Doug Amrstrong, Patrick Starrr, Elle Mills and Riyadh Khalaf discuss what the LGBTQ+ community is like online.
Doug Armstrong kicked off the panel by asking the panelists to talk about their coming out story. Elle Mills “killed two birds one stone” when speaking of her most viewed video, Coming Out (Elle Mills Style), and how that was how everyone she knew found out, whether when filming or through watching the video.
Patrick Starrr shared, “I never came out – I was just born gay,” whilst Riyadh Khalaf spoke of how he originally came out as bisexual to a group of friends, at a time when he still wasn’t fully sure. When it came to his father, he couldn’t verbally say it, instead opting to slide a piece of paper across to him with the words “I’m gay” written on it. He received the negative response of, “It’s ok, we’re going to fix this.”
Eventually, his father saw the hurt that resulted from his actions and now fully supports the LGBTQ+ community. Finally, Doug spoke of how he didn’t know he was gay until he was on YouTube and went on the journey with his audience.
The panel then went on to chat about what it was like to share their sexual identities online. Elle said she knew immediately she had to share it with her audience, while Patrick made a joke of how he “doesn’t stand on rooftops and shout ‘I’M GAY!’ because… Look at me. I’m wearing stripper shoes!” He likes to show that makeup is okay for a male to use and make it a natural conversation with celebrities, so when viewers watch they’ll see how it can be a normal thing, especially since he’s “a big gay man” who a celebrity is interacting with in a natural way. He then went on to share how he sees himself as a big brother to those who watch his videos.
Bouncing off that comment the panel was then asked if they had any YouTubers they looked up to when it came to their coming out story. Riyadh spoke of his love for Tyler Oakley. Elle thanked the friends she met at YouTube conventions around the world, saying how it was because of those events that she was able to speak to them face-to-face and discover new labels through the online community.
Doug asked if those on the panel think the community has changed its attitude toward coming out online. Riyadh was quick to respond, saying it’s an individual journey and that it’s “good to be a part of the LGBTQ family”. Even if the world is more open-minded, “it is doing a 180°”.This was in reference to how companies are exploiting the community for their marketing plans. However, he did state it’s easy to find out if a company is being genuine if you look further into them.
An audience member asked if coming out ever concerned the panel, in regards to their future career aspirations. Riyadh talked of how he was Ireland’s youngest drag queen, with the name Roxy Stone, and how coming out actually opened up doors for him, as other journalists often ask for his opinions on certain events. Patrick spoke of his self doubt, but how he often asked himself, “Am I fierce enough?” A friend at the shop he worked at actually helped him through it, and he again mentioned how events such as VidCon can be used to find those who can help.
The question “what would you tell your younger self?” was then thrown into the mix, to which the panel all agreed they needed to chill, stop putting it off and embrace it.
They then went on the share the advice they would give to the friends and family of those within the LGBTQ+ community. Patrick made the very strong point of, “Even if you know. Give them time. Don’t name it, but make sure they know you’re there for them.” It was then asked what advice the panel would offer to the parents in the audience. Riyadh used his dad as an example, saying, “The fact you’re here is an amazing start! Your child may not want to do it in a slow and gentle manner. This isn’t them being mean. They’ve been thinking about this for a long time. They probably have told other people before you – don’t be offended by it. It just means they value your opinion the most. Go to Pride and just stand up for them as if it was yourself. They will thank you later.”
It was then asked if the panel thought they would ever have to re-come out online, to which Elle stated her coming out story is her most viewed video. Riyadh then went on to say you don’t have to tell everyone in the world. It’s an aspect of you and you’ll have the thrill of telling those you choose to tell that – “I’m gay and that’s the way I am.”
Patrick then went on to answer how he feels when people ask how he identifies, to which he said he’s never offended, but feels as though it could be made a lot easier if parents explain to their children that sometimes men like to play dress up and wear makeup, but they don’t always look like that.
A big question was then asked by an audience member: how do you come out as a sexuality that’s lesser known, especially to your parents who see it as non-existent? Patrick responded, “Write the damn label! Talk to them as adults and don’t argue. Sit and explain it to them.”
Finally, Doug asked the panel what they had learned from coming out. Elle said she learnt that things are scarier in her head, but understands that’s different for others. Riyadh learned that only a tiny portion of people actually don’t support the community – it’s just that they’re loud. Most are actually allies. Patrick said that he has a responsibility to put his best face forward, so when others come along brands will work with them. Doug then made the final comment that he’d learnt that he “loves men”.
Photos by Emma Pamplin.