Today is National Coming Out Day, a day created by Rob Eichberg and Jean O’Leary in 1988.
It’s a day of LGBT celebrations and encouragement, with many LGBT people still reminaing in the closet getting the support that they need to come out of the closet. Today, I wanted to focus on the story of Connor Franta, a Youtuber who made headlines when he came out in 2014.
Coming out is a huge step in any LGBT person’s life, and it’s not a step that every person can take. Naturally, coming out to your family and friends can be scary, but Connor came out on his channel which had 3.6 million subscribers at the time. Yikes.
This is a huge risk that Connor took, and must have seemed infinitely more frightening than your usual coming out story. Thankfully, though, Connor’s video was welcomed by a very warm reception.
To mark National Coming Out Day 2016, Connor sat down with The Independent to discuss his coming out and what has happened since.
When discussing what it was like to come out on Youtube, Connor said: “It was quite scary if I’m being honest. My audience already knew so much about me, but this was a deeper dive into who I am. Being openly gay was still a very new thing for me at the time, so to finally let the world in on this part of my life, fear aside, was a total relief.”
“I really wasn’t too concerned with receiving any form of backlash or hatred. What made me hesitant was with how new being openly gay was for me. At the time, I wasn’t even out to all my friends and family yet. But, at the end of the day, it felt like the right thing to do for myself and that’s who I had to put first.”
As I already mentioned, the response from his subscribers and other viewers on Youtube was pretty positive, but when a video is viewed by millions of people, there are definitely valid concerns about homophobic backlash.
“I didn’t come out until I was 21-years-old because I grew up in a place where it appeared to be less common. I didn’t really know any people in the LGBTQ+ community growing up, so it made me feel…abnormal.”
“It made me repress my thoughts and feelings and hide who I truly was for such a long time. It wasn’t until I moved to California that I became friends with a lot of people in the community. That helped me beyond words and truly fast-forwarded my own process of acceptance to see others living openly and honestly.”
He also spoke more generally about the LGBT community, and the stigmas we still face today. While huge steps have been made for equality, there is still homophobia, discrimination and hatred in society. There is still a lot of work to be done.
Touching on this, Connor said: “Unfortunately, there are still so many stigmas that exist around and in the LGBTQ+ community. One of the only ways I know to combat them is through listening, learning and explaining. If someone says something inaccurate or offensive or that perpetuates a stigma, I calmly try to explain to them why what they said is not okay. Educate and be open to being educated.”