On Coming Out Online
“The short one is setting off my gaydar.”
“No way that guy is heterosexual.”
“Skinny one is 100% gay.”
On October 9th, 2014, I uploaded a music video I made with a friend to my YouTube channel. It was a Mormon-based parody of “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift titled “Word of God.” As of writing this, the video has amassed 22K+ views. It is not very good at all, but Kyle & I had a good time on the day we made it.
The three above comments are from reddit users who are lucky enough to have seen this video. (Really, anyone who has seen any of my videos is lucky.) I can honestly say that I do not think their comments were meant to hurt me in any way. If they wanted to make me feel bad, I imagine they would have left the comments directly on the video rather than the reddit post, & they probably would have been quite harsh. The video was posted to a certain anti-/ex-Mormon subreddit, & the rest of the comments not regarding my sexuality tend to focus on the video’s terrible production value & a general sorrow that my friend & I are church members. This post is not meant to be about the church or reddit, but I wanted to include this information to provide just a bit of context for those comments. The main goal of this post is to provide an inside look at my experience with being queer on the internet. I will try my best not to make it too heavy.
In June of 2015, I came out to the world as bisexual in a YouTube video. It was not what I set out to do when I made the video, but it happened. I was trying to explain why I could not serve a mission, & I knew that in doing so, I would be receiving a lot of questions from my friends & family. My decision really did not have much to do with my sexual orientation (as I stated in the video), but I knew that people were going to ask me about it anyway. Those comments at the top of this post? I have been hearing comments like them since puberty. They affected me when I was young & insecure, but they had stopped having an effect on me well before I posted either of the videos mentioned so far. I cannot remember the exact time that I became secure enough to no longer be bothered, but I am glad it happened.
I do remember the first time I was asked “are you gay?” by someone in person. I was at a friend’s birthday party. I think I must have been completely terrified of testosterone when I was younger, as I tended to avoid talking to anyone who drank energy drinks with every meal. This meant my friend group was mostly girls. This also meant I was sitting at a table with all girls at the party. So young, but still wise enough to seek out safe spaces in public. When the girl (whom I had met for the first time just twenty minutes prior) asked, my stomach imploded. The truth was that at the time I did not know the answer, & I was not trying to let anyone know that. All I knew was that I was different (which is a terrible thing to be at a kid’s birthday party.) I told her no. I do not know if she believed me. If you are reading this & you remember this interaction we had, please let me know.
A lot has changed since then. I know I am bisexual. This means I can still answer “no” when asked “you gay?” This is the secret loophole bisexuals do not want you to know about. There is a chance they will revoke my membership after disclosing this, so I hope you can appreciate what I have just done for you.
It took a lot of time to come to terms with my sexuality. There was a lot of self-doubt. Am I really bisexual? Or am I just gay & too afraid to fully come out? Does this mean I have to start cuffing my jeans? All difficult questions to answer, but once I finally answered them (Yes. No. Only in Autumn.), I was happier than I had ever been. It was not a cure-all for my problems, but it was definitely a step in the right direction.
Fast-forward to June 2015. I have just told the internet “No, I am not 100% straight, & no, I am not 100% gay.” I did not use the term “bisexual” in the video, because I personally no longer needed to find a label for myself in order to feel secure. I only use labels if I think it will better help a person understand my sexuality if it is something they are wondering about. This has led to the unexpected result of people thinking I am solely gay, which is not a huge issue for me, but it does present a problem every now & then. After posting the video, a lot of people reached out to me & wanted to talk with me about my sexuality. The overwhelming majority of comments, tweets, DMs, & emails I received were positive & filled with words of encouragement & support. I still received questions like “you gay or what?” even after attempting to further explain it, but again, this was not a huge issue for me.
The only real struggle I had was reading the messages that seemed to imply people thought I only said I was bisexual as a stopgap to coming out as gay. I struggled with this because it was something I had already questioned about myself. I thought I knew for certain that it was not true, but some people told me it was what they had done when they were younger, & I began to question myself again. Everything I had done to become secure in myself was suddenly being undone by strangers who I believe had good intentions. I imagine it is a lot like what artists must feel when they present their art to the world: they work hard on it until they are satisfied & ready to show it off, only to have it criticized by other people who have no idea about the amount of work that went into crafting it. It is hard to put yourself out there. (Do you like how I managed to just indirectly call myself a piece of art?)
It took time to rebuild what had been broken. I finally realized I had to stop doubting myself just because of the comments of strangers (who, again, I believe had good intentions.) I do not have all the answers to questions about self-acceptance. I still get scared when people ask me for advice for coming out to their parents or their friends, especially because I took the quick & dirty way out of the closet by mentioning it in two sentences in the middle of a fourteen-minute video. All I can say is that it is important to believe in what you know about yourself. You can listen to strangers on the internet, but at the end of the day, you get to choose how you feel about yourself.
I came up with (read: tweeted at 4 a.m.) the mantra “Don’t read reviews for things you love. Don’t leave reviews for things you hate.” This was in the middle of my attempt to become a more positive person, especially in regard to things I might not enjoy, but that I know a lot of other people do. If you are happy with something, you do not need to soil your feelings for it by reading the negative opinions of others. Similarly, you do not need to soil the feelings of others by saying negative comments about something you do not particularly enjoy. It is still something I am working on.
I guess the point of all this is to choose your words carefully & to believe in your own personal truths. Also, if you are up to it, be willing to address what strangers might have to say about you.
“The short one is setting off my gaydar.” I am 5’7”, & that means that I can save money on clothes by shopping in the kids’ section.
“No way that guy is heterosexual.” Well, you are not wrong. Send me your lotto picks.
“Skinny one is 100% gay.” Thank you so much for calling me skinnie xoxo! Stream Love + Fear on Spotify!
This article was updated on September 10, 2019