YouTube: The virtual safe space

Written By: Sarah Jones

America: the land of the free, home of the brave, and newly admitted member to the ranks of marriage inclusivity. It hasn’t always been this way, and it hasn’t always been easy. Sure, things have shifted in our society over the past decade. Equality is slowly becoming an expected civil right, not a hoped-for idea. While acceptance for the LGBTQ community is on the rise across the nation, we still have work to do. One Supreme Court ruling does not eradicate decades of intolerance and injustice — it just paves the way for life to get better.

In some small farming town, there’s a kid searching the Internet for some sign that he or she is not alone. That kid could be a neighbor, a sister, a brother. Everyone has felt excluded for one reason or another. And while it’s easy to get lost in some sense of universal inclusivity, we cannot forget the struggles that continue in rural communities across our nation and the globe.

Does YouTube really help spread a sense of community?

This is precisely where YouTubers come in. The video platform offers the chance for people in underrepresented cities and countries to see they are not alone. In broadcasting videos, these pioneers of the digital space give members of our community a sign, a beacon, of hope. It shows that there are other people out there who feel the same way.

YouTube represents a virtual safe-space; it is a place where people of similar persuasions can reach out, tell their story, and find common ground. What was once a simple video-hosting platform now transcends the ideas of music and light comedy–though those are certainly evident–and presents a way for people in otherwise closeted situations to see that they are not alone.

Who are these pioneers of the virtual gay/straight alliance?

Enter Hannah Hart, Matthew Lush, Ally Hills, and Tyler Oakley, just to name a few of the prominent LGBTQ YouTubers. They’re all openly gay, and they all make videos. Is their content specifically targeted toward a gay audience? No. Does it generally touch on gay/queer themes? Yes. But what these people make is more than just comedic web content; they make their stories and their lives known to the world. They accept the scrutiny of the Internet eye and run with it. Though exposed to the judgment and negativity that go hand in hand with Internet celebrity, they all recognize the impact they are making on today’s LGBTQ youth.

The stories of strangers bring a sense of solidarity to an otherwise secluded sense of self.

Admitting that you might be gay, bi, trans, queer, or any other variation of sexual orientation is an often terrifying process. There is no small amount of social stigma to overcome, and many individuals lack a supportive community in their town. Having a resource where you can confidentially see how others handled a similar situation, hear the struggles and tribulations they underwent, is invaluable. It creates a sense of solidarity and community because you know you’re not alone. YouTube is more than just a video-hosting platform. It’s more than hilarious cat videos. It’s a place to share experiences. It’s a place where everyone, no matter how excluded they feel, can find someone to relate to.