It’s not an exaggeration to say that YouTubers are changing the world. The last year has seen YouTube creators achieve a level of visibility and impact that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. The platform’s ability to reach large groups of people and convey powerful messages has lead many to throw their hat into the YouTube ring including, it seems, a member of YouTube’s own team. Raymond Braun has been a YouTuber for years, but until now you might never have heard his name. As YouTube’s head of LGBT marketing, partnerships, and community engagement, he’s already reached millions of people around the world by spearheading groundbreaking campaigns like Proud To Love, National Coming Out Day, and Proud To Play. Now Braun wants to try something a bit more hands on, so he’s taking a leave of absence from his YouTube job to launch his own YouTube career.
Braun knows firsthand that YouTube can be a lifeline for isolated LGBT youth. In a video released today, Braun talks about the pivotal role that the platform played in his youth as a gay teen in small conservative community. Braun looked to YouTube for the sense of community he was missing and for LGBT role models. Those early experiences with the YouTube community led to a career with the video giant working and networking with some of the platform’s most influential LGBT creators. Now Braun hope to take center stage and do some influencing of his own.
“The channel is primarily focused on content that will resonate with LGBT people as well as their allies, supporters, and anyone who is interested in learning more about topics and issues relevant to the community,” Braun told NMR, “We’ll explore everything from coming out and family issues to navigating self esteem, body image, bullying, sexual health, and more.”
Like any YouTube pro, Braun isn’t planning to go it alone. He’s planning a series of collabs that will highlight some of the best that YouTube’s LGBT community has to offer. “I’ve had the incredible opportunity to get to know many LGBT creators on YouTube who are talented, thoughtful, funny, and who inspire me daily,” Braun told us. As for what video collabs we can look forward to? “Some videos that are currently in the works include Davey Wavey, Aaron and Austin Rhodes (The Rhodes Bros), and Jazz Jennings, to name a few.”
Braun wants his channel to be a safe and inclusive space for LGBT people to discuss issues. With national elections on the horizion and a number of gay issues on the agenda for 2016, we asked if he plans to get political. “I want the channel to be a place where LGBT people can come together on YouTube to discuss important issues and topics for our community, which includes politics and LGBT rights. I’ll be creating videos about the historic Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court case, which will determine whether marriage equality will finally become law of the land in the entire United States. I am sure I’ll also talk about LGBT themes that arise during the upcoming political campaigns and elections.”
Over the last few years Raymond Braun has played a major role in shaping YouTube’s relationship with the LGBT community. Now he’s planning to lend that expertise to LGBT non-profits as a volunteer social consultant. Naturally we were curious to know how his YouTube bosses felt about him taking some time off to do something more hands on. We were pleased to hear that his superiors were all for it.
“I pitched the idea to YouTube to take an unpaid volunteer leave of absence to work as a social consultant for a variety of LGBT non-profits and launch a YouTube channel for the LGBT community. I was immediately met with 100% encouragement and enthusiasm. Everyone at YouTube has been incredibly kind, gracious, and supportive,” Braun told us of his conversation with YouTube’s management team. “I think it’s a testament to the wonderful culture at Google and YouTube that I’m able to do this. One of the reasons why I think Google is successful is because the company empowers its employees to pursue their passions and work on projects that are personally meaningful. When people have the opportunity to work on things they are truly passionate about, that’s when the magic happens.”
You can read Braun’s full and heartfelt resignation below:
Hello, colleagues and friends!
TL;DR: From April 3 – August 10, I’m taking a leave of absence from YouTube to work as a volunteer social media and YouTube consultant for several non-profit organizations advocating for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. During this time, I will also launch a YouTube channel dedicated to LGBT youth. If you’re interested in receiving occasional updates about my activities during this leave, please add your e-mail address here.
INSPIRATION FOR THE LEAVE
When I was younger, I rarely saw or interacted with any LGBT people in my community. LGBT representations in mainstream media were hard to find, so I turned to my (56k dialup!) Internet to search for information in an attempt to better understand my feelings. The Internet became my most treasured resource to imagine what my future could look like as a gay man.
I’m passionate about how the LGBT community comes together on YouTube, particularly as a resource for isolated youth. YouTube continually inspires me because we provide a platform and a voice to everyone, especially underserved communities. Two years ago, I began working on a 20% project that grew into YouTube’s first marketing campaign dedicated to celebrating the LGBT community: #ProudToLove. Since then, I’ve continued working on LGBT marketing and community engagement initiatives, including launching #ProudToPlay and helping LGBT creators reach broader audiences on topics like coming out and navigating life as a transgender teen.
All of this work, combined with my personal experience, has driven home a powerful point: For many LGBT youth, the Internet (particularly YouTube) is their lifeline to affirming and supporting their identity. LGBT youth rely on YouTube and social media to connect and gain hope for their future. I want to do everything I can to create and scale opportunities for LGBT teens to find support, community, and entertainment online so they can grow up feeling affirmed and proud of who they are.
With the upcoming landmark U.S. Supreme Court Decision about marriage equality, a rash of anti-LGBT legislation popping up around the world, and a growing wave of discussion in mainstream media about LGBT youth, I feel more inspired than ever to dedicate myself to this volunteer work full time. I want to be able to look back and tell my grandkids that I contributed to such a historic moment for my community.
I’m so thankful to work for a company that empowers its employees to pursue their passions and work on projects that are personally meaningful. Our culture is truly special. When I applied for the Google BOLD internship program several years ago, I wrote my essay about how much it impacted me to see my favorite brand, Google, become the first company to make a public statement in opposition of Proposition 8. After I completed my first internship, I was again moved by the passion and brilliance of the Gayglers when they released Google’s It Gets Better video. As an employee, I am constantly grateful for our company’s leadership and support for the LGBT community – from the beautiful, inclusive Doodle we created for the Sochi Olympics to the fact that we always seem to have the largest, most enthusiastic contingent at Pride Parades around the world. From San Francisco to London, I’ve marched and danced alongside Gayglers and their families, supportive execs, and some of the kindest, most thoughtful LGBT allies I’ve ever met. I hope that one day every company will follow in Google’s footsteps and create an environment where diversity is valued and every employee can bring their whole self to work.
Endless thanks to YouTube and PeopleOps for making it possible for me to pursue this dream. I’m so grateful for the support and I couldn’t be more excited!