’t know enough about the Asexual community in order to appropriately moderate that, because it’s a bit obscure if you aren’t in one of those areas. But the outright attacks talking about, “Don’t pretend like you have it as bad as us gays” — it’s like, was that not what this video was supposed to be about, was telling gays not to do that anymore? Literally.

Courtney: And so he either genuinely doesn’t care and he’s fine with this acephobia in his comment section or he just said, “This is a safe space and I’ll be moderating,” hoping that people would just see that post of his and think he’s a great guy doing great things for the Ace community and taking it at face value. So that was really upsetting. That was upsetting.

Courtney: So, roughly a month after this “Queer Erasure of Asexuality” video, and after we saw the progression of him jumping on a livestream about how he’s being attacked, and all the saying something but doing another — a lot of that, a lot of wildly exaggerating what actually happened for the sake of drumming up sympathy and militarizing his fan base to go after anybody who’s criticizing him. We watched as exactly the same thing unfolded a month later with creators who are a lot bigger than us and also YouTubers, so were much more in the video essay community.

Royce: Was this surrounding creators on Nebula?

Courtney: Ohhh, Nebula, yes! Yes. So, I’ve seen some people talk about this in vague terms, but because all this happening with us with James was so fresh, I was also right there watching all this as it was happening live, and so maybe I can fill in a few of the details for how this all transpired and for some of you who are trying to put the puzzle together.

Courtney: Lindsay Ellis broke her silence after leaving YouTube a while ago. There was a whole controversy that a lot of people don’t think should have been as controversial as it was. I’m not going to rehash all that. If you know what happened, you know what happened. But Lindsay Ellis stepped away as a YouTube creator for a while. And she made her first podcast talking about what happened, talking about Nebula, and sort of introducing the idea that she’s going to start creating on Nebula again, but she’s not going to come back to YouTube as a platform.

Courtney: And this was with… I don’t know if it’s the CEO or the founder of Nebula — like, someone who’s very much in charge of Nebula things. And it was just the two of them talking. And it was a hot topic, because a lot of people were like, “Lindsay Ellis is back!” But they had said something about the process of selecting new Nebula creators, and they were talking about the fact that there are some people who are YouTube creators who have tried to rally their fan base to go after Nebula to ask Nebula to sign them. Because Nebula, to the best of my knowledge, is essentially like a talent agency but for YouTubers. Like, they will sign and curate specific people. And they were just sort of talking about the culture, and they were like, “We don’t want people who weaponize their fan base.” So when people say, like, “Hey, fans, audience, like, go tweet at Nebula and tell them to sign me,” and they said, “Sometimes we’ll get a flood of people asking why this creator hasn’t been signed yet.” And they said that they don’t want that culture on their platform. They don’t want people who rally their fans to try to do their talking on that behalf.

Courtney: And it was as a result of that podcast that James Somerton logged back into Twitter and started throwing a fit. He started talking about how, “Now I have proof that Nebula has blacklisted me!” [laughs] And he had several times on livestreams previously done this, where he’s like, “I don’t know why Nebula hasn’t signed me yet. Like, we’re open to it, we’re waiting to hear from Nebula.” And he’d even put this in some of his video essays, where he’d even just very, like, passive-aggressively make a comment about Nebula and how he hasn’t gotten his invitation yet. So this was, like, a known thing, that he was trying to get on Nebula and rallying his fans around this. So I don’t know how many other creators have done it, but I assume it’s probably not just James Somerton who’s done this before — just knowing vaguely how YouTube, like, audience culture works. But he was like, “Oh, this is proof!” And “I can’t believe that they blacklisted me!”

Courtney: And that was a choice to start doing that. But then he kept taking it a step further, and, as a white man, was starting to imply that Nebula is racist, because they sure have a whole bunch of white creators, don’t they? And it’s like, hmmm, you’re white, and you’re mad that they aren’t signing you, and you’re criticizing them for having too many white creators. Interesting.

Courtney: But then he started also kind of hinting at the fact that Nebula might be homophobic because they haven’t signed him, the gay YouTuber. And naturally all of the queer creators who are currently Nebula creators were like, “Hello, excuse me, pardon me, here I am. Actually, Nebula has paid me to make queer content. Hello, I’m trans.” Or there was even like, “Hello, I am a queer creator of color who is on Nebula, pardon me.” So, like, there were these people coming out, there was, like, Jessie Gender, there was Princess Weekes. We were hearing some things from, like, Lady Emily, Sarah Zed’s co-writer. A lot of these people I had no frame of reference for until this started happening. This is how much this blew up.

Royce: That’s one thing I’ve been seeing so much of out of all of this James Somerton downfall discourse. So many people are like —

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: “Look at all these new queer content creators that I now have access to, who were either in some sort of spat with James Somerton or were plagiarized by James Somerton.”

Courtney: Yeah, well, one of the YouTubers that I did actually watch several videos from and follow was F.D Signifier, who does a lot of media analysis videos from, like, a Black lens. He is very good at what he does. I love his videos. I knew that he was a Nebula creator because he’s been like, you know, “This video is brought to you by Nebula.” So as soon as James is like, “Yeah, all their creators are white,” I was like, “I don’t know a lot of video essayists, but one that I do know is definitely Black and definitely on Nebula, and all the other ones I know are actually queer. Like, Jessie Gender is a trans woman who is on Nebula. I also know this other trans woman over here who’s on Nebula. And here’s a bisexual and Black creator who’s on Nebula.” And so I was like, “Where are you getting this from?” Not that I know a bunch of things about Nebula or all their creators, but it just seemed, at a glance, like this is weird.

Courtney: But then I saw these creators very politely trying to say, like, “Hey, James, maybe stop rage tweeting these things that are erasing all of our work. We get that you’re upset that you’re not on Nebula, but we other queer creators are actually here.” And so he hopped on a livestream and started throwing a fit about it. He did exactly what he did to us a month earlier. But this time, he had the ability to play the victim even harder, because he was like, “Some of these creators are bigger than I am, so they’re punching down!” It’s like, oh, punching down, like you did to us, like you did to us last month?

Courtney: So just for the sake of like, “Wow, this guy really did that, he really went there,” I also watched that livestream. So I was watching live as he was talking about, “Oh, I’ve confirmed from this podcast with Lindsay Ellis that I have been blacklisted from Nebula, which is unfair. Because, sure, maybe they have other creators who are queer, but they don’t have any creators who only talk about queer things. And that’s me. I’m someone who only talks about queer things. So that is clearly a gap [laughing] in Nebula’s video base,” or something.

Courtney: Then, these Nebula creators jumped into that livestream also and were begging him to log off. They were so kind and patient and they were like, “James, please close down the livestream and DM us. Please, let’s just have a conversation about this. Why are you doing this on livestream?” And then a lot of his followers were like, “I can’t believe these bigger creators are attacking you. I can’t believe they’re coming for you. I can’t believe Nebula has blacklisted you! How dare they? You’re such a good creator.” And so I was just watching this unfold and I was like, “Oh my goodness, this is so messy. Royce, please make me popcorn.” [laughs]

Courtney: But then, but then, the most beautiful thing happened. As I’m watching this live, Jenny Nicholson, who I think is probably the biggest creator out of everyone who is in this conversation, joined the chat, and, while James was live, just said something to the effect of, like, “Well, I’m not actually a Nebula creator, so I can talk freely about the thing everybody’s thinking. But, James, you have several credible accusations of plagiarism against you, so there’s probably another reason why Nebula hasn’t reached out to you yet.” And my jaw hit the floor!

Courtney: Because then, of course, I’m googling “James Somerton plagiarism” now, and I am seeing blog posts from a year or two earlier of people saying, “He has directly plagiarized this book,” “He’s directly plagiarized this smaller video essayist,” “He’s plagiarized that article here.” And so when I googled “James Somerton plagiarism,” I was able to find people who had been talking about this already. That was a thing I was too trusting to just try to google previously, but I guess this is something we have to do with our creators now, if we ever want to support them, is just google what the accusations could be against them and see if they’re there. But then I was like, “Wow, great, add that to the pile of reasons why I regret giving this guy so much money.” And so he completely threw a fit. And then he was also like, “Jenny Nicholson, this enormous YouTuber, is punching down on me, the little guy.”

Courtney: After so many attempts from other creators to — like, “Please, please, let’s have a conversation. Please turn off the livestream, James. You do not need to do this this way. We’re willing to talk to you.” He ended up putting his Twitter account on private and he was like, “This is for my own protection, because bigger YouTubers are sending their fans to harass me.” Ugh! [laughs] The audacity! And, like I said, some of these creators — Jessie Gender: trans YouTuber, trans woman; Princess Weekes: queer, Black content creator — like, these are some of the people who were involved in this conversation at the time. And James is riling up his fan base about how, “I can’t believe these other YouTubers are attacking James.”

Courtney: And James Somerton — because we were, unfortunately, still following him on Twitter, because I still gave him a lot of money, and if he ever Tweets about what he’s doing with that money, I want to see it. So when he put his account on private, I was still seeing all these very inflammatory things he was saying to his followers. Um, he admitted that he called the cops on these other content creators for harassing him and inciting their followers to violence. And he was alleging some incredibly serious claims, like, “Oh, a follower of Jessie Gender said that they’re going to make false accusations about me sexually assaulting her, and what a ridiculous thing to say to a gay man.”

Courtney: It’s like, I don’t know what things James Somerton has actually gotten privately. I don’t know how many of these are exaggerated or outright fabricated. So these are all alleged. Don’t harass people. Don’t send these things. Like, don’t send death threats to James Somerton. Not cool. Not allowed. He is alleging he’s gotten a lot of these things. I don’t know by what methods he’s gotten them, because I did not see them publicly when I searched. Maybe someone scrounged up his email address somewhere, but I know for a fact he had his DMs locked down, so, like, you couldn’t just DM him. Maybe you could if you were mutuals, but I don’t think he’d be mutuals with people who are sending him death threats and false sexual assault allegations.

Courtney: And that’s just so icky now, because all of these accusations of deep misogyny from him for years are coming out, also. So just the thought that he could potentially be lying about a woman lying about sexual assault. It’s like, there are too many layers here, too much.

Courtney: So I watched all this happen and I was like, “Well, thank God I decided to take the diplomatic route and didn’t chime into that livestream when he was calling us out.” Because I could have. I was there watching it live. I could have been like, “Um, excuse me, what the fuck?” I could have been like, “That’s us you’re talking about. So if you have something to say, say it to me. Let’s have this conversation.” I could have been like — I could have taken the same route these creators did and say, like, “Hey, maybe log off of the livestream and let’s have a chat about this.” Thank God I didn’t do that. Because apparently, he is a Karen who is willing to call the police on trans women and queer creators of color just for saying, like, “Hey, buddy, maybe cool it a little bit, maybe don’t erase our work, maybe let’s have a private conversation.” It was all very polite. There was no one who was aggressively attacking him.

Courtney: Because I’ve had my own run-ins with the cops. I don’t think cops would have been, like, banging on our door here in Kansas where we live, because some Canadian called in on us. But I know how serious it is to actually call the police on someone, because I have been subjected to police violence. I have been racially profiled. I have had a cop call me racial slurs. I have been accused of being a prostitute at age 16 by police officers. So police violence is very much a real thing. ACAB. And how fucking dare you call the police on trans and queer creators, some of whom are creators of color? How dare you? How dare you?

Courtney: And at this point, we were having very serious conversations like, “Alright, how do we ask for our money back? What does that email look like if we ask him for our money back?” And I hate to say it, but as someone who has created content — and we don’t particularly monetize our podcast, so this is not referring to the podcast, this is previous projects, my life with my own business. On the professional side of things, I have rendered products and services for money from other people. And I was just thinking — like, I was trying to put myself in James’s shoes, because I guess I have an abundance of empathy, and I was like, “How big of a panic attack would I have if someone gave me this much money and then asked for it back?” And I was trying to think, genuinely, truly, honestly, I was trying to think of how awful it would be to be James receiving that email.

Royce: You specifically mentioned, “Right after spending money to move across the country.”

Courtney: “Right after spending money to move across the country.” I was like, “Would this be a tremendous financial hardship on him right now if I asked for this money back?”

Royce: Right after claiming — one of the many times, apparently, that this has happened — that YouTube revenue or Patreon funds had dipped and they were in trouble somehow.

Courtney: Yes, exactly. So all of this kept me from writing this email at that time, even though we had every reason in the world to demand our money back after everything that had happened.

Royce: Well, I haven’t looked through Indiegogo’s terms, and honestly, [laughing] I don’t expect that any money is coming back.

Courtney: No.

Royce: But, there are clear violations of the Telos Productions funding.

Courtney: Yeah, and I mean, some of it’s so loose. because, technically, projects can fall through, and they tell you explicitly, like, “If projects fall through, you’re out that money, and you have to understand this.” But the fact that now, James has put something out publicly on YouTube that says “Telos Pictures presents,” and he didn’t do the bare minimum of crediting the people who gave him money at the highest tier that he had when he first launched this account, that’s pretty damning. Yes, I have emailed Indiegogo about all of this. I don’t know if I’m going to get a response or what they’re going to say. I doubt we’re going to have any recourse to get our money back through them. I’m quite confident we won’t, in fact. But maybe we can get him banned from this platform doing it again. Because that is probably the most damning evidence we have, where it says “Telos Pictures” and he did not even credit the people. So, also, the plagiarism, since we can also point to the plagiarism in that project, I’m sure there’s probably something somewhere in there that Indiegogo wouldn’t feel super fuzzy about. So, yeah, I have emailed Indiegogo about all this. I don’t know if or when we’ll get a response or what that will be.

Courtney: I have emailed James Somerton demanding our money back. And I kept it short, sweet, and to the point in the email, too. I could have laid out all the ways he has disrespected us and other creators and all the reasons we’ve lost trust in him, but I didn’t. The email was short, sweet, and to the point. It was, “We have, at multiple times, regretted backing this project. Here’s how much money we contributed to it. Here’s what we want back. Don’t use our names in any future things. And refund us,” basically.

Courtney: So since the Hbomberguy video dropped, James Somerton has deleted his Patreon account and his Discords, and he removed commenting on all of his YouTube videos. He disabled all the comments. So that’s super fascinating. Given all that and the way he’s clearly just fleeing from this and removing opportunities for people to try to ask for accountability from him, I highly doubt we will ever hear from him again. I would be shocked if we get an email responding to our request for our money back. But I don’t know. We’ll see. We will see.

Courtney: But yeah, the more recent things that have come out… Do you have Dan Olson’s recent Tweet up? You mentioned it a couple of times, but this is also — like, this is adding to my sheer embarrassment about this whole thing, because I clearly…

Courtney: I’ll give myself some grace. There’s no way I could have known what some of these cameras cost or some of these production things. But the sheer amount of money that James Somerton clearly had, it sounds like the guy is making a lot more money than we are, which is deeply upsetting. And I’m pretty sure throughout all of this, after following him on Twitter, I don’t know what the figures are here, but I am pretty sure he has discussed a family member, probably his mother, who has died and left him an inheritance, and that he was using some of the inheritance for creating Telos. So between whatever this amount of the inheritance was, between what he’s getting on Patreon, between what he’s getting from sponsors and what he got from the Telos crowdfunding, it seems like he has never been hurting for cash. And if he is, it’s probably his own doing from negligence in keeping his finances, because he sure is raking in enough, it sounds like.

Royce: I do have Dan Olson’s recent thread up. It is a lengthy one. I think it would make sense to link to in the show notes. Was there anything in particular you were looking at?

Courtney: Well, we’ll link in the show notes, but give us, like, the Cliff Notes. Like, what are some of the most damning points there?

Royce: So, Dan starts off by saying, “Back in April, I snapped at James and replied to a Tweet linking to a video” — the “Maybe the end” video that you referred to earlier. And a lot of this revolves around the call for cash. And so Dan goes through visually critiquing things in pitch videos and other things that James Somerton has put out, mentioning the multi-thousand dollar pieces of equipment that Dan spotted in those videos —

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: — and the frequency that they were spotted and sort of the observation about a person’s spending habits that this must imply. They continue going through, sort of speculating on all of these different things, mentioning that, “Yeah, gear acquisition syndrome is a thing that a lot of early filmmakers do, where you think, ‘Oh, if I just have the right equipment, the film will produce itself,’ sort of thing.”

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: It’s a trap that a lot of people fall into, particularly if you happen to be an enthusiast for the equipment itself. But he goes through further and critiques Patreon and YouTube revenues and all of these things and says, essentially, that the numbers are not adding up. And at the end of that, the final tweet in that thread is just, “He stole your money, and for that I’m profoundly sad and angry. That’s why I snapped at him in April. I’m sorry I couldn’t give you the full context then, and I’m sorry if that anger upset you.”

Courtney: Mmm. It’s so upsetting. It really is. Because, yeah, he stole our money. He stole the money for all the people who… And, like, I remember at this time — because I was there, I was watching this play out — I was already salty about this guy, even before giving all the new reasons to be upset. I remember people saying, like, “Man, I’m unemployed right now, but I just upped my pledge by another $2.00.” Like, there were genuinely comments along those lines. Or people that are like, “I’m so sorry, I can’t give any more to you right now.” Or people saying, like, “I just deleted my pledge from another creator so that I could give you more.” And, like, people were genuinely feeling awful for this guy. And people who were, like, self-identifying as poor or broke or not receiving income at the time, who were still contributing to him. So if this guy is truly making… I’ve seen some figures recently suggest that he was making tens of thousands of dollars a month. Like, he could have potentially been getting upwards of, like, $200,000 a year.

Royce: Yeah, it’s really hard to say. I know, for example, the ranges on Social Blade are all over the place, particularly due to the [laughing] rapid drop that James has seen in viewership and subscribers over the past few days.

Courtney: Mmm. Mhm.

Royce: But also, YouTube ad revenue is just the start of it. There are all of the third-party ads that are spoken in. There are other agreements. Other content creators have said, knowing their own experiences with this and looking at what James has going on, that they don’t believe that he’s hurting for money.

Courtney: Yes. And fellow YouTubers who know the industry, they know the finances. So that’s… it’s deeply upsetting. It really is. And there are so many other creators right now who are saying, like, “We have known these things about him. We have known about the plagiarism accusations. We have known his pattern of behavior, of siccing his fans on people.” This has come up time and time again, where people will say, “If you so much as lightly try to correct him on something, no matter how kind it is, he will play the victim. He will state that people are attacking him, he will rile his fans up and he will send his fans after those people.” And that’s something that folks have even commented about.

Courtney: You know, Dan Olson. They’re like — at the time Dan commented on this, in April, James’s fans were coming after him. Because James made a Tweet that was like, “Not another YouTuber bigger than me coming to attack me,” and so everyone would think that this is, you know, a righteous fight. They’re seeing a power imbalance. They’re like, “This bigger creator’s attacking the little guy.” So of course, people are going to get riled up and want to defend the little guy. But really, what all these bigger creators were trying to do was say, “We see that this guy is scamming you all. He is taking you for a ride. And that is not ethical. and we’re trying to speak out against it.” But so many of these creators got silenced because of how much hate and vitriol they got from James’s militant following that he himself fanned the flames of by continuously making these Tweets, calling out those creators, doing these livestreams over and over again.

Courtney: And so I just wonder how many other people he’s done this to. Because when he did it to us — obviously, we were there, we saw it happening — I immediately recognized the pattern of behavior with the Nebula creators a month later. And in fact, I was talking to some of those Nebula creators at that time. I was sharing some DMs with them. Because I was like, “Whoa, what he’s doing to you right now is exactly what he did to us last month.” And they were agreeing that, “Yes, this is a known pattern of behavior with James.” There are other creators who are well aware that he does this.

Royce: That’s one thing we’ve been seeing around right now, is people saying, “Hey, I really liked this James Somerton video. It wasn’t mentioned [laughing] in the Hbomberguy breakdown. Can someone please analyze this and tell me what parts are plagiarized?”

Courtney: Right. “Tell me who he plagiarized this from so I can go follow them. [laughing] Thanks.” But, yeah.

Courtney: And so, the unfortunate thing, too, is that since this all broke, I have now, for the first time in a year, watched a couple new James Somerton videos [laughs] because of the little indication on Twitter that he said, “This is from Telos Pictures.” We’ve also gotten some people in our community talking about the new shady things he said about Asexuality recently, which is fascinating, so we’ve investigated some of those things as well. We saw some people praising his Barbie video recently, because apparently, he said, like, “By the way, Barbie absolutely is Asexual.” So we were like, “Alright, well, let’s watch that to see if he got anything wrong.” But it wasn’t about Asexuality at all. It started with a rant about Forrest Gump. It was weird.

Royce: The Asexuality line was a very quickly spoken closer. It was the last line in the video.

Courtney: It had nothing to do with the video. It was like, “Here’s a big rant about Forrest Gump. Here’s a big, partially incoherent monologue about Barbie,” which, some of it didn’t make any sense, some of it I didn’t agree with, some of it was totally irrelevant. He then branched off of Barbie to go talk about another movie that I’d never even seen, at one point. And the thesis — like, the lines, did not get connected well enough. But then, at the very end, the last line was, like, “Oh, and, by the way, Barbie’s Asexual.”

Courtney: And it’s like, there is so much we could actually say and analyze about why Barbie is Asexual, what that means, why that is queer, why that is a subversion. We made a video before, or… “a video.” We made a podcast about Barbie being Asexual, even before we saw the Barbie movie. Now that we have seen the Barbie movie, we could probably do one analyzing the movie itself if we really wanted to, but it wasn’t about Asexuality at all. So, given our history with him, it’s like, “You’re just scoring this for points. You are just trying to say, ‘Look, I am an Ace ally. Anyone who’s not examining me critically, praise me for my inclusivity, please.’”

Courtney: But then that’s undermined by the fact that it’s been brought to our attention that in a recent video where he was talking about Heartstopper — you know, Heartstopper, famously written by an AroAce person — he made this awful analogy about… Well, it was kind of talking about, like, how, “Oh, there isn’t any sex in Heartstopper.” And they’re all teenagers, and they are not sexually active yet. But even in season two they were talking about it. They were like, “Yeah, I do want this, I’m just not ready yet.” They were starting to approach those early conversations in a very naive, teenager-y way. So it’s not as if the concept of them ever having sex has been completely banished from all dialogue.

Courtney: But it was talking about that. And he was like, “Here’s why sex is important, even in instances of Asexuality.” And he started comparing it to food. He’s like, “Well, you know broccoli, you don’t actually know if you like broccoli until you try it. And sex is the same way. You don’t know if you like it until you try it. So even a lot of Aces will, you know, experiment.” And it’s like, as true as it might be that some Aces do experiment sexually — either before, during, or after discovering Asexuality — saying outright that you have to have sex to know if you like it? I don’t like that framing. That is not okay.

Royce: That’s because it’s framed in the same way that corrective rapists frame it.

Courtney: Yeah! The number of fucking men who have heard that I’m Asexual and have said, “I can fix that” or “You just haven’t had the right dick yet.”

Royce: I mean, that’s the same thing. And gay men get that too, if they haven’t had sex with a woman.

Courtney: Yeah, lesbians probably get it a lot more often, but yeah.

Royce: Oh, absolutely.

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: What I was trying to get at is that that is an inherently bigoted argument towards anyone’s orientation.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: And anyone who is thinking critically about that would see and understand that.

Courtney: Yes! Because you know what they call it when you go to a gay man and say, “No, you need to have sex with a woman so that you understand that you actually like sex with a woman”? They’d call that conversion therapy. [laughs] It’s not okay. It really is not. And that’s not even to go into the fact that there are some sex-repulsed Asexuals who know that they do not want sex. They never want sex. It is not something they feel is missing from their life. Like, I’ve been in that camp myself. I am closer to the sex-repulsed side of the spectrum than a lot of other Aces are. Do you know how incredibly fucked up it is to go to an Asexual person and just be like, “How do you know you don’t like it if you’ve never had it? You’ve got to have it.”

Courtney: That’s what we in our community refer to as compulsory sexuality. A lot of people in the queer community know about compulsory heterosexuality, where everyone’s assumed straight until proven otherwise. But regardless, even the queer community enforces compulsory sexuality. They’ll say, “You have to be sexually attracted to somebody, or you at least have to try to make sure that you’re not.” And it’s, it’s awful, it’s disgusting, it’s vile. At this point, I’m not surprised that James said that, because people are also unearthing old Tweets where he was… We probably talked a little bit about this with Evie Lupine, too, because the “right to sex discourse” was going around around that time last year, where people were saying, “Oh, you have a right to sex.” And it’s like, no, not with another person. If another person is involved, their consent is a must, and you do not have a right to it. And these are things people weaponize against our community far too often.

Courtney: But James made a statement on Twitter about how sex work needs to be subsidized by the government as a mental health service. Which, I know there are some reasonable, measured arguments for that. There are some countries, maybe the Netherlands — I don’t have it in front of me, so I’m totally speaking on memory — but there are some countries who have provided this, often specifically for disabled people, to get some sort of, you know, credit or compensation for hiring sex workers. And that’s fine. There’s nothing completely inherently wrong with that. But sex workers also have the right to refuse clients. So when people try to pass legislation using the phrasing of, like, “right to sex”? Ooh, no. No, no, no, no. We don’t go that far. But James has backed up some of those arguments in the past, so I’m not surprised to now see that he’s more recently said, like, “You’ve got to try sex to know if you like it.” Which is okay to say to Aces, I guess, but I have a feeling if you said that to a gay man, he would be upset.

Courtney: But I’ve also — very unfortunately, it’s been brought to my attention that he has, in a video, talked about how, you know, queer media is bad now, because all of the good, fun, exciting gays died during the AIDS crisis. Because they were the cool ones. They were the artists who were sleeping around with a bunch of people. Which, what a flippant, disrespectful way to talk about the AIDS crisis, even just on its surface, as like, “Oh, you know, the fun artists are the ones who died. They’re the cool ones.” Like, first of all, that’s awful, but then to also be like, “The only people who didn’t die were the boring ones. The boring ones who weren’t having a lot of sex. Like, and that’s why their art is bad and why queer media has gotten bad”? Alright, just say you hate Aces and any gays who don’t have a ton of sex or casual sex or sex with a lot of different partners. Like, what are we doing here?

Royce: That’s a statement that just gets worse the longer you think about it.

Courtney: [laughs] Yeah! Like, do I even need to spell it out for you? So all this to say, I really hope we never have to say anything about this man again, except maybe “James Somerton did give our money back.” That’s the only thing I ever want to have to say about this man, ever again.

Royce: Well, that’s kind of [laughing] the underlying tragedy of all of this that I keep seeing, is, like, that money would have been so much better spent going to other places in the Ace community.

Courtney: So much better.

Royce: [laughing] So if we do, somehow miraculously get it back, it’ll be like, “Hey, here’s where we’re putting this into now.”

Courtney: We have — and we don’t talk about this a lot; like, we aren’t flashing this on social media — but we have invested an incredible amount of money over the years into the Ace community and smaller Ace creators and individual Ace people who are asking for mutual aid. We have. We do try to give back to the community as much as we possibly can. And this is an amount that I can think of a dozen places off the top of my head right now would be better spent if we got it back.

Courtney: And, like, we don’t particularly monetize our podcast. We have technically had a few people reach out to us about sponsorships. One of the sponsorships was a polyamory website that, by the time we responded back to the PR company that was asking for ads, they were like, “Oh, this company broke our terms of service, so we don’t work with them anymore.” [laughs] So that was interesting.

Royce: Yeah, that was a shame. There have been a few things that, just because of life stuff, has taken us a bit to follow back with. We’re entertaining the idea of ad sponsorship sort of stuff, as long as the companies aren’t shitty.

Courtney: We’d be very selective about anyone we did do a sponsorship with. We’ve turned down some things outright because it’s like, “This is not something we’d do.” But, like, we very recently technically turned on monetization on YouTube, which, we’re not YouTubers, we just crosspost our podcast audio to YouTube for the sake of having closed captions for accessibility purposes for people who like that. But that’s peanuts. That’s a small amount of money. That’s not even our entire fan base, since we’re also spread out between Spotify and Apple, and we post the episodes on our own website.

Royce: I mean, obviously, we are very slowly growing, but the YouTube revenue, having it up for however many months we have done now, doesn’t cover our software infrastructure costs.

Courtney: Right.

Royce: Which we try to keep pretty light. But we do use some tools to help provide better transcripts than what you automatically get from just throwing a video on YouTube.

Courtney: Yeah. And, like, website costs and things. So it’s like, we’re getting a few dollars from YouTube ads at this point, which we just turned on a few months ago. It’s literally a few dollars. It’s not covering our costs. So we do pay out of pocket for this podcast. We started a Ko-fi just because a couple of people were like, “Hey, how can I support you?” We don’t even promote it very often. We aren’t out here on Twitter saying, “Hey, buy us a coffee,” because we often know that there are some people who could use it more than we do a lot of the time. Because if we were making James Somerton money, I would never ask anyone for money ever again. I wouldn’t even have that Ko-fi. Like, it’s astonishing to me, just the entitlement and the manipulation to pump more money from people who have less than you. It’s mind-boggling to me.

Courtney: Because we haven’t been shy about the fact that we have privileges. We own a house in a suburb. It’s a nice, good-size house. It’s on a mortgage. We aren’t the kind of wealthy we could buy it in cash. Like, we pay a mortgage every month, but a lot of people can’t even do that, and we’re very, very aware of that. I am disabled and my medical costs are astronomical, they are ridiculous, and we should have universal healthcare, and I shouldn’t have to pay as much as I can for healthcare, and I do turn down a lot of doctors, appointments, and tests and procedures because of the cost, but I also have the ability to cover the ones that I need to keep functioning.

Courtney: So, knowing that we have that much privilege, that’s where we’re coming from when we’re like, “We do want to reinvest in the community.” And if there is an Ace out there who can’t cover medical costs, who can’t cover rent this month, as often as we are able, we try to give back, because we care so much about this community.

Courtney: Whereas James Somerton — at this point, I’m pretty confident in saying he just cares about his own platform and his own clout. He does not care about the broader queer community — at least not in a tangible way past “Theoretically, yes, I support queer people.” And in fact, I think he’s ripped off a lot of money from a lot of them, because it’s not just us. I know there are others out there.

Royce: Not to mention work, effort, intellectual property, that sort of thing.

Courtney: Right!

Royce: The plagiarism itself.

Courtney: Yes.

Royce: It is a theft, and in many cases, it’s been mentioned as a form of erasure.

Courtney: Correct. So, I really hope you all understand why we did feel the need to make this. We weighed very carefully if we even wanted to say a word about this on Twitter once he started trending, because there’s like, “Ooh, add personal stories about Twitter’s villain of the day that everyone’s talking about, because we do have them, or log off and enjoy a pleasant day? Hmm.” I really wanted to do the latter, but the fact that actual financial harm has been done, the fact that this is someone who has actually harmed real members of the Ace community by opening them up to harassment, the way he has treated Aces — despite the fact that I know many out there have just been given a general good impression about him, that this is a gay man who cares about Aces, because that’s how he was trying to present himself.

Courtney: So it has just hurt me very deeply to see when he’ll be like, “Oh, see all the people criticizing me? This is why I only want to talk about gay male issues,” and to see so many Aces being like, “You’re right, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything. Like, we shouldn’t do this to you. Like, just thank you for talking about us. We’ll never say anything against you again.” That is manipulation. And the way he’s been behaving — if this was the same single person he was doing these behaviors to over and over again, we would call it gaslighting. But he has spread it out to so many people — creators bigger than us, us ourselves, members of our personal community and who knows who else, who knows how many smaller creators or independent, private people has he done these things to? Far too many.

Royce: And that’s one thing I mentioned earlier on, near the opening of this recording, is that when these things come out, when a large enough voice with enough evidence shines light on them, you can start to trace back and see the trail of this behavior and all the people who attempted to call it out before. And maybe, if enough people share their personal stories and share the patterns that exist and their own experiences, maybe the next time someone raises the alarm bells, someone will actually listen before things get too far.

Courtney: Exactly. Because there are a ton of people — mostly queer women right now — who are saying, like, “Yeah, we did try to talk about this. We have talked about this in the past.” Another name I’ve seen a lot talking the last few days is Maggie Mae Fish. And just creators talking about this, explaining the fact that, especially when it’s a group of women, especially when many of those women are themselves queer, and especially when there is a man who is misogynistic and has said disparaging things against women, has said incorrect or misleading or erasing things about lesbians in his videos, that’s something that’s also been coming out — when there’s a man who has created that environment and then constantly makes himself the victim, and he’s always the one being attacked, when really it is the other way around, there are people who are so quick to be like, “Ugh, this woman who I trusted, this creator who I thought I liked, I can’t believe she’s just being an enormous bitch to you now! Just completely, it came out of nowhere. I thought she was a cool woman, but no, she’s just a bitch. Why is she being such a bitch to you?” That’s what happens! When really, so many of these mostly women have just been like, “We tried to be nice. We tried to have a private conversation. We tried to call him in. We tried to call him out. We got a little bit angry when he started sending his followers at us. And now we’re just the bitch. Why are we always the bitch?”

Courtney: There’s such a deep element of misogyny here that I am so happy that Hbomberguy was able to bring this to enough people’s attention now that they’re able to see the harm he’s done. But I know for a fact that until we started talking about our personal experiences, nobody was talking about the fact that he has done this great harm against the Ace community or spreading misinformation about Asexuality and attacking Ace creators specifically. Like, no one had been talking about that on a big level. Maybe now they’ll start to, as part of this broader pattern. But it did unfortunately take a nearly four-hour long video essay by a very enthusiastic man who did a ton of research to say, “Let me give you enough dirt on this guy that it is now undeniable that he sucks.” [laughs] So, [sighs] unfortunately, I do think there is a lot more I could say, but I won’t. I won’t for now. Lots of other people have said similar things. As always, we’ll link some of those direct reference in the show notes.

Royce: You mean, you don’t just want to read them word by word and then not credit them?

Courtney: Only if you change a couple of the words, because then it’s not plagiarism, you’re just rewriting it. What if every time someone says, you know, the word “queer,” what if I change it to “LGBT” instead? All right, enough snark. I am all snarked out for the year. No more snark!

Courtney: But, as always, thank you all so much for being here. Please follow and support any of the creators that we link in the show notes. Don’t send any hate or harassment to James Somerton.

Royce: Or literally anyone.

Courtney: Literally anyone.

Royce: That should just be a universally understood rule.

Courtney: Literally anyone.

Royce: Just don’t go around harassing people.

Courtney: Just don’t. Just don’t. But be warned that if you do go around harassing members of our community, you might be the subject of our next three-hour drama episode a year from now. [laughs] That is a threat.

Courtney: But until then, thank you all so much for listening. Do whatever the things it is that you do on whatever platform you’re consuming this on. On YouTube, that’s a like, a comment, and a subscribe, if I am not mistaken. On the podcast platforms, I don’t know what it is — rating, review, follow. You’re the expert of your own platforms. Do the things. And we will talk to you all next time. Goodbye.