Robin Wells on the seemingly large influence of LGBT individuals on YouTube and why the platform might lend itself to us gays.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a good YouTube account is highly likely to be of the homosexual variety.
From those who are more vocal about their sexuality such as vlogger Tyler Oakley, formerly of the FiveAwesomeGays channel, to those YouTubers who just so happen to be gay, like political vlogger Jazza and singer Gary C, gays are everywhere online. However, for every gay person making videos on YouTube, there are ten more watching them, as can be witnessed when one goes to a YouTube Gathering (like the massive Summer In The City events every August) and takes a look at the fans who turn up.
As someone who has been going to these gatherings for almost 5 years now, and has gotten to know many in the YouTube community, it has always intriguing me how many of those who make videos and/or attend gatherings are LGBT men and women.
In terms of those who attend, the reason behind this is not too hard to fathom. As a significant portion of the fanbase is in the 13-18 age group, many of the LGBT fans are only just feeling at ease with their sexuality. Watching LGBT people online who make content relevant to their own coming to terms, provides suitable and fun role models and reassurance. Through the gatherings they can find a community of like-minded people for support, which they may not have at home or at school.
As for those who make the content, the reasoning behind them being open about their sexuality is somewhat more complex. There are those, like the aforementioned Five Awesome Gays, who actively make their sexuality a part of their videos in order to increase visibility of the LGBT community. These may on occasion come under fire for seemingly perpetuating stereotypes, but one of the joys of websites such as YouTube is that people can be who they are, and, though they may not escape judgment by those who seem to have nothing better to do than leave hateful comments, they can find a sense of community.
The other type of gay content-makers are those for whom their sexuality is not the basis of their content – comedians, artists, political commentators. Just like with professional actors, singers, footballers etc., these YouTubers who have built a substantial fanbase – i.e. more than the 313 (admittedly lovely) subscribers that I have – are faced with the dilemma of whether to come out on YouTube. This for some is no different than coming out in the office, as they earn the majority of their revenue on YouTube. If they come out, they potentially risk losing some of their fanbase, but if they don’t, they aren’t being true to themselves.
Then there are some who are simply struggling with their sexuality in private, whilst making videos in the meantime. Recently, vlogger Matthew Schueller, whose subscriber count was respectable, bit the bullet and came out to his subscribers and to a lot of his friends and family in a video where he details his struggle with his sexuality and his hopes for being accepted by them.
In the following days alone he was inundated with literally hundreds of messages of support from subscribers, friends and family, and his subscriber count is currently over 34,000.
So maybe it’s better to brave it and face potential rejection than to keep quiet and be denied potential acceptance. After all, over 1 billion people visit YouTube a month – chances are SOMEONE’s gonna accept you, right?