Recently, a story of a transgender teen committing suicide has blown up on the Internet. Leehla Alcorn, born to the name Joshua left a suicide note on her Tumblr page that discussed her struggles for finding acceptance from her parents and friends. She said when she found herself and knew who she was, she immediately told her mother. She wrote, “she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate themselves. That’s exactly what it did to me.”
Alcorn ended the note by stating her desire for “100% of the things that I legally own to be sold and the money (plus my money in the bank) to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups… The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights.”
By writing this note she is bringing a much more expanded awareness for transgender people in the world. Because of how many people are on the internet, the note was read by thousands and impacted so many of them. When asked about what happened, people are speechless and almost terrified that someone could go through thoughts like hers and how much of an impact you can have on others. Similar to Tumblr, many other social media networks and outlets have been opening up about the issues of the LGBTQ community.
YouTube, one of these many social media outlets, is an expanding community of people of all kinds. People of different genders, races, sexual orientations and religions can come together and share their creativity and humor with the world. Many YouTube personalities are reaching out to bring awareness and acceptance towards people who are in the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning) community. Some very popular YouTubers have came out as a member of the LGBTQ community through their videos and others are helping people understand the concept of being part of this group.
Tyler Oakley is one of the most well known YouTube personalities with over six million subscribers. He is openly gay and has been for years. He found a voice through YouTube and is using it to raise money for organizations that support and help protect the LGBTQ community.
His influence on the wide community of YouTube has earned him a spot on The Advocate 2014 list of “40 under 40: Emerging Voices” and the Activist Icon of the Year award. Oakley has raised over $500,000 for the Trevor Project which is an organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for people in the LGBTQ community. He also helped support the #ProudToLove campaign with other YouTubers and talks to his subscribers about how identifying as part of the LGBTQ group is okay and not something to be ashamed of.
Oakley speaks about his own experiences as a homosexual male and how some of his family members did not approve of his sexual orientation, but over time this tension improved. His goal is to make people understand that despite living in a society that can at times oppose the LGBTQ community greatly, it is important to remember that there is also a strong support group for the community’s members. In 2008, Oakley told his subscribers that coming out is “realizing that you are more than your sexuality.”
Some of Oakley’s friends, ones he has made over YouTube have also come out as homosexual. Troye Sivan announced on August 7th 2013 after he had already built a strong audience of over one million subscribers that he was gay. Sivan told his subscribers that it is not something he is ashamed of and it is not something anyone should be ashamed of. He wants people to understand that being gay should not change anything in their life and as an example, he used his relationship with his subscribers and other YouTubers.
The nineteen-year-old explained that he knows not everyone will accept him for his sexual orientation, but he knew that a lot more people would be accepting of it. He now has over three million loving and supporting subscribers.
On January 2nd Sivan started to sell handcrafted weave bracelets on a website called Etsy and all the profits from the bracelets were donated to an Australian mental health support organization for LGBTQ people. The organization is called minus18 and works to help those who are suffering or looking for acceptance. Sivan is also going to donate a portion of the money to Beyondblue, another ally of the LGBTQ group, which helps to work with teens and adults dealing with depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide.
Connor Franta, a YouTuber with almost four million subscribers who recently came out, took similar approaches to informing people on being gay and made sure to explain how being gay has impacted him throughout his entire life. He discussed how it was something he always knew but never wanted to accept because it was scary.
He wants people to know that it’s okay to feel scared, and that fear should not stand in the way of acceptance of oneself. Franta discusses how he fell into slight depression during his college years when he realized that he would have to come out soon and felt ashamed because of it. He doesn’t want others to feel this way and encourages them to tell people that they love and that love them because it makes you much happier and it is worth the risk in the end.
Since the internet is a very vast platform, there are also many people who express their hatred for people in the LGBTQ community or use terms that are demeaning to them. One example of this is when Nash Grier, a very famous Vine star with over 10.6 million followers on vine, posted a video using a racial slur.
Many people were disgusted with his use of the word and later found many examples of homophobic and insulting tweets. With such a large following consisting of many young girls and boys, he is influencing impressionable minds to become homophobic and is hurting some of his followers that may be a part of the LGBTQ community. After seeing the Vine, Oakley took to Twitter to say that what Grier was “promoting” was dangerous because of how many people look up to him.
Oakley just helped encourage an even greater backlash against Grier and once the internet exploded, he had no choice but to apologize, which the Vine star did. Grier posted to his twitter:
“I apologize for anything negative I’ve said towards gays and for that matter anyone. I was young, ignorant, stupid, and in a bad place. I’ve moved on and learned from my mistakes and I am truly sorry to anyone I have offended. I have nothing against anyone or anything that promotes equality. Sorry again”
Many have chosen to forgive him while others have not because they view YouTube and other media on the internet to be a place of acceptance, equality and kindness — not disrespect.