I know that this post is a bit overdue, but this topic has been on my mind for a while now, and considering that exactly one week ago the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States was just so…monumental (not to forget wonderful), I felt that it is the appropriate time to share some thoughts with you on something relevant to it.
What I want to talk about is, what appears to me, a recent influx of big-named Youtubers who have come out to their audience, whether as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, etc.
…and I think that’s great. 🙂
For the past year or so, I was aware of a few Youtubers who were sharing their coming out stories; I saw their videos online, even watching a few. But it wasn’t until last December when Connor Franta’s video, “Coming Out,” was uploaded to the Internet that I started feeling something more…deep. Maybe it’s because I’m subscribed to him, and had been watching his videos for a while that I got to know him more (well, as a Youtube personality, that is).
While his announcement initially surprised me, I found the whole message of the video extremely moving. He struck me with these words:
“We are all people, and that’s it…We are all equal. I don’t want anyone to have to be afraid. I don’t want anyone to hold back who they are. It’s not okay. It’s…not a good thing.” (5:18- 5:39).
Fast-forward to January, with the viral video “Twins Come Out To Dad” making headlines, I knew that something was coming. And that something was the growing number of coming out videos on Youtube. All I could do was brace myself for the sheer happiness and proud feeling of seeing these individuals stand up and be themselves, without having to hide it from their parents and peers.
In May, another big-time Youtuber, American vlogger Joey Graceffa, came out as gay to his almost 5 million subscribers, after having uploaded a music video a few days before that showed him kissing another man. Although Graceffa had originally intended to come out publicly through his soon-to-be released autobiography In Real Life, he made a video about it instead. Although I don’t subscribe to his channel, I am aware of his large presence on Youtube, and he seems like a cheerful, nice guy. I was aware that his sexuality had been questioned for many years before he came out, and I guess it was a relief for him to share with his viewers.
Finally, just in June, beauty and lifestyle vlogger Ingrid Nilsen uploaded a video of her coming out to her audience. The almost 20-minute video features her struggling to explain to us, as well as to herself, the process of coming to terms with her sexuality and finding the courage to come out to others. If Connor Franta’s video in December was a tear-jerker, then Ingrid Nilsen’s was a cascade of emotions. It was amazing for me to see her not only opening herself up to us, but also to see her open up to herself as the way she is: a beautiful, open human being. Really, it was wonderful. 🙂
There were many moments in the video that have resonated with me, but one part of her video that particularly stuck with me was around the halfway mark, when she tells her audience of her encounters with women while dating men. The emphasis she placed on suppressing those emotions and memories were just so strong, and it was heart-wrenching for me to imagine how she must have felt going through those times:
When I have kissed girls (with no feelings attached), it felt…oh my God. Like, this is what I’m supposed to be doing? I remember thinking in my mind, “This feels pretty good. And I don’t even have feelings for this person. Imagine if I had FEELINGS. Shit.” Suppress, suppress, suppress, suppress, suppress. Shove it down, shove it down, shove it DOWN. (10:56-11:28)
So, you may be wondering, why am I choosing to write about all of this? Two reasons:
As you might know, I identify as queer, with my sexuality drawn more towards women than men, and have been greatly influenced by LBGTQA issues in the media and in real life. I have known about my sexuality since I was 17, and recently came out to my parents in March. To see celebrities who have so much influential presence in society open themselves up as means of accepting themselves was something that struck me as both a personal and public triumph, as something that I myself could relate to and feel a sense of solidarity with. It all comes down to accessibility and relatability for me, and for that, I am grateful. 🙂
Second reason is that, as I have mentioned, it appears to be a trend these days for Youtubers to come out. “Trend” doesn’t seem to be the best term to describe exactly what this phenomenon is (seems to be trivializing the subject, if you ask me). But in these past six months alone, there has been an increase in the number of coming out videos not only from popular Youtubers, but also new and upcoming ones. One of the most-searched phrase on Youtube is “coming out,” which I think is incredible. I think the reason that this term is popular right now is not because people are curious: perhaps they are also coming to terms with their sexuality, or maybe they want to understand and relate to how others (e.g. family, friends, community) might feel on the subject. Their intentions are in no means malicious (at least, that’s what I assume), but rather just interested in learning more about LGBTQA identity, especially in a world that is beginning to become more accepting of it.
And I’m sure that there are critics that say these coming out videos, while laudable, are also “marketing strategies” to draw more viewers and/or subscribers to their channel. While it’s possible, I don’t think that was what Connor Franta, Joey Graceffa, or Ingrid Nilsen had in mind when posting their videos. They are already big-time Youtubers, with millions of subscribers and views for each video they upload- why should they worry about gaining more? Instead, I think they did so, because they felt a sense of obligation- to themselves and to their loyal subscribers- to be open and honest. I would hate to think, though, that they did so out of fear and pressure from others, especially those who have speculated about their sexuality for a long time. I want to believe that the “marketing” component of these videos is secondary to the fact that these Youtubers just want to express themselves, under their own terms in regards to pace and time. As I have done that on my own WordPress blog, I really believe that that was the case for these vloggers.
That’s about it with my opinions for today. Let me know what you think about this “coming out trend” on Youtube (or social media, in general). I would like to hear what you think. Until then, take care. 🙂
– The Finicky Cynic
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