The New LGBT Commons

Randolfe-Wicker
The New LGBT Commons

By Randolfe Wicker


We all live somewhere: California or New York, Maine or Florida, the Midwest.  But we meet and interact on “the commons” of our day—the Internet.  What happens there is not covered by any of the LGBT media.  It’s time we changed that.

How many times has a friend sent you a link to a news article, a video, a website that you absolutely loved?  How many friends visit Adam4Adam, Manhunt, Gay.com, Downlink instead of heading out to the local bar looking for quick sex or a full blown romance?

Today’s Internet center for social interaction is Facebook.  What are the keys to wisely using that site - having the maximum 5,000 friends or being totally selective?
Anyone complain to you “He had sex with me but won’t friend me on Facebook?”

YouTube is mainly an entertainment center but can also be used for social networking.  It’s a competitive stage open to all where reputations are both made & destroyed.  Videos go “viral” and crossover into mainstream changing the outcomes of political races and/or driving some to suicide.

How does one use YouTube?  Using “gay” as a search term brings up 2,240,000 results many of which are silly kids posting videos with titles like “My Brother Acting Gay”.

“LGBT” brings up 75,400 listings most of whose content is political.  There you will also find series with popular print personalities like Dan Savage answering all those serious, quirky and amusing questions.

The links found by search terms reflects levels of interest: “gay” 2,240,000; “lesbian” 1,400,000; “bisexual” 111,000; “transsexual” 55,900.  Within YouTube, niche audiences develop among those sharing specific interests.

Insider terms like MTF or FTM separate videos by/about male-to-female and female-to-male transsexuals.  In those communities, individuals share their experiences with everything from familial acceptance to bodily changes brought about by hormones.

Today’s fascination with celebrities extends into the Internet LGBT world.  Chris Crocker (itschriscrocker), a young thin blond drag queen got national attention, including even coverage on CNN, with a footage of himself crying & pleading with everyone to  “Leave Britney Alone” (35,142,028 hits).

That’s certainly the record number of views for any of the 131,000 videos found using the search term “drag queen”.  Once such a gay celebrity emerges, swarms of celebrity want-to-be’s spoofing the original further enhance their status.

Chris Crocker is obviously consumed by his life as a YouTube celebrity.  New videos are posted almost daily & receive thousands of hits instantly.  He’s also found a way to create “a revenue stream” for himself beyond the pittance YouTube pays for advertising links by releasing a record on iTunes.

Another young man, twenty-two year old Matthew Lush, has also created quite a following using the modest YouTube name “Gay God” (117,632 subscribers).  His “channel” consists of a personal video history featuring his current and past romantic interests. 

However, Gay God also has a serious side promoting anti-suicide campaigns aimed at LGBT people like The Trevor Project.  Like many others, he has sought to monetize himself through selling t-shirts emblazoned “I Love Matthew Lush” among other things.  (They sold out.)

Perhaps one of the most interesting and insightful gay bloggers on YouTube is 60-year-old entertainer Zipster08.  In a video entitled “My YouTube Story by Zipster 08” he talks about how he felt lost in life when his partner of many years died.

YouTube filled a void in his life.  He commenced posting videos to YouTube & apparently found a new calling in life.  Posting almost daily, he now has 904 videos, most of them only a couple minutes long with only 37,236 subscribers & 18,657,636 channel views.

However, he talks about YouTube contacting him because of the volume of videos he created & asking him to become one of YouTube’s first “partners”.  He subsequently was flown out to California where he found one of the conference rooms at YouTube’s headquarters called “The Zipster08 Conference Room”.

After signing a lot of complicated paperwork, YouTube started making direct deposits into his banking account such that he was able to quit his job.  In recent months, he been flown to various places, including Europe, to meet groups of his subscribers & promote YouTube.

YouTube apparently created their partnership program to stave off competition from other sites seeking to replace them.

Most people who post videos to YouTube don’t realize that they are giving YouTube the right to use their video material in any way it chooses to do so.  YouTube uses language telling posters that “they don’t lose the copyright” to the stuff they post there. 

In fact, they are sharing the copyright to their material with YouTube.  I wonder how long it will be before a series of blockbuster films are produced by cleverly editing
The endless material posted there.

YouTube has a constant turnover of contributors.  A year or more ago, a young gay man named William Sledd had developed a following among 121,128 subscribers to a channel called “Ask a Gay Man Anything” which generally focused on advice regarding fashion ideas about different types of jeans, hair styling secrets, etc.

It’s been nearly a year since his last video and in the end he seemed to be promoting different types of products.  Either he “burned out” on posting videos to YouTube or moved on to greener pastures.

Each of us visits the “new common” in her/his unique way.  I’d like to create a conversation here about those experiences here.  Exciting links to YouTube videos are always welcome.

Beyond that, what advantages do some sites offer for connecting with others?  What happens to those who post and use Craigslist for sexual adventures?  Most people have switched to Facebook but a few remain loyal to MySpace, why?

What news sites best cover LGBT news?  What story moved you recently?  Could someone share the dirt on what it’s like to use/post-videos-to Internet porn sites like X-Tube?

The possibilities are endless.  Let’s start exploring them and helping one another.
I’ll link a few videos below that relate to personalities discussed above.  By “subscribing” to any channel, you’ll be able to watch their lives unfold.

“My YouTube Story by Zipster08” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rxyTxrqibE

 “Dan Savage on What You Will do Sexually in the Name of Love” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTP89tBTt1w&feature=channel

“Leave Britney Alone” by itschriscrocker http://www.youtube.com/user/itschriscrocker#p/u/0/kHmvkRoEowc

“Coming Out” by GayGod http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkkRbVZ-5RE
(Obscure treasure—“YouTube Review: Gay God” by thecruelworld
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0ImEJsTWOk )

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