YouTube changes that. These small videos add color, motion, sound, and feeling to stories that once used to be static on a page or rendered in an over-dramatic TV movie. Now, the person going through the transition has control of the camera and what they want to include, what they want to take out, and how they want to show it. “If making videos changed me in any conscious way, I would absolutely say it has led me to live a genuine, honest life and to never fear speaking my truths,” Kergil says.
YouTube is a serial medium. There is no distinct beginning or ending—there is only the time between when the camera starts rolling, and when it stops. YouTube frees the often stagnant narrative structure of the autobiography and allows the transgender subject, and their audience, a better window into a world where people really live.
In a YouTube video that quickly made its way to UpWorthy.com, Kergil talks at length about his five-year transition. “This is me,” he says as a picture of himself as a young child with a broom flashes by, “sweeping away the gender binary.” He goes on to document his childhood as a “tomboy” who demanded to be called “Mike” and how he came to the difficult decision to transition. “I made an attempt to be happy [as a girl], even though I didn’t think something was right.” After meeting someone else who was transgender, Kergil realized he could “actually be how I feel.”
Now, after the many years it has taken to get this far, Kergil states that “Being out, being proud is what I wanted to do. I was already out there on YouTube. People would find it eventually and I really just wanted to own my present, my past, and my future.”
Other transgender vloggers have also added their contribution to this collective form that rewrites the standard autobiography. When starting testosterone, uppercaseCHASE1 took a photo of himself every day for a year to document his transition. Once completed, he linked all the photographs together, set it to music, and then uploaded it for others to watch. His video emphasizes the fact that gender transition doesn’t happen overnight. Kergil has also noted the allure of self portraits: “When I was on testosterone, I began taking a lot of selfies.” Much like vlogging, selfies give people control over their image.
Another common feature in these YouTube autobiographies is counting and marking dates. In many of his earlier videos, Kergil utters some form of the quotation, “This is my voice, [x] months/weeks/years on T.” His declarations are used to document the ways in which T (testosterone injections) have changed his vocal chords. This is something deeply personal (“my voice”), but the act of speaking to an audience also suggests that his change means nothing unless it is heard.
This is why YouTube and the small community of transgender people making, commenting, and forming this online community is so important. By having a YouTube community freely accessible to those with an internet connection and the willingness to look, it’s possible to begin to understand our coworkers, friends, neighbors, and even ourselves a little more. Kergil notes that at the end of his transition video, too: