FORT WORTH — California YouTube sensation Tyler Oakley shared his story of how video stardom led to his first experience of anti-gay hatred — and how he used the hatred to encourage others, on Saturday at the TCU Southwestern LGBT Leadership Conference.
Oakley created a YouTube channel in 2008 as a way to keep in touch with friends after heading to Michigan State University. After his mother asked him if he was gay when he was 14 and he simply said ‘yes,’ Oakley explained that the support from her and his stepfather was overwhelmingly positive.
“But when I told my mom I upload videos, she freaked out and was like, ‘Do you where clothes in these videos?’” he said.
Although he told his mother that the videos were decent and a way to communicate with friends about random things, the idea of uploading personal videos still struck his family as odd.
“I couldn’t be more blessed when it came to them being accepting of me as a gay man, so I lucked out on the important one,” he said, laughing.
While his campus at Michigan State had gay students and supportive professors, and the Gay-Straight Alliance was viewed as “the cool thing,” comments on his videos about his sexuality began to become offensive and even threatening.
The comments were “an eye-opening experience,” he said, because his family and college had been so accepting.
“At first it was overwhelming because I’d never been judged for who I was,” he said. “It was comments like that that encouraged me to do something bigger.”