Soldiers Coming Out Online: Gen Y’s Fascination with Broadcasting Secrets

With the repeal of ‘Don’t ask Don’t tell’ a wave of soldiers are using the YouTube to come out to family, friends, and the entire Internet population. Traditionally this conversation is done in the confines of a home, face to face, in private. So, why is our generation so keen on broadcasting their best kept secret to 2 billion people? 

According to a New York Times article and a YouTube spokesperson, more than 12,000 videos tagged with the term ‘coming out’ were uploaded to YouTube the month leading up to National Coming Out Day. Randy Phillips, a 21-year-old airman stationed in Germany, even filmed himself telling his father he was gay and put it on YouTube. Phillips, under the username “AreYouSurprised,” had shot a series of videos keeping his identity under wraps until revealing it by coming out to his father online to commemorate the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. With 5 million views, the video has generated a ton of buzz, being featured on both The New York Times and ABC News.

Others have followed in Phillips’ footsteps. Searching “coming out” on YouTube brings up plenty of examples. One user, an active member of the Coast Guard, offers up the story of his own struggles and coming out story. The trend grew to include anyone in the LGBT community, from those who have been out for years offering their support, to others inspired to get the word out about their own sexuality.

TylerOakley offers his support to those who are struggling. “Over time, the more open and honest you are about who you are, it just gets easier and easier… Trust me, it gets easier to come out every time you do it.”

Our generation is bombarded with reality TV shows where celebrities let the world into their most personal moments. Millennials can hardly remember how we stayed in touch with friends before Facebook, and now all we have to do is hit record on our Macbooks and everyone is a video producer. We check in on foursquare to let our 1,243 Facebook friends and 1,450 Twitter followers know exactly where we are at all times. Our notion of privacy is vastly different from our parents’. For our generation– privacy really only comes at night when we put our smart phones to rest while we rest. So why should this situation be any different?

We’ve seen the It Gets Better videos. We know life isn’t easy for children growing up knowing they are different, wanting to fit in and afraid to talk about who they really are. If you had to hold in something like that, a meaningful, personal part of who you are because the military told you not to talk about it – wouldn’t you want to broadcast it to the world too?

These soldiers are standing up for what they believe in, knowing their confidence and bravery might make life a little easier for someone else. The Internet is not just a source of information anymore. It is a way to connect, to find others in the world that are similar to you and to have the conversations you need to have when you’re not quite ready to have them face to face.

Aligning with the trend of “coming out” in a public setting, OutServe, a new bi-monthly  magazine that highlights the contributions of active LGTB military personnel, published its’ first issue in September. The repeal issue honors the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and according to Speigel Online, some of the featured persons come out for the first time in the issue.

Whether coming out in a magazine, on YouTube, or to your parents in the kitchen over a hot cup of coffee, most agree it makes life a little easier, and in some cases, may even save a life. The moral is one we’ve been hearing since kindergarten: Just be yourself.

Kellie Ryan I am a Multimedia Producer with a serious passion for shooting, editing, and telling stories. I take every opportunity possible to travel and am always up for a new adventure.

View all posts by Kellie Ryan

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