“I want you guys to know that I am gay. It feels kinda weird to have to announce it like this on the internet but I feel like a lot of you guy are like real genuine friends of mine and I share everything on the internet” – Troye Sivan (2013)
Troye was 18 years old when he uploaded his coming out video on YouTube, revealing to his audience his biggest secret. Four years later, his latest album Blue Neighbourhood opened queer issues, allowing him to express his thoughts on his sexuality and identity through his music. This video changed how he was seen in the YouTube community and amassed a massive following.
During his ARIA win in 2016, he dedicated his award to the future artists in the LGBT+ community, saying: “This is just a little thing for every gay Australian kid who wants to make music, every LGBTQ kid who wants to make music, you can totally do it and win an ARIA too”.
YouTube has since become a platform for people to express themselves. Not only they’re making funny and entertaining content on the site but also using their ‘status’ to inspire and spread positivity amongst their followers.
According to Variety, ‘YouTube creators get even more influential than last year among U.S. teens’. Famous YouTubers such as Ingrid Nilsen (3 million subscribers), Shane Dawson (9 million subscribers) and Joey Graceffa (7 million subscribers) came out to the public about their sexuality in 2015 and fans think that online creators sharing their stories about their identity has not only created an impact towards them but also to how people view and talk about queer issues.
According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, in 2014, 11 out of 100 Australians were of diverse sexual orientation, sex or gender identity. In Australia, young adults aged between 16 to 24 years of age are more likely to hide their sexuality or gender identity. This could be because of either the families beliefs or the fear of getting harassed by their families and peers. The National LGBTI Health Alliance showed statistics, stating that young queer people have a higher chance of self-harm, committing or attempted suicide and/or to be diagnosed with a mental health condition.
Ali Hemann, a staff member and the vice president of Western Sydney University's Queer Collective said that “Even people who are in accepting families, they are still not educated well enough to truly understand what people are going through”.
As a result, these people look up these online creators for means of advice and comfort, even if it’s just behind the screen. People are now being educated on Queer issues and are creating a space where positivity is spread towards their queer audiences.
And in recent news, both the fans and creators were upset to discover that the ‘restricted mode’ feature, when active, it filters out videos in regards in LGBT+ topics. YouTuber Calum McSwiggan mentions in a video that ‘Exposing kids to LGBT+ people is not confusing as it helps explain to them why they feel and/or act differently from heterosexuals’ and that ‘the current mind-set of people about LGBT+ people needs to change’. Social media has given an opportunity for teens and young adults to finally be able to express themselves and learn that there is someone out there who understands.
Shelby Stewart, a student from Western Sydney University says “There are some YouTubers have told their coming out story. There people saying that my family didn’t accept me for who I am but I have you guys and if you [are] going through that, there will be someone out there who will help. Not a lot of people think there’s help out there”
Queer online influences are needed in the platform. It’s through their voice and their stories that helps educate others on how it’s like to be like them and how there is a world out there that is accepting for who they identify themselves as. But despite of that, Western Sydney University staff member and vice president of the Queer Collective, Ali Hemann advises to seek services outside of social media when it comes to seeking help.
“People are telling other people what their stories are. For a lot of other people, they’re not going to work with what other people are going through” Ali Hemann said. “People who are going strong and saying all these things in the public eye aren’t normally the people who would need the help”.