Op-ed: Straight Teen Girls Can Change the World
Thursday, June 21, 2007, wasn’t just the first day of summer. It was also the first day that I uploaded a video to YouTube. It never occurred to me that anyone else would be interested in watching.
Turns out, I was wrong.
Six years, 700 videos, and more than 160 million views later, creating gay-themed YouTube content under the persona of “Davey Wavey” is my full-time job. Actually, it’s more than a full-time job; for my assistant and myself, it’s become our lives.
But things have changed a lot over the years — and, most noticeably, very recently. Case in point, during a world tour last September, we visited eight fan-selected cities around the world. In meeting with the people who follow me online, we noticed something peculiar.
Most of them were girls. Straight girls.
The audience shift from male to female and from gay to straight isn’t unique among LGBT YouTubers to my channel — and it’s one backed up in the demographic data provided by YouTube. On the back end of YouTube, we’re given access to massive amounts of data about the people who consume our content. YouTube is, after all, owned by Google. Included in that data is a pie chart labeled “gender.” With each passing month, the “female” slice keeps getting a bit bigger. As of today, my single biggest demographic is now young girls, ages 14 -17.
Maybe these girls want a gay best friend. Maybe they like learning about a different culture. Maybe they like my often-exposed nipples. Regardless, the straight female demographic is on the rise in the world of gay YouTube. And I, for one, am tickled pink.
Let’s face it. As LGBT people, we’re outnumbered. We know that we need the support of our straight friends and family to make all the good stuff happen for us. And with more than a million social media followers, YouTube has allowed me to build a pretty big virtual family.
My videos aren’t outwardly political. And these girls are still too young to vote. But in a few years’ time, they’ll have political muscle to flex. And when they walk into a polling booth to vote on whatever issues — and possibly make decisions pertaining to LGBT equality — I can’t help but think it will feel a bit more personal.
Even if these girls don’t know an LGBT individual personally, they’ll know one virtually. One with whom they’ve tweeted and instagrammed and commented and to whom they’ve been subscribed. For them, being gay isn’t some abstract idea or something that they learned was wrong in Sunday school. For these women, a name, face, life and story come to mind.
For as much as we hear about the destructive nature of social media — and how it can be used for bullying and to tear people down — there’s another narrative to be told: When it comes to the acceptance of LGBT people, I feel like social media — and the expanding presence of real and authentic LGBT voices online — is creating change in the hearts and minds of a whole new generation.
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