Tyler Oakley tells TCU audience how YouTube brought hate but also inspired him to fight it

Tyler Oakley poses with attendees at the TCU Southwestern LGBT Leadership conference after his speech Saturday, March 3.

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.”

—  Anna Waugh

Keynote speaker, dates change for TCU Southwestern LGBT Leadership Conference

Tyler Oakley

A few changes have been made to the 2012 Southwestern LGBT Leadership Conference at TCU’s campus this weekend.

The dates were originally March 1-3, but they have changed to Friday night registration and a kickoff at 7 p.m. Breakout sessions, a two-hour service project and the keynote address are now set for Saturday, March 3, conference Co-director Jamal King said.

The decision to change the dates was primarily for travel reasons, King said, as the conference will have an attendance from Kansas and Arizona colleges with the regional focus this year.

San Francisco YouTube sensation Tyler Oakley will give the keynote address instead of the Shane Windmeyer, founder of Campus Pride.

After Windmeyer was unable to attend, King said Oakley’s experience with the Trevor Project and his national impact with his YouTube channel made him an obvious choice.

Several LGBT organizations including PFLAG, Q Cinema and the AIDS Outreach Center are still expected to attend to discuss issues affecting the community.

Registration for the conference is $25, and people can register up until the day of the conference. The new fee is lower than the initial cost of $50 and $40 for early registration. King said those who registered before the fee reduction will receive a refund.

For more information, to register or download the conference schedule, visit the Southwestern Association of Gay-Straight Alliances website or the Facebook event page.

—  Anna Waugh