Illustration by Paige Gaskins
Time alone makes you ponder. For some, especially those extroverts longing to get out of their heads and into the world, this can be a maddening experience. For others, the time away from the hustle and bustle of the day-to-day meant an awakening of self. This awakening did not happen overnight per-say, but a community of people ready and willing to listen does not hurt.
In March of 2020, when students were sent home from schools, parents were sent home from work and the world seemed to stop for however long it did (time is merely a social construct am I right?), a community emerged from the well of internet pop-culture: TikTok. The app was already climbing in popularity over the last few years, but with all the extra quarantine time on our hands, TikTok exploded with dancing, challenges, heartfelt messages, therapy sessions and even some identity crises. But while we were making it through the year, the people who spent their time self-reflecting taught us that growth is only a state of mind.
With the support of an online community, nonbinary activist Noah Scout @noah_scout has been able to raise money for binders, helping transgender people feel more at home in their bodies. They also shared tips with other nonbinary people, covering topics such as coming out, considering transitioning treatments like hormone therapies, surgery options and styling gender-affirming clothing.
Ash Morgan, @ashmorganmusic, an ex-mormon singer and songwriter from Utah, teaches about lesbian culture, the differences between relationships with men and women, dating advice for queer women and how to cope with trauma. In Morgan’s case, her trauma partially stems from escaping the toxic religiosity she experienced as a Mormon.
The dynamic trio Anna Grace @ag.mcdaniel, Avery Cyrus @averycyrus and Soph Mosca @sophmosca keep things lighthearted and fun with dancing, food challenges and reviews, LGBTQ+ fashion, and even some … interesting … skateboards.
Couple Chris Olsen and Ian Paget, @olsenchris and @ianpaget_, share their zany pranks, self-love and meditation expertise and carefully choreographed dances. Their videos inspire self-honesty, taking notice of emotions rather than ignoring them and encouraging us in the pursuit of loving one another despite society’s current prejudices getting in the way.
Some TikTok creators, like Matt enfield and Omar Ahmed @matt_and_omar, a couple from Toronto, became more comfortable in their own skin, using gender bending fashions and fabulous yet educational rants to share positivity, dog content, plant collections and immaculate vibes with the world.
Within the LGBTQ community, some Tik Toks shared the unspoken histories of the group. While no one could attend Pride in June, viewers could still learn about and celebrate the reasons to be proud. One of the accounts that did this best was Josh Helfgott, @joshhelfgott. Helfgott shares the “gay news of the day” almost every day along with LGBTQ history and heartfelt stories about his personal journey as a member of the community.
Rob Anderson, @heartthrobert, uses a mix of comedy, history and satire to share funny, but mostly true, anecdotes about the LGBTQ community. His more comedic skits often evoke a laugh or two, but also help us see the truth beyond the camp and start important conversations about what it really means to be part of the LGBTQ+ community. One of my favorite videos from Anderson’s account chronicles the phenomenon of The Lesbian Game Night which is not entirely untrue based on personal experience with Lesbians and a friendly (or not so friendly) competition.
If you are into people who look like the embodiment of fairies, then you will love Rachel Fay’s account, @faythegay. Her content originally gained popularity when she masqueraded as Miss Frizzle in a quest to educate her fellow tik tok users on topics like transphobia, gender expression, and . Since then, her account has evolved into other wholesome and highly aesthetic outfits, frog-tok skits, and obscure jewelry making that naturally pairs nicely with her various Miss Frizzle outfits. Some of the most iconic looks included a space theme, an under sea theme, a cat theme and even a Van Gogh starry night theme.
Through an app like Tiktok, increased access to information that is accessible to a larger population of people can mean extending crucial conversations and education. However, it also means that people who open up about their experiences may be more vulnerable to the human capacity to hate. However, LGBTQ tiktokers like Rob Anderson and Rachel Fay have consistently spoken out against hate commenters in an attempt to support themselves and the community.
These Tik Toks and their creators have helped inspire and renew something in the community: a feeling of belonging, of community, and of being seen in a time when we are forced apart. The value of representation in media (in this case social media) means a great deal to marginalized communities, and not just within the LGBTQ+ community, but this is especially true for gender-nonconforming media portrayals.
Since transgender and gender-nonconforming identities have been viewable on screen, there has been violent backlash toward trans people while they’re expressing earnestness in their identity. Actress and activist Laverne Cox made a statement in the 2020 Netflix documentary Disclosure that “According to a study from GLAAD, 80 percent of Americans don’t actually personally know someone who is transgender. So most of the information that Americans get about who transgender people are, what our lives are and are about comes from the media.”
This warped representation of transgender people is especially difficult for young trans people who may not know how to define trans existence yet and look to the media to help them do so. The negative portrayals of trans people, especially trans women, also lead to violence being normalized or even accepted because rather than learning how to change the trained perspective of anger and misunderstanding, many people perceive an inherent threat and may feel hoodwinked by the lack of “disclosure” from transgender people.
In a broader sense, the need for all facets of representation in the LGBTQ+ community and beyond is much needed in order to give all people access to the education they need on social cues relating to gender, skin color, sexuality, religious affiliation, nationality and also just basic human existence. This range of education on LGBTQ specific topics can be seen in multitudes of areas. Between respectful pronoun usage, learning about queer theory, or simply seeing how to interact with someone who is not like you, Tiktok can be an environment that is accepting of that willingness to grow.
So the next time you are looking for validation, understanding, education, art, fashion, news or just a good laugh, head to TikTok and follow some of these amazing people. I am willing to bet you will find something new to learn, something to inspire you and something to help you find your place, no matter who or what you love.
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Hi, I’m Sara Crawford, a senior journalism student from Cleveland. I’m also the editor in chief of The Burr and the opinions editor for KentWired this semester. My staff and I are committed to bringing you interesting, humorous and hard-hitting stories that tap into current events, trends and the lives of those who have made a home in Kent, Ohio. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate.
Brie Camp is a junior journalism major who hails from an inconsequential little town in Pennsylvania known only for their local liberal arts college and the overwhelming amount of pizza joints. Brianna is a transfer student and recently switched majors from English to journalism but has always held a passion for words and their many sneaky ways of stringing together to create meaningful stories. This is their first semester at The Burr, and they are excited to get started on writing about anything and everything. In their spare time, Brianna enjoys cooking, spending time with their girlfriend and their dogs Samson and Buddy, caring for their plants, and watching great movies. You can usually catch Brie on campus working at the Student Center or grabbing a coffee to keep them and their laptop company. You can contact Brie via email at email@example.com or you can follow them on Instagram @_b_a_n_a_n_a_g_r_a_m_s.