The Impact JoJo Siwa made for the LGBTQ+ Community
If you, or anyone you know is trying to come out or needs help, call 1-866-488-7386, or go to The Trevor Project for support.
A Letter to the (Still) Homophobic People in Your Life
Dear friend, family member, citizen,
We know that LGBTQ youth are more prone to higher rates of depression, anxiety, homelessness, poverty, and suicide. As the conversation of “coming out” shifts into a more joyful experience however, many young LGBTQ people have inspiration coming to them in their own community. It is our job to create a safe space for exploration and enthusiasm to happen.
A little less than a month ago, the LGBTQ community gained a new member, resulting in history being made and millions of young children looking up to a celebrity that is just like them.
I’m talking of course about a cryptic, but telling, TikTok video posted on January 20, 2021 by JoJo Siwa of her lip syncing to Lady Gaga’s queer anthem “Born This Way.”
JoJo — an influencer, pop star, published author, and dancer — quickly became the youngest celebrity to come out, and has, in turn, already shown representation for so many other LGBTQ youth to feel seen and understood.
While Siwa’s coming out has positively influenced LGBTQ youth around the country, it’s also worth noting the risk she went through in order to come out. As @bridgetsrose on Twitter notes, “jojo siwa coming out at what could be considered the peak of her career when her audience is mostly kids is such a power move and i respect her so much for that.” As the youngest ever celebrity to come out, she had much to lose - sponsorships, fans, merch, views - but chose to live openly, boisterously, her full self.
Fans were quick to flood Siwa with support, as @sisterariola went to Twitter to post “JoJo siwa coming out is so important.. her audience is younger and kids being able to look up to someone [that’s] NOT straight could help them discover themselves and hopefully make future generations even more open-minded.”
* Image description: A pinned tweet on JoJo Siwa’s twitter account, with a photo of Siwa, pulling on her black shirt that has “BEST. GAY. COUSIN. EVER.” written in blue block letters. She’s looking down at it, smiling. It’s captioned, “My cousin got me a new shirt”*
At 17 years old, Siwa is the youngest celebrity to come out as LGBTQ, and the generational difference is obvious. As compared to millennial celebrities, this iconic “gen z-er’s” coming out has a very different tone than other celebrities’, namely, Elliot Page coming out as trans most recently on December 1, 2020.
Conversely, when Elliot Page came out, the difference was startling. He posted a long note on Instagram speaking about his experience, but also speaking about the fear that comes with coming out in modern day America.
While Elliot’s coming out experience was beautiful and his own — compared to JoJo’s coming out experience — the difference is staggering. Elliot very clearly states “my joy is real, but it is also fragile. The truth is, despite feeling profoundly happy right now and knowing how much privilege I carry, I am also scared.” When Siwa was going live on her Instagram however, the tune was very different.
“I think coming out has this stigma around it, that it’s a really, really, really scary thing. It’s not anymore. There’s so many accepting and loving people out there. Of course people are gonna say it’s not normal, but it’s your normal.”
While the experience of coming out can be riddled with trauma, Siwa has a point - the joys in coming out are far surpassing the fears of its effects in many young people.
Jill Gutowitz, author of “Canon” to be released shortly - a book examining the impact of queer women in pop culture - sums it up nicely when she says “why would she, with the platform and power she has, want to hide a huge part of herself just to make a few hateful people comfortable, when her message is to be loudly, proudly yourself. It doesn’t make sense for her, and she doesn’t have to do it. And that’s a powerful message” (Andrew).
As people riddled Siwa’s social media with hateful comments, the generational differences became even more clear. While previously, celebrities would often come out via Instagram post and stay out of their comments sections, Siwa had a very clear message for people who chose hate.
This “shoo, shoo” energy that Siwa puts down with her casual “Okay!” to hateful comments in her Instagram is not one that has been seen before by celebrities. Previously, we’d hear of celebrities’ coming out alongside the number of followers they lost, or what people are saying about it. Siwa’s experience was different, however. She is choosing to not let them hold any weight in this conversation.
As LGBTQ culture begins to become more normalized among young celebrities, and coming out is considered a less controversial subject, it’s far past time for homophobia to no longer be a part of the conversation. Let’s let JoJo’s coming out experience inspire us to be better parents, friends, citizens, and thinkers.
As @sapphicbisexual posts on Twitter, “if you don’t think JoJo siwa coming out as gay is a big deal; just remember that there are lgbt kids that watch her videos that may have felt so alone with their identity and seeing the person they look up to coming out makes them feel safer and more comfortable with themselves” (Bate).
So while we celebrate JoJo Siwa’s art, music, dance, and unbridled enthusiasm; let’s also celebrate her rainbow, her love, and her heart. As the iconic influencer said, “right now what matters is that you guys know that no matter who you love, that it’s okay. And that it’s awesome. And that the world is there for you.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.