February 19, 2015
A month ago, Aaron and Austin Rhodes released one of the top trending videos of the year so far: “Twins Come Out to Dad,” a video in which the two brothers come out to their dad on the phone. It's since become the most viewed coming out video on YouTube with over 4 million views in the first 24 hours, and 17 million views in total, spurring Ellen Degeneres to invite the Rhodes family onto her show shortly after.
While "Twins Come Out to Dad" isn’t the first coming out video to gain widespread attention, it is an important milestone in the growing role of YouTube as a platform for advocacy and connection for the LGBT community.
Coming out videos are a large and important part of YouTube culture: there are more than 36,000 videos related to the subject on the platform today, the sum of which have received more than 300m views. Last year alone, we saw ~9,600 coming out stories shared on YouTube - a 20% increase from the year before.
Creators like Davey Wavey (221m channel views), Gigi Gorgeous (142m+ channel views) and Princess Joules (23m+ channel views) have made videos using their coming out stories to provide advice for others as well as educate those unfamiliar with their experiences and perspectives. Transgender creator Skylar Keleven (6m channel views) used his channel to help teach parents how best to support their transgender children during their journey.
Major YouTube creators such as Hannah Hart, Tyler Oakley, Jelly and Day, Lucas Cruikshank, Olivia Has 2 Mums, Hart Beat, Troye Sivan, UpperCaseChase1, and ASAP Science have shared their own coming out stories on their channels in the hopes of creating honest, open relationships with their fans and to help further a message of unconditional love, acceptance and support. Olympic diver Tom Daley chose to come out on YouTube over any other news medium because the platform gave him complete control of his story (so far, the video has received 11.4m+ views).
These candid, often emotional expressions of coming out place LGBT issues in the public eye while creating a personal connection between creators, their audience, and the wider LGBT community. For those sharing their stories, YouTube offers a space where they can be themselves and connect with others, to both seek and provide support, regardless of where they are. As Connor Franta puts it in his own coming out video, “The reason I accepted this information [being gay] was because of the internet. I’ve watched every coming out video four times. [...] I’m making this video for anyone who needs it, it’s okay. You are who you are and you should love that person.”
--Carly Lanning & Christine Huang
Special thanks to Raymond Braun for his contribution to this post.