YouTube’s “Head Gay” Tyler Oakley was the first person Connor Franta came out to – and here’s some of the advice he might have given to Connor.
In the Playlist Live Tri-State in Secaucus, New Jersey, Tyler spoke out about being gay on YouTube, and the process of coming out. Troye Sivan also discussed his coming out at the same event.
What was the process like before you officially came out?
Tyler: I came out when I was like 13 and the internet didn’t exist yet. So when I started YouTube when I was 18, I was very comfortable with it. I have never made a coming out video, so there’s still some confusion. I”m ready to clear the air. I am, in fact, gay.
Once you came to terms with your sexuality – what was the coming out process like to your friends and family?
Tyler: So, I came out to my mom, Queen Jackie. We were at Flag Star bank – I don’t know if you’re familiar. It’s a Michigan thing. She turned around and was like, “Are you gay?” I was like, “Yes.” And then she said, “Oh, I thought so, cool.” That was it. Then my dad was a longer process and it was a lot rougher because he was conservative and religious. A decade of figuring it out, we are currently in a really good place. Sometimes it just takes patience from the kids, knowing that eventually, your parents will figure it out and be okay with it. Their process is their process, and it has nothing to do with who you are. They’re figuring it out on their own.
There’s always one thing I always say at the LGBT things. There is a part of “waiting for when its right”. That is just as brave as coming out itself. Take care of yourself and make sure it’s safe before you actually do it. It’s a good thing.
How is coming out on YouTube different than coming out in person?
Tyler: I will say coming out is an interesting process for people who don’t have to go through it. You don’t have to understand. It’s a thing you have to continually be doing over and over. If you meet new people you have to have a coming out with them. I don’t, because I have blue hair. But some people do. It gets easier over time. It become a non-thing. At the very beginning it may seem like a heaviest word of all time.
What influenced you to come out on YouTube?
Tyler: I never had a coming out video on YouTube. For me, making videos on YouTube isn’t just about making videos about gay stuff. Although you can or should if you want to. (He glanced at Daveywavey, apologetic) But there’s a lot you can see when you look at a gay person living their authentic life. Seeing them achieve their dreams is just as powerful as hearing their coming out story, I think. You see that there is life after coming out – success after coming out. A full experience ahead of you that doesn’t just end when you come out. Your life is so much bigger than that.
I think on YouTube, you guys don’t really care (The audience screams). Whereas, in traditional media, gay people think they need to jump through hoops, or appease Middle America. We’re fortunate enough that when people want to tune in, they can.
Do you ever get nervous that when you come out, that people will just see you as “gay”?
Tyler: When I was first moving to California from Michigan I wanted to take a road trip and my family wouldn’t let me – because I would have to drive through the middle. They told me I would have to take the long route through Canada, as they thought it would be too dangerous because I’m gay. The fact that this is still the case is scary. If you’re growing up in that area, it can be tough. But it’s going to be different in 10 years. Ignorance is dying out.
What do you think YouTube’s next step in terms of engagement with LGBT is?
Tyler: I would say yes, more diversity. The fact that we’re all white [on this stage] is not a good thing out here. And the fact that there are no trans people up here. We should be raising other creators up, giving them the microphone. If you have your own voice, join YouTube and tell your own story. You never know who’s watching. The ripple effect. You might be the one they connect with.