October 09, 2020

Coming Out and Trans Visibility

In January, beauty creator NikkieTutorials did something remarkable. She released a record-breaking video in which she came out to her audience as a trans woman.

The video was released on January 13 and topped 30 million views within seven days. That velocity of views is a testament to the size of the audience she has grown and the noteworthiness of the news she was sharing. The same week as her upload, hundreds of other videos with NikkieTutorials in the title were uploaded and viewed over 10 million times.

The impact of NikkieTutorials coming out as trans

Daily views of videos with “NikkieTutorials” in the title

The impact of NikkieTutorials coming out as trans

Source: YouTube data, Global, Jan 2020

Coming Out

This monumental accomplishment has its roots in a genre of videos that goes back to at least 2006: Coming Out videos, in which a creator reveals their sexual orientation or gender identity. Since then, videos related to Coming Out have been viewed over 700 million times. As NikkieTutorials' video cruised past 30 million views, it became the most-viewed coming out vlog of all time and the second-most-viewed coming out video of all time.

Top 10 most-viewed “Coming Out” videos

Views of videos related to coming out or with variations of “coming out,” “I’m gay,” “I’m bi,” “I’m lesbian” in the title

Top 10 most-viewed “Coming Out” videos

Source: YouTube data, Global, 2005 - 10/10/2022

And in a nice bit of symmetry, it turns out the earliest example of a coming out video that we can find is also one from a trans woman: "Introduction: My Coming Out" by Life in Transition.

The Journey Begins

Following the upload of her coming out video in August, 2006, Life in Transition used her channel as a record of her transition, posting updates of her journey from male to female. That makes Life in Transition also one of the earliest existing examples of another kind of content endemic to YouTube: transition videos. With videos containing “male to female” or “female to male” and “transition” in the title having been viewed over 130 million times, these videos are another way trans creators are using YouTube to create visibility.

Why This Matters

Commenting on recent social research showing that fewer than 25% of Americans know a trans person, GLAAD suggests that it is through media that most Americans learn most of what they know about trans people. And Recent work in social psychology suggests that exposure through media to people in minority groups can aid in reducing prejudice against those groups.

The record-setting viewership of NikkieTutorials’ coming out video and the millions of views accumulated by transition, coming out, and other videos from trans creators around the world are a key driver in raising the visibility -- and potentially the acceptance -- of LGBTQ people.

Earnest Pettie, Trends Insights Lead