WATCHING pop icon Lady Gaga deliver an impassioned plea for LGBTI rights during the 2009 National Equality March in Washington helped a then-teenage Troye Sivan feel comfortable about being gay.
“I was watching YouTube videos of pride parades and for some reason in that moment it just clicked in my head,” he told the Star Observer.
[showads ad=MREC] “I saw this huge crowd and thought, ‘oh God, all of these people are fighting for me, and fighting for people like me’.
“I felt completely at ease for the first time, and it gave me the strength and confidence within myself to go on the journey of coming out to everyone around me.”
While using YouTube as an outlet to explore one’s sexual or gender identity may sound novel, it’s a medium that’s been close to Sivan’s heart for several years.
“I didn’t really have any openly gay friends growing up so maybe that’s why I developed such a personal connection to the internet,” the 20-year-old said.
Sivan’s online fame rose after he began to regularly post video blogs on his YouTube channel from 2012, filming them from his Perth bedroom. Before that, he only uploaded videos of him singing and played the minor role of young Wolverine in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
These days, his online audience is staggering: 3.7 million subscribers on YouTube, 1.7 million fans on Facebook, and 3.2 million followers on Twitter. Even Taylor Swift is a fan — evident in several tweets she made last September praising his EP Wild.
— Troye Sivan (@troyesivan) September 7, 2015
Sivan is a child of the digital age, one that has amassed a global online audience that eagerly anticipates each of his video uploads.
His story is one that reflects the greater cultural shift created by the internet, where YouTube celebrities are able to connect with the public on a more personal level, blurring the line between superstars and their fans.
In 2013 Sivan used one of his videos to come out to the world, a video that’s been viewed more than six million times.
“By the time I came out to my fans and my audience there was a part of me that felt so frustrated at having to be in the closet because of what a non-issue it had become in my personal life,” he said.
“In the lead up to that I spent time getting really comfortable to the point where I felt like I was completely myself and wasn’t at all ashamed about who I was, so that I could live my life freely and openly.”
Expanding his love of entertaining from the internet to music, Sivan recently released his debut studio album Blue Neighbourhood — which landed in the top 10 official album charts both in Australia and the US. He co-wrote every track on the album and said that while many of the songs focus on love and relationships, Heaven deals primarily with the coming out process.
“I think there’s definitely more LGBTI representation in music now more than ever, and that’s a really exciting thing,” he said.
“It feels like there’s a wave right now with people like Sam Smith and Shamir who are openly LGBTI people making music and killing it.”
As an outspoken advocate for LGBTI acceptance and equality, Sivan has helped highlight various issues and raise awareness online.
For example, he recently partnered with Durex to produce a series of videos where he discussed issues affecting young people around sex, gender, and sexuality. The video series was prompted during World AIDS Day in 2014.
“I thought about HIV/AIDS and how little I knew as a gay 19-year-old, and thought that if I don’t know, I wonder how little my audience know about it,” Sivan recalled.
“I started to educate myself so that I could educate them at the same time, and start to spread awareness.
“I’ve realised over time that I have a platform that can be used to entertain people and educate people at the same time, around issues I’m really passionate about.”
As for particular issues Sivan feels strongly about?
“What I’m most excited and passionate about right now is trans issues, reducing trans suicide, and raising awareness around trans people,” he said.
“With the internet and people like Laverne Cox it’s happening a lot faster than the gay rights movement moved along, or the civil rights movement moved along.”
Sivan also believes the rapid rise of online advocacy meant it was an exciting time for gay rights.
“I feel in general things are moving a lot quicker than they ever have because of the internet,” he said.
“You can live in the middle of Russia where everyone around you might be homophobic but you can log on to Tumblr and find friends from around the world who are much more forward thinking.”
South African-born Sivan still calls Perth home, usually making time to visit for a couple of weeks every two months in between his traveling.
He also hinted that he hopes to be in Sydney for the Mardi Gras Festival.
“I’m supposed to be going, but I might be on tour — I’ve wanted to come for years. If I’m in Sydney I will absolutely be there.”
**This article was first published in the February edition of the Star Observer, which is available now. Click here to find out where you can grab a copy in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.
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