This week, after being sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified government documents to Wikileaks, Bradley Manning announced his plans to live the rest of his life as a woman named Chelsea. Manning’s public announcement shined a new spotlight on the often misunderstood and overlooked transgender community.
“Transgender” is an umbrella term used to refer to people whose gender identity differs from their assigned sex at birth. For many transgendered individuals, YouTube has become a platform where they can connect with others and see examples of people living as a transgender male or female in society. The 5 transgender creators listed below have been instrumental in developing the transgender community online. By sharing the stories of their transitions and debunking myths that are often associated with the transgender community, these 5 individuals have educated viewers around the world and provided hope and comfort to other transgender individuals.
5. Natalie Sweetwine
Natalie Sweetwine is a 19-year-old transgender female who started making videos on YouTube in 2012 to document her male-to-female transition. On her channel, Natalie chronicles the physical change her body experiences after taking hormones and progesterone. While she is one of the younger transgender vloggers on YouTube, Natalie doesn’t shy away from answering intimate questions about things such as breast augmentation and how she knew she was transgender.
4. Ryan Cassata
19-year-old Ryan Cassata is a transgender singer-songwriter and motivational speaker who isn’t afraid to use his voice to demand equal rights for the LGBT community. Though still young, Cassata has already cut five albums, won the Harvey Milk Memorial Award and appeared on the “Larry King Live Show” and the “Tyra Banks Show.” Though originally from Long Island, Ryan currently lives in San Francisco where he continues to pursue his two passions: music and equality.
3. My Transgender Life
Erin Armstrong, better known as “Grishno” on YouTube, first started making YouTube videos in 2006 to document her six-year transition from male to female. She is one of the founding members of the YouTube transgender community and has used her YouTube success to better educate international audiences about the trans community. She is the subject of the documentary “My Transgender Life” and has also been featured in Rolling Stone Magazine and on the 2013 Trans 100 List.
2. Zinnia Jones
Zinnia Jones is a self-proclaimed feminist, atheist and transgender activist. Since joining YouTube in 2008, Zinnia has become an instrumental voice in the transgender community on YouTube, where she holds discussions about transgender myths, religion, sex and politics. She recently appeared on CNN to give her thoughts on the Bradley Manning verdict, a topic she extensively covers on her blog Freethought Blogs. Though originally from Chicago, she now lives in Florida with her partner and their two children.
1. Skylar Kergil
Skylar Kergil was one of the first transgender creators to begin using YouTube to document their transition. Over the past four years, Skylar has created a following of viewers that are as much a part of his life as his close friends. In a past interview with NMR, Skylar shared his thoughts on the benefit to joining the YouTube trans community, stating, “While there is always the risk of bullying on YouTube or the internet in general, I believe that the positives outweigh the negatives. The ability to find others, share experiences, question, and connect among many other options is infinitely helpful for a community that is larger than imagined, but not all located in similar places.”
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