TenEighty hosted the LGBT on YouTube panel at National Student Pride this weekend, at University of Westminster.
The group spoke to an intimate crowd of audience members about their personal experiences of being an LGBT YouTuber, the positive and negative effects their projects have had on people who watch their videos, and how they have dealt with their role within the public eye.
Calum started by showing a clip of Mawaan’s BBC Three documentary How Gay is Pakistan?, before they discussed the outcomes of the show.
“I actually only came out to my parents when the show was commissioned,” Mawaan admitted. “I figured they should probably hear it from me before it went on TV. It was an emotional time in terms of identity, and what it means to be Pakistani, but also gay, which are typically two separate things.”
He also spoke about his work on the show, which included a course where he underwent training should he be kidnapped during production. “We would be in a workshop and then, without warning, someone would come in and throw a bag over my head, and we’d just have to deal with it!” said Mawaan. “I think they were just trying to scare me so I would be prepared for the worst!
“The fact is, there are members of the LGBT community all over the world, but different countries treat it differently. Even if you leave London, people’s views can be so narrow. Every country has its oppressions, and we’re not beyond that [in England] yet.
“I think visibility speaks volumes… the most dangerous thing you can do is act like something doesn’t exist.”
Riyadh became an advocate for same-sex marriage in Ireland when he used his channel to tell his story, only for it to be picked up by mainstream media as a result. “In many ways Ireland is ten to 20 years behind,” he said. “It was tough to get a lot of people on side, but mainstream media picked it up, and people began to see it as a human rather than a legal issue.”
Riyadh also puts the success of his Mom Reads Son’s Grindr Messages video down to the close relationship displayed onscreen between he and his mother, who was also present in the panel’s audience.
However, in the case of his professional career as a radio presenter, he found some people weren’t so accepting. “I had a boss come up to me drunk at a party and asked me off-the-record to act less gay on air,” said Riyadh. “I think the phrase they used was to be ‘more like Scott Mills and less like Alan Carr’.”
For Shoshana and Meredith, one of their most popular videos is a montage of their wedding day. “I’ve watched it loads,” said Calum. “It’s the kind of video you could show to someone that can speak to people and have it be about love and nothing else.”
Meredith agreed, saying: “Emotion is at the core and that’s what people see, not our gender or our sexuality.”
When discussing LGBT representation within minority groups, Meredith said: “I know there’s a black lady out there who might be unsure of herself and I hope that one day I can reach her and connect with her.”
The couple have since become activists online and off, using their platform to discuss mental health issues as well as issues affecting the LGBT community.
Jamie has been posting his FTM transition on YouTube across the past four years. “I believe there’s a lot of scope for people to develop their views with trans acceptance,” he said.
All members of the panel had different ways of handling haters online.
Mawaan, who lost subscribers after coming out, said: “I am glad I caught them off-guard because there will be people in their lives – friends, family, or even themselves – going through these issues.”
Admitting that they delete and block those who leave hateful comments on their videos, Meredith and Shoshana revealed that they hope to create a positive community on their channel. “Whatever they say about us says more about them than it does about us,” said Meredith.
“I use them for content!” Riyadh interjected. “So even through hate, I still get more views. If you comment on my videos, you’re giving me traffic. That’s great!”
We have more pictures from this panel, check those out here. Why not find out what happened on the Coming Out on YouTube and LBGTQ+ Panels at Summer in the City 2015. Alternatively, check out our interview with trans YouTuber Alex Bertie.