Millennials use YouTube to explore gender, college experiences

photo by Casey Cole
Photo by Casey Cole
photo by Casey Cole
Photo by Casey Cole

18-year-old agender YouTuber Chandler Wilson described their rise to nearly 300,000 subscribers as “lucky.”

Having lived in the Richmond area before moving out-of-state to attend college, Wilson’s channel is split between vlogging, challenges and educational videos on both trans terminology and experiences.

“I didn’t just have one video go viral, I had about five,” Wilson said.

After coming out as agender and finding a lack of representation of the community on YouTube, Wilson was inspired to help spur the development of a more substantial non-binary presence on the platform.

Wilson said with binary transgender people, such as trans men and women, there are still those under the non-binary trans umbrella, such as agender people like as Wilson who do not identify with any gender.

“I made a coming-out video where I came out to my mom as being trans in a year when it was a very big topic, with Caitlyn Jenner and other trans celebrities, so it was a big topic in politics — it still is,” Wilson said

In addition to garnering attention on YouTube, Google selected a clip from the video to feature in the “Year in Search 2015” video which was played at the commercial breaks during the annual “New Year’s Rockin Eve” special.

Several of Wilson’s other videos have entered the range of seven or eight figures in views. One video entitled, “Chapstick Challenge!” has been viewed nearly 20 million times.

Wilson said it surprised them when their videos started going viral, and they realized their output would have to be a lot more consistent in uploading.

“Knowing that people were watching my videos really helped, because then I knew I could get word out about LGBTQ identities and inform more people,” Wilson said.

Throughout YouTube’s 11-year history, the range of content has branched into subcommunities, with practices like vlogging and challenge videos sprinkled across most channels.

“Now people are intrigued by educational videos, which I find really fascinating,” Wilson said. “It’s good that people are very open to learning a broad spectrum of things.”

Wilson said the freedom for diversity of voices is an aspect of independent media that is important; while outlets like magazines and film are relatively homogenous when it comes to gender identities individuals can establish a place for their community on YouTube.

“I know the media likes to say we should ignore asexual people (for instance) because they only make up about 1 percent of the population,” Wilson said. “Well, by that logic, we should also ignore the entire country of Australia. One percent of 7 billion is still a lot.”

VCU freshmen Nicholas DaSilva, Sydney Munford and Colin Gallagher are also trying to add their voices on YouTube.

“There’s something so routine about so many channels and so many people who want to pursue an entertainment kind of field,” Munford said. “It’s gotten so boring, there’s so little content that’s just spontaneous and fun.”

The students describe their show, “Designer Shorts,” as “college-level iCarly.” They anticipate their first episode will release later in the month of October.

According to Gallagher they design their content with a focus on originality. Most of their show is designed to be comedy and interview-driven, like “RV-Hey,” where they interview students and people off the street about pertinent issues, with some sort of twist.

Georgia Geen, Contributing Writer

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