The Importance of Being an LGBT Ally

Yesterday, beauty guru Ingrid Nilsen came out to her 3.3 million subscribers in a video I can only describe as emotional, honest, and beautiful. Long ago, when I first started working as a writer for NMR, I interviewed Ingrid. She was so driven, funny, full of life, and now seeing her three years later, making this incredible statement is something that has left me in awe.

For the full story, I’ve written about it here in my #WCW column for the Daily Dot, but in this post, I wanted to take a moment to approach the topic of being an ally, or rather the incredible honor it is to be an LGBT ally.

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The entire reason I decided to become a writer was rooted in the hope that my writing would give a voice to communities silenced, overlooked, or misunderstood. It’s true when they say the pen in mightier than the sword, and in the years since graduating, I’ve dedicated myself to writing the stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things: Sexual assault survivors not allowing their trauma to define their entire lives, firefighters redefining masculinity through their fight against cancer, the stories of people living with AIDs, sexism in the STEM fields, women making strides as filmmakers, educators, and entertainers on YouTube, and the struggles and triumphs of the LGBT community.

It isn’t always easy to figure out how to be an effective and active ally. With busy schedules and maybe no personal connection to the LGBT movement, even the greatest intentions can lead way to inaction and procrastination. But as I’ve come to realize, even the tiniest actions — such as sharing a video or starting a conversation — are often the most important ways to support this community.

I was hired at YouTube Nation because of an article I’d written about the transgender community on YouTube. It was the last piece I published right after receiving the news our magazine was closing. I loved this article passionately and believed that even if one person read it and learned something, it was worth it.

Now, I feel incredibly lucky to work for a company like YouTube that not only in support of LGBT rights, but actively making campaigns dedicated to this community. I’ve even gotten to write on the official YouTube trends blog about the influence of coming out videos and the It Gets Better movement. I feel honored to have witnessed groundbreaking moments such as Twins Come Out to Dad, the ABCs of LGBT, Ingrid’s video above, the premiere of “Bridegroom,” the journey of Skylar Kergil documenting his five years on T, and Ellen Page coming out at the HRC conference. It’s videos such as these, along with the courageous coming out videos from countless creators, that are creating both a safe space for LGBT individuals to connect and share and educating future allies about the community.

Creators that continue to blow my mind everyday are Hannah Hart, Olivia Has 2 Moms, Hart Beat, Ashley Mardell, Todrick Hall, Troye Sivan, Davey Wavey, Skylar Kergil, Uppercasechase, Will and RJ, Jelly and Day, Kaelyn and Lucy, Tyler Oakley, and Riyadh.

(Can you tell how much I love talking about this!)

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On the flip side, the YouTube community has set an incredible example of how to be a great ally. Creators such as Hannah Witton, Laci Green, Chescaleigh, Meghan Tonjes, Chris Thompson, and John and Hank Green are just a few of the hundreds of creators lending their support towards LGBT equality. And through their involvement, these creators are influencing their millions of fans around the world to take also take a stand as allies.

Should a friend, family member, or acquaintance come out to you, the best thing you can do is listen and support. It takes courage to talk with others about the complexity of one’s sexuality, and also demonstrates this person’s trust in you. Remember, they’re the exact same person you knew before this conversation so comments such as “Isn’t this just a phase?!” or “How could you not tell me sooner?!” are unnecessary and damaging. This isn’t about you, this is about your loved one, so focus up! Just a simple, “I love you and am so proud and honored you would share this with me,” will do.

In just eight hours of Ingrid uploading her video (above), the clip has already seen 1.8 million times and received comments of support from creators around the world. It makes me wish all coming out experiences were met with this amount of joy and support, but even today, in the dawn of the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage and the national conversation about the transgender community, we’ve yet to reach a place of total acceptance and equality.

But as an ally, you can help! Start conversations, share videos, follow the work of these creators, stay in tune with the news, attend LGBT event, talk with your friends and family, or even write an article. In summary: USE YOUR VOICE! Because no one deserves to be made to feel “other” for just being who they are or forced to feel guilty for loving the person they love. It’s 2015, this is absolute nonsense.

From Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover to Ireland passing a bill in support of gay marriage, great changes are coming to the LGBT community and it’s an honor to even be a miniscule part of thisย  historic moment.

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