From bisexual green velvet couches to Madonna’s underwear free-throw, coming out online is getting more abstract, and possibly... better.
As an increasingly storied genre of short film, the coming out video has a long history online in much the same way as the YouTube apology video, or one of the platform's arguably more infamous diss tracks. In the past decade or so, notable works within the medium have included “I’m Gay”, an expertly choreographed music video by Try Guys member Eugene Lee Yang; English YouTuber Daniel Howell’s “Basically I’m Gay” is a production almost nine times longer, leaning instead into sketch comedy and a more traditional, confessional approach — the general mode of the coming out video has been as a sort of emotional disclosure. Take for example “Something I Want You To Know (Coming Out)” by influencer Ingrid Nilsen, a video that sees the 2010s-era beauty guru start crying with relief around half a minute into its runtime.
Now that TikTok — a younger-skewing, more contemporary platform with a large queer contingent — has become the stage of choice for many online creators, the coming out video has taken a turn for the snappier: the new generation of coming out videos arrive expeditiously via front facing camera, without fanfare or often even the time progress bar that would allow you to skip through them. But the results are thrilling in the fleeting way most memes are: Emily Ratajkowski and Shay Mitchell pointed to their sofas. Apparently all the bisexuals have green velvet ones. (Bisexuals with fancy couch money, at any rate). Madonna threw a pair of underwear at a trash can, and missed. Classic LGBTQ+ behaviour. They’re all gay now. Isn’t that fun?
Though the dominant tone of media response has been one of awestruck surprise, these announcements feel low stakes in a refreshing way to audiences that watched Shay Mitchell play Emily Fields, an iconic lesbian character on Pretty Little Liars, for almost a decade. As Madonna’s hot pink pants sail through the air in her TikTok, we already knew that the Queen of Pop has shared many a salacious same-sex kiss onstage throughout her illustrious career. The anticlimax of this new vanguard of coming out videos is in many ways a show of privilege — many LGBTQ+ people don’t have the wealth or comforts these women have accrued, nor the (related) ability to be so cavalier about their sexuality on a public forum — but it’s also a sure sign of progress.
It can only be a good thing that queer people have increasingly varied and silly ways of announcing their sexuality online — and that they seem to be moving away from the more maudlin. As i-D’s own Douglas Greenwood wrote last year about the “momentous” coming out of child star JoJo Siwa, it felt like “a gearshift occasion.” The TikTok saw the then-17-year-old performer mouthing along to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” with a wide smile and (what used to be) a signature hair bow (she’s since got a long pixie cut). He continues, “In a country where gay marriage is legal, but still considered immoral by the majority of Republican baby boomers, here you have the single greatest influence on many young girls refuting the very politics they’d be fed otherwise.”