VidCon Creator Keynote
When I first created my YouTube channel, I was 11 years old. I used to make music videos with my friend to Avril Lavigne songs, and AMV’s to Tokyo Mew Mew. Props to those of you who know what any of that means. And yes, those embarrassing videos are still public on my YouTube channel. I encourage you to go watch those after this if you want a good laugh.
But the entire dynamic of my YouTube channel changed in 2015 when I came out as transgender.
I’m not here to give an entire gender crash course. Believe me that would take waaaay longer than 5 minutes. However, I am going to throw a couple terms out there for clarification. I’m under the nonbinary umbrella which means that my gender identity is neither 100% male nor 100% female. Specifically, I am agender which means that I do not have a gender. The same way asymmetrical means without symmetry.
I came out to myself as agender when I was 16, and as any young, scared, and newly out queer teenager often does nowadays, I turned to the internet for resources. I went to YouTube and searched for agender YouTubers to try and find other people like me, and the sad reality is that… I found nothing.
To this day, there are two people I remember watching that explicitly used the word “agender.” One person went back and forth between identifying as agender and as a trans man before concluding he’s a trans man. I thought, well that’s not how I feel, so I kept looking. The other person said that they did feel like they had a gender, they just didn’t know what it was yet and resorted to using the term “agender” as a placeholder. I thought, well that’s not how I feel either. I went looking for representation and found none. All I wanted was some sort of sign that I wasn’t alone.
After looking for a YouTuber I could relate to and not being able to find one, I decided I was going to have to step up and be the representation that I needed. If I was a young and scared agender kid with no one to look up to, I just figured there had to be other young people like me who were also desperately looking for some sort of role model. I decided, if there were no out agender YouTubers, I was going to be the first.
I uploaded my video titled, “What is Agender?” on March 15th, 2015. Almost immediately, that video skyrocketed to 600,000 views. Sure, some of them were from internet trolls who wanted to tell me I was confused, but who even cares about those people when their comments were completely overpowered by the tens of thousands of folks reaching out to me telling me that they felt the same way I did and never knew there was a word for it.
The community feeling that I was missing going into that video was then in turn given to me by my viewers after uploading it.
Suddenly, people were looking up to me as a voice for an underrepresented community. People were asking me advice about identity and how to come out, but I hadn’t exactly… done that yet. So, after having a wave of support and finding that community of folks experiencing life similarly to me, I gained the courage to come out to my mom. I uploaded my Coming Out As Transgender Agender video April 5th, 2015. That video currently has 2 million views and has been featured in the Google Year in Search 2015 as one of the main segments.
The very first time I read a comment from another agender person was the first time I felt a real, genuine connection and sense of solidarity. A real reminder that no, I’m not broken. And I’m never alone.
I’m not going to stand here and pretend that being a form of representation is always easy. It is quite the rollercoaster ride. But it is also so incredibly necessary.
Every single one of us has a story that is valuable. And trust me when I say there is a community out there who needs someone just like you to show them it’s okay to be yourself -- even in a world that chastises and ostracizes us.
I receive comments every single day by folks who tell me that my videos are what kept them alive when they were struggling through their own journeys of self-acceptance. That, by seeing me live my truth unapologetically, felt like… if I could do it, maybe they could too.
By being proud of who I am and sharing my narrative with the world, I’ve empowered other young people to do the same. I am proud to share that since I’ve come out as agender, many of my creator friends have also felt courageous enough to come out under the nonbinary umbrella and share their stories.
Being visible in a world that tells us we should not exist is a revolutionary act in of itself. Being vocal about our intersecting identities and interests in a world that tries its hardest to force us into some sort of mold is an act of defiance.
Representation is not the end goal. Representation is the first spark.
Being able to see other people we can relate to living happy, healthy, and successful adult lives gives us the strength to break free from an oppressive society. Representation starts a chain reaction of liberation. By being open about who you are, you are unknowingly allowing other people to be open about themselves. You are giving people permission to live their truth without fear of persecution. Keep sharing your stories. Keep showcasing your interests. Because in doing so, you are saving lives. Thank You.