Arts

Coming Out Through Youtube

By Erin Cassidy

Tyler Paretchan is just like every other guy out there in Massachusetts. But one thing makes him different.  Paretchan is gay.

Growing up gay or lesbian in todays’ world, for anyone, can come with its hardships. First is realizing that you are attracted to the same sex. Just that alone can cause the person to question himself or herself. Second is what is called “coming out.”

“Coming out” can be a long process for some people. It involves “coming out” to yourself first and then to friends and family. Typically we reach out to friends first in order to have a support system to fall back onto incase our family members don’t approve.

Paretchan felt that he needed some extra guidance in coming out – which is normal. He found that there were people, who identified as gay or lesbian, posting what are called “coming out” stories.

On YouTube, gay and lesbian youth have been uploading their own “coming out” stories for the public to watch. They are usually about 5 minutes, but can go for thirty minutes depending on their personal story.

These vlogs (video logs) that are posted on YouTube every single day, are there to help and inspire. They let you know you’re not alone, they bring awareness and just simply tell a story. Right now on YouTube, there are over thirty-three million “coming out” stories.

Paretchan reached out to a gay male YouTuber by the username of Davidoutt.

“David was the first gay person that I ever came across that I felt I could connect to. He was a kid, just like myself,” Paretchan said. “Except there was a major difference between the two of us: he was accepting and proud of his sexuality. I wanted to be him in that sense.”

Davidoutt, whose real name is David Collict, is a guy from Toronto. Who just happens to film videos in his bedroom.

Collict began making YouTube videos two and a half years ago when he was 16. At the time he wasn’t fully out, but wanted to still get his voice heard.

“I wanted to start my own YouTube channel because I wanted to get my own voice out there but at the time, I wasn’t 100 per cent “out” yet,” Collict said. “So I wanted to share how my story had been so far and take it from there.”

Collict said that when he was 14 or 15, he found these videos to be really helpful.

“I think it’s definitely good that so many people put their voice out there,” Collict said.  “And the fact that so many people have already done it, that is what inspired me to put my own story out there.”

Once Paretchan first contacted Collict, the two formed a friendship.

“David talked me through every step of my coming out process, and still gives me advice to this day,” Paretchan said. “He never pushed me into telling people, instead he made me want to tell people. The more I talked with David, the more I wanted to be ‘out of the closet’.”

Clare Nobbs, the program coordinator for S.O.Y. – a support centre for LGBTQ youth in Toronto – said that these types of videos are out there to help.

“I think it’s important, because when someone is struggling with [the] feeling of telling their important aspect of their identity to friends, family members or just making it pubic,” Nobbs said. “To hear how it’s worked for other people, to hear how their struggles are reflected in other peoples experience is very empowering, and it makes that sense of not being alone and really reminds you that its not the end of the world, there are many people like you and ‘coming out” can actually be a really positive and healing act.”

By viewing these videos, it is hoped that everyone can realize that, yes, we all go through things and maybe they’re the same thing. Paretchan has shared Collicts’ YouTube page with one of his friends who was in the process of “coming out” still.

“David helped me out tremendously, so of course I would want him to help out as many people as he could (including my friend),” Paretchan said.

“Coming out” is never easy for anyone. It can be well received, or you can get pushed away from your family. There’s this idea that kids are “coming out” younger – it is very important to make sure that if you do “come out” that its safe to do so.

“I always tell people that being who you are is the most important thing in the world but at the same time your safety is the most important thing in the world,” Collict said. “So if they think that that’s in jeopardy, their way of living…if they want to “come out” its almost safe to save it until you know you’re in a save place in life.”

As this is such an incredibly personal thing in a persons life to “come out”, sometimes people can be pressured to do so. Its not something Nobbs wants people to go through, she feels its important for them to do it themselves when they are ready.

“I think it’s important to recognize that everyone needs to “come out” in their own time when they’re ready, there’s no right or wrong time,” Nobbs said.

Paretchan, since telling his friends and family, has some advice for others who are either thinking about, or are in the process of “coming out”…

“My suggestion: Coming out of the closet is probably the biggest risk that someone could take. And it is just that: a risk. Risks by definition mean that there is something amazing that can come out of them. Granted it isn’t easy to come out, and everybody has a different situation, but coming out honestly changed my life for the better. I have reached new levels of personal happiness that I didn’t think were possible. Start with a small risk, and watch it grow into pure and complete happiness,” Paretchan said.

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Romance, Mystery, and Science Fiction; with a Twist of LGBT

Fiction with LGBT characters and stories are making their way into every section of your local bookstore.

By Jessica Vella

 A lot of novelists-straight allies and LGBT-are focusing on both straight characters and LGBT characters with no labels attached. Homosexual characters used to be avoided in fiction because they were seen as being too controversial. Now there are fewer labels surrounding LGBT in fiction and more and more authors are including different types of sexuality.

Barbara Winkes, the lesbian fiction author of Autumn Leaves and its sequel Winter Storm, lives with her wife in Quebec, Canada. Winkes says that she feels that everyone wants a character they can connect with on a personal basis, someone they can see as themselves.

“A lot of people, not just LGBT, but everyone wants to be represented and reflected in the characters, in what they go through and what they achieve. I think that it’s an important part in moments to see your path reflected,” Winkes says.

Brian Katcher, an LGBT ally and author of Almost Perfect, a book about a young boy and his relationship with a young transgendered woman, is new to writing LGBT novels and he says that LGBT characters should be written as able to do anything straight characters can do.

“More and more often I see LGBT characters in books holding up banks, fighting zombies, and defusing nuclear devices… in other words, the same thing everyone else in the book is doing,” Katcher says.

Katcher says that he writes his books for teenagers and he hopes his novel makes an ally of his teen readers like writing it made an ally out of him.

“LGBT rights have become my cause, something I truly believe in,” Katcher says. “My books are for teenagers. I’d like it if people who never thought much about being transgendered gave Almost Perfect a read, it might open their eyes (to understanding transgendered people).”

Laura Preble is another author new to writing books about the LGBT community. Her novel is called Out and is about a mirrored world where everything is exactly like ours except that homosexuality is the norm and heterosexuality is persecuted. Preble says that there are multiple reasons behind her novel Out, like her stepson.

“My step son, who’s now 20, came out when he was in the eighth grade, so that’s coloured a bit of what I’ve done. All throughout his adolescent years I saw firsthand things that happened to him,” Preble says. “As a  parent, a writer, and a teacher I had three different prisms to see his experience through. When it happens to your own kid, you see it differently. Like why do you not see how great this person is? That spurred me even more to want to do this, to get it done and to get it out there.”

Preble says that when the idea came to her she just had to write it to see if it would help people understand where the LGBT community is coming from.

“How would people feel if they were in that position? If I could write a book that could put people in that world then maybe they would get it, maybe they would see why it’s wrong to punish someone for who they love,” Preble says. “The straight person who’s very anti gay would read it and go I see how it would feel like if I couldn’t love who I wanted, then that would be successful.”

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Embracing Art Through Broadcasting and Music

Connecting to people and the LGBTQ community one step at a time

By Hawwii Gudeta

Proud FM 103.9 in Toronto is the world’s first LGBTQ radio station.

It was founded seven years ago by Bill Evanov founder Evanov Broadcasting who believed the world needed a radio station that portrayed LGBTQ culture. Evanov was able to get a license from the Canadian Radio and Television Commission.

One of the station’s most popular shows is the “Mike Chalut Show”. It runs from 3pm to 7:00 pm every day. The show plays music from all types of genres pop music however is the most requested by fans. Chalut’s vibrant personality allows fans to feel comfortable to engage in any type of conversation.

“I believe Proud FM provides a platform for everyone to have an open conversation about anything because we are a commercial radio station,” Chalut.; “Everyone has the opportunity to be educated about the LGBTQ community.”.

One of the things Chalut noticed while working at the station was the amount of ridicule and harassment LGBTQ people still face, even on-air.

“As a host, bullying does not stop,” he says. “I get bashed every day and I have people writing e-mails to me all the time telling me to get off the air.”

Proud FM strongly advocates for equality and acceptance among the LGBTQ community.

“We are committed to playing music by artists who are openly gay; people submit their music all the time,” Chalut says.  “Our program director is very active with trying to get people of the community a platform for them to shine on

The station has also helped people around the world feel more comfortable with their sexuality identity

“I had someone write to me from Brazil and say ‘I can’t come out to my own family, but listening to your radio station online really makes me feel like I belong to a family of people out there that are just like me,’” Chalut said.

Cathy Petch is a bisexual musician and poet who has experienced discrimination as a LGBTQ artist. She was told one time that she could not perform at a bar because of her sexual identity.

 “A lot of the time I think people outside the LGBTQ community marginalize openly gay artists,” says Petch “they think we only want to talk about being gay and coming out, when in reality we just want to express our music,” Petch says.

Proud FM embraces open discussions on air in regards to educating people about different sexual identities; Chalut believes this is important for artists and allies of the LGBTQ community. Jelly  Too Fly is lesbian hip hop artist from Toronto who believes your sexual orientation should not determine your ability as an artist.

“Coming from a city like Toronto you got to put in a lot of work you’ve got to stand out,” says Jelly. “Show why you’re different than everyone else and once you stand out you must keep that momentum going it’s up to you got to continue that drive,” Jelly said.

If you are interested in becoming a member of Proud FM you can simply apply online at www.proudfm.com; the radio station has giveaways, contests and event listings that all you can take part in. So in the words of Mike Chalut remember to always “love your guts!”

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Same Sex Dating. There’s An App For That

By Erin Cassidy

Vincent Wouda-Seguin, 21, and Taylor Parsons, 21, have been dating for nearly two years. They met on a gay dating application called Grindr, which has the stigma that it is mainly used for finding quick hookups. The couple had previously tried other services like eHarmony and OKCupid, but found that those sites were not for them.

“It was easier to use Grindr,” says Wouda-Seguin. “Cause it was on my phone, whereas OKCupid was through emails and OKCupid picked (guys) for me, I don’t remember a dialogue going on when I used it.”

“I like to choose for myself,” says Parsons. “I’ve done Plenty Of Fish, eHarmony…eHarmony wasn’t that good for me because they choose for you, you just give them your answers and they choose for you…and I didn’t like that.”

The two had an interesting start to their relationship that started with a Muppet incident. When they first met, Parsons was wearing a Muppet shirt and Wouda-Seguin said that he liked them.

“I asked him on a follow-up date to go see the Muppet Movie, but it wasn’t till halfway through the Muppet movie that he said he didn’t like the Muppets,” Parsons says as he places his hand on Wouda-Seguins leg while laughing. “I based the whole date around it.”

Grindr was launched on March 25 in 2009. Now, four years later, it has more than 6 million users in 192 countries.

CEO and Founder of Grindr, Joel Simkhai, wanted a better way of finding guys, rather then going to the clubs or bars.

“I was curious to know who else way gay around me,” says Simkhai. “I wanted a more spontaneous, exciting and instantaneous way to meet guys and to help guys meet one another.”

When Grindr was first released, Simkhai didn’t expect it to be as popular as it is currently.

“We really owe it to our users,” Simkhai says. “They’re the ones who have made the app into an international sensation in just a few short years.”

Besides Grindr, there are many other apps geared towards the gay population such as Hunter, ManHunt and Scruff. However, there isn’t as much selection for the lesbian population unfortunately.

Steven Bender, founder of Brenda, a lesbian dating app, says that Brenda is more of a networking app for lesbians.

“(Brenda) is a place where you can make random connections with other women,” Bender says. “If the other user is just a couple of miles away which means you can go on a date and turn it into a real world thing, then that’s fabulous.”

Bender says that Brenda is for finding dates, making friends, and even just finding other women like yourself to chat to, in the same town as you or on the other side of the world. It sounds just like Grindr. But unlike the users of Grindr, Brenda’s users have to sign off on a strict app rule, if broken, they face consequences.

“(Brenda) users must agree on sign up that they understand that Brenda is not a sex app,” Bender says. “Any sexual content leads to an immediate ban.”

Bender says that lesbians typically don’t go searching for hookups, so having an app such as Brenda, may be what these women are looking for. Although, he does say that Brenda users can have intimate conversations, if they so choose to.

“If users want to get into a sexy chat with each other, that’s up to them and we are all for it if it’s what they want,” Bender says.  “But we don’t have sexual profiles and we won’t tolerate unsolicited sexual messages being sent to our users.”

Sam Garanzini, executive director at Gay Couples Institute in San Francisco, deals with LGBTQ couples. He highly approves of these online dating services for the LBGTQ communities.

“They are great as they end up putting a lot of people in touch with one another that might not have spoken initially,” says Garanzini. “They are very important in the gay and lesbian culture.”

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Breaking Down Stereotypes

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Gaming in the community is more than heterosexual

By Jessica Vella

LGBTQ representation in video games is starting to show up more with games like Mass Effect, Fable, Fallout, and Skyrim. These games have been known to break boundaries and go against many of the sexual stereotypes.

When it comes to LGBTQ characters in video games, sexual stereotyping can be found in many and it can lead to a personal disconnection when it comes to an LGBTQ gamer playing the game.

Even though we have come a long way as a gaming society, video games, their creators, and the people who play them; still have a long way to go in representing more than the heterosexual community and making others feel welcome.

In Toronto we have an LGBTQ gaming community which focuses on connecting LGBTQ gamers and making a comfortable environment for those who never felt openly accepted before.

Gaymers Toronto is open to any gamer, LGBTQ or ally that wants to join in the fun of playing games with others who are like-minded to the cause.

When asked to describe Gaymers, Jason Naum a participant and regular at Gaymers, had this to say.

“The Toronto Gaymers is a grouping of mostly males that are between the ages of 17 and 40. They’re mostly queer and they mostly play games,” Naum says. “Though some of them are there for the social aspects and there are some that are just happy to be playing games with others in person or online.”

Jean-Guy Spencer, one of the three founders of Gaymers, says that before he joined the other founders, he never felt like he truly belonged.

“I’ve always felt like I didn’t belong in the greater LGBT community because I wasn’t sociable and I didn’t I feel like I fit into the gaming community because I was gay. When I discovered the Toronto Gaymers, I immediately knew that I had found a place I belong,” Spencer says.

Naum says that being in a like-minded group can help people feel comfortable and at home without all the slurs thrown around in online gaming.

“With all the derogatory comments thrown around easily on the internet, a very good example would be Halo and Call of Duty, for the fair amount of times that you hear faggot and other lines thrown at either you or other people in the game, it really grates on you,” Naum says. “So playing with people that are also having those things around them and knowing that none of you will be using those terms can make it much more comforting.”

Spencer says that gaming representation of the LGBT has come a long way, but the gaming community still has some way to go.

“I think game developers have come a long way, but in contrast I think the greater gaming community has a long way to go in terms of acceptance and respect for LGBT representation in the community,” Spencer says. “This hetero-normative attitude is going to be a difficult challenge to overcome, and unfortunately the developers can’t do much to help in that regards. The good thing is that the debate rages on, and that means there is something worth fighting for.”

John James, the lead designer for MidBoss Games and the Director of Design for GaymerConnect and GaymerX, says that he feels that including LGBTQ characters can help many gamers from the community connect with the game.

“I believe that by having LGBTQ characters in games, and representing them in a realistic way, as well as having more inclusive options to choose from, it will allow players to relate more easily to it,” James says. “If the game has the option to hook up with another character (like in Mass Effect or Skyrim), it would feel kind of awkward only having to go with the opposite sex. It’s an immediate disconnection, since that’s not something I would do.”

When asked about the new game, Read Only Memories being created by MidBoss that will include LGBTQ representation, James says that the game won’t be just a gay game; it’ll be so much more than that.

“We wanted a game that had LGBTQ characters in it that wasn’t just a gay game, one that also allowed the player to have more than just him and her as a gender pronoun option. Something that’s inclusive and that also attempts to accurately represent LGBTQ characters without it just being an overused trope or something sexual,” James says. “The game is still being made, and we’re still creating characters for it, but we’re striving for accuracy, so we’re trying to talk to other LGBT people to make sure we’re representing them in the right way.”

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