- The number of transgender YouTubers on the platform is growing all the time.
- Among daily vlogs about their lives they also educate their viewers on trans rights, transitioning, and their personal journeys.
- Insider spoke to two YouTuber couples and two solo creators about why they share so much with their audiences and what they hope people take away from their videos.
- All trans creators have different approaches, but one clear message is spread by them all — you don't have to fit any narrative to be transgender, and everyone is so much more than their gender identity.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Jamie Raines and Shaaba Lotun met at school when they were 16 years old, as Shaaba puts it, "before Jamie was Jamie." When Jamie started medically transitioning to male, what started out as best friendship turned into love.
Jamie initially started a YouTube channel to document his transition, filming how testosterone changed his body and what surgeries he was going to have.
It's now turned into a more educational channel Shaaba often appears on, where they answer questions about their relationship, react to trans memes, and fight prejudice with humor when they read out hate comments. The channel, Jammidodger, now has 386,000 subscribers.
Fighting ignorance helps fight hate too
The hope is that people take away a feeling that things can get better if they are struggling with their own gender identity, Jamie told Insider. He also wants people who aren't clued up on trans issues to grow a desire to understand, as that's where he believes a lot of the prejudice comes from — ignorance and no intention of changing.
"I think as soon as people kind of flip that switch, they're like, actually, everybody is just human, and it wouldn't hurt me to just want to learn about other experiences," he said. "So I think if people leave having listened to what's been said and kind of process it in their own way and have a little bit more understanding, that would be amazing."
There are more transgender YouTubers on the platform by the day, sharing their lives with their subscribers while fitting in educational videos about trans rights, the realities of medical and surgical transitions, and their own deeply personal journeys.
"I always think to myself, whenever I put anything out, 'Would I want to see this?'" Finlay Games, a YouTuber, speaker, and writer, told Insider. "And if the answer is absolutely yes, then even if I cringe, I upload it. I just want to share as much as I possibly can because I don't want people to go through what I went through."
Jamie and Shaaba's story: 'There are so many more dimensions to someone than the gender identity'
Jamie and Shaaba, both now 26 and from Essex, dated in secret until their parents found out about three months in. While Jamie's family has always been supportive, Shaaba's parents initially really struggled with the idea of her dating a transgender boy.
"I was sort of given an ultimatum, either family or Jamie," Shaaba told Insider. "I ended up making a decision and they sort of kicked me out. We didn't really speak for five years, but it meant that Jamie and I grew a lot closer together and we learned a lot about each other."
Shaaba moved into Jamie's parents' house and their relationship was kicked into hyper-drive. About a year in, they already knew they wanted to be together forever.
Then, two years ago, they were approached by UK broadcaster Channel 4 for a program called "Bride and Prejudice," which followed couples who were having trouble getting their families to accept their relationships.
"It wasn't great at the time," said Jamie, looking back. "But we were able to have conversations we wouldn't have otherwise had. And since that point, things have really improved with Shaaba's family accepting our relationship."
Shaaba's mom has now done "a complete 180" and is helping to plan their wedding that is taking place this September. Jamie thinks one factor in helping Shaaba's family accept him was how different he looked when they finally saw him again.
"They were surprised that I had a deep voice and a beard and, it sounds weird, but I think it impressed them," he said. "Like it made them feel more comfortable with the whole thing."
Jamie posted his first YouTube video eight years ago, from the week he started taking testosterone. He couldn't find many transgender YouTubers from the UK, so wanted to add his voice for anyone who might be going through the same thing. He knows he would have appreciated a channel like his when he was growing up because he only found out what the word "transgender" meant when he happened to watch a documentary when he was a teenager.
"I think there's something that's echoed by the whole trans community, and the whole LGBTQ community in general," he said. "People in their twenties and older wish that they'd had things like YouTube and social media when they were kids because it just wasn't talked about."
If they help one person, their job is done
Shaaba started appearing in the videos after a while and they decided to grow the educational side of their content a bit more.
"We shared the broader experiences to help people like my family for example, who may not have been accepting, but who might find some sort of solace or help in knowing that they weren't alone in going through what they were going through," Shaaba said.
"When I started being a bit more front-facing on Jamie's channel and we started talking a bit more openly about the relationship struggles that we faced, it was crazy. I completely underestimated the amount of people who were going through a similar thing every day."
Some of the best comments Jamie and Shaaba get from viewers are from those who were apprehensive, worried, or angry when a loved one came out, and have realized what it really means to be trans through their videos.
"We've always said that if sharing our story can just help one person feel like they're not alone or one person be more accepting of their own family members, then our job's done," Shaaba said. "I know that sounds so cliché, but it's true."
Jamie recently received his gender recognition certificate in the post which the couple filmed for their channel in a video called "This Marks The End of My Transition." He still struggles with being vulnerable on camera, he said, and was quite uncomfortable about posting something so intimate.
"It's still really scary," he said. "But I wanted to share it because when I first tried to apply for a gender recognition certificate, I didn't even know really what it was or how to go about it or that something like that existed and what it meant."
With conversations about trans issues being so heavily politicized, he wanted to show how it can be stripped back into how simply being known as the correct gender can change someone's life.
"It shows just how much it means on a human level," he said. "It's not just about people going into toilets and everything, it's actual humans, and it makes a real difference to real lives."
Jamie unexpectedly started to cry when he saw the piece of paper that confirmed he is now legally recognized as male, which Shaaba said: "encapsulates my absolute favorite essence of being on the platform and vlogging."
"You have no idea how you're going to react," she said. "So it's actually really fun to be able to almost document that journey for yourself. Like Jamie had no idea that it would mean so much."
Being vulnerable online of course has its downsides too. As subscriber numbers grow, so does the possibility of attracting the wrong kind of attention. Jamie tries to combat the inevitable hate comments and trolling by laughing at it most of the time. He films videos reading out his most ridiculous comments, or looking at the weirdest transphobic memes and videos on the internet.
"I think humor is always a really good way to combat stuff that can be a bit upsetting or too serious sometimes," he said. "I don't see it as a personal attack. It's funny. I just think it is a really angry person who often can't spell very well just having a rant on the internet."
It's also a challenge to put up boundaries. For example, you wouldn't go up to a stranger on the street and ask them how they have sex with their partner.
"There's a huge difference between like curiosity and increasing understanding, and I do draw a line," Jamie said. "I will talk about stuff that increases understanding but I will not talk about things that just fulfil curiosity."
'There are so many more dimensions to someone than their gender identity'
Jamie said some fans occasionally get angry with him when he doesn't open up the entirety of his private life to them. But he and Shaaba both stress that even if they were completely honest about everything, it wouldn't necessarily reveal anything about the transgender existence at all.
"Just because you know a bit about Jamie's story, doesn't mean that you actually understand trans people overall, because of how individual the journey is," Shaaba said.
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out all the ways that it could be done, but us revealing to you how we have sex isn't going to help you understand how trans people, in general, go about it."
A big misconception of being trans is that it's all-consuming. Jamie discusses trans issues a lot, but he also does plenty of videos that have nothing to do with the LGBTQ community — he talks about being in an interracial relationship, lets Shaaba cut his hair, and does try-on hauls.
"People think that being trans is the only thing you ever talk about, like it consumes you all day every day," Shaaba said. "But that's so not the case. I know it sounds silly, but sometimes I'll forget that Jamie's trans. He'll mention something and I'll be like, 'Oh yeah.'
"There are so many more dimensions to someone than their gender identity."
Charlie and Lauren's story: 'I thought I could have a laugh with him, and we've been laughing ever since'
Scottish couple Charlie and Lauren had a very modern "social media love story." They've been together just over a year, and only because Lauren, 21, decided to direct message Charlie, 22, on Twitter one night after she'd had a few drinks.
"I don't know why because he wasn't really my usual type," Lauren told Insider. "It was the jawline I think. And then he was just so funny, I thought I could have a laugh with him. And we've been laughing ever since."
Charlie responded because he and Lauren had been liking each other's tweets flirtatiously for a while, and he was "just quite a cheeky chappy at that point."
"She messaged something quite explicit and intriguing, and I was like, alright then, let's see what she's all about," he told Insider. "I thought she was out of my league, so that's why I thought she was just drunk messaging me and wouldn't respond in the morning. "
There are no stupid questions
Charlie and Lauren started their YouTube channel Trans Life & Wife about four months ago, after many requests from their social media fans, and have grown a following of 55,000 in that short time. They're also up for a Cosmopolitan Influencer of the Year award.
When asked to describe their channel, Lauren said: "it's informatively funny."
"We talk about subjects that a lot of people might be a little bit scared to talk about or might be a little bit hesitant to talk about," she said. "And we're also answering all the questions that people are too scared to ask but we're doing it in an informative, funny, safe environment."
The couple thinks their explosion on YouTube is a result of how genuine they are. They don't edit out "Lauren picking her nose" or pretend to have a picture-perfect life. Charlie said he is also not easily offended, so his audience can pretty much ask him anything about his transition, body, and sex life.
"I'm not triggered by anything, so people can ask direct questions about private parts, what happens in bed, and I'll just answer it," he said. "I don't dance around it. People like that."
Some of the most common questions the couple get from viewers are "Is Lauren a lesbian?" (she isn't) and "Will Charlie get bottom surgery?" and "Do you use dildos?"
"I'm being honest, these are the main ones we get," Charlie said. "They don't want to know what your favourite color is … A lot of it is about parts and how our parts fit together."
'I think we just bring a bit of fun and lightness to it'
Like Jamie, Charlie has this open attitude because he knows he would have wanted a channel like his when he was questioning his own gender identity. Watching trans YouTubers when he was younger use terms he didn't yet understand made it harder for him to access the information.
"They talked in such a trans slang, they used all these words I didn't understand, all these acronyms that made no sense," he said. "Like you can say 'T,' but you need to explain testosterone, or people can say 'top surgery,' but what actually is that? It felt like you had to be part of a club to know what they were talking about."
He said he hopes people see him as a kind of transgender "Guide for Dummies," who explain things in a black and white way with some added humor.
"I think we just bring a bit of fun and lightness to it," he said. "Because I'd always been so scared of coming out because of how negative everybody made out the response was."
For the most part, Charlie has received relatively little negativity in his real life, he said. His online life is another matter.
Charlie's top surgery was paid for by a GoFundMe campaign where he asked his followers to send him just £1. He managed to raise £6,000 for the procedure in just four days. While this showed just how much his fans cared for him, it also got the attention of hateful trolls.
"We'll fight hatred or transphobic comments with sarcasm because it completely takes their power away," said Charlie.
"I don't come in offended. I understand it can hurt you but you can only really beat them if you don't let them get to you."
Lauren said they have pretty much blocked everyone that might leave a hate comment by now anyway. And even if they do get the occasional one, they would rather delete it than give the troll the attention they desperately crave.
The couple like to tackle some of the biggest misconceptions about transgender people. Charlie, for instance, wore dresses, makeup, and hair extensions when he was younger, which he said made him feel like he was playing a role.
"Other YouTubers said they'd felt like this since they were this young, they'd had short hair their whole life, and I thought, 'Well, that can't be me,'" he said "But it can be you. I just want people to know you don't have to fit a narrative to be trans."
Ruby Rose's story: 'A YouTuber who every now and then puts my transition in the forefront'
Ruby Rose Price has been on YouTube for a long time. She'd been watching videos since the platform's genesis when she was 10 years old, then set up her own channel in 2008 as a place where she could be creative.
Starting a second channel coincided with when Ruby started to question her gender identity.
"I'm glad that I did start up a new channel before deciding to transition openly," she told Insider. "There was only about a year and a half between setting up this one and actually coming out online. I'm just sort of glad that I was able to separate, if you want to put it that way, the two identities of my life."
Among some daily vlogs, music reviews, and other creative projects, Ruby said she also tries to educate people on the lesser-known aspects of being trans. She vlogged her gender reassignment surgery, filmed post-op updates, and explained voice therapy. One of her most popular videos discussed male to female dilation.
"I had so many people messaging me, saying 'I didn't even know that this was a thing that trans people have to do,'" she said. "And that's my most viewed video, so clearly it was important for people to learn about."
'I do hope that people actually learn something'
She hopes her viewers gain a sense of what transgender people have had to go through in order to get to where they are now, she said.
"I do hope that people actually learn something," she said. "Even if they take away just one tiny bit of new knowledge, like the time frame or something that I mentioned in a video. I hope that people understand how big those usually are or how slow certain processes can be."
Ruby only has around 2,000 subscribers so far, but viewers often message her for advice when they are going through their own transition. She finds it empowering that she's now the kind of person she might have needed when she was growing up.
However, even the most vocal LGBTQ activists can burn out if they discuss their personal stories all the time, especially as there is still so much hate waiting for them online. That's why it's also important to Ruby not to focus on trans topics all the time.
"It's not out of place for me to make a sitting down and chatting about music video or actually throw out an instrumental cover or whatever," she said. "That's one of the things that I've always tried to be, just a YouTuber who every now and then puts my transition in the forefront."
As for the comments, Ruby said there are three types she normally gets: supportive ones, sexually objectifying ones, and then the inevitable prejudice from transphobes questioning her existence. There is no point in engaging with it directly, she said, because her life shouldn't be up for debate in the first place.
"I became very good at laughing at it in a sense," Ruby said. "I got into the habit of whenever I got a comment along those lines, I would screenshot it, post it to social media and just put some sort of witty response, and then just delete the comment."
It's now pretty rare Ruby actually has hate directed towards her in the comments, which she hopes is a reflection of her work educating and "making people aware that trans people exist and are here to stay. "
"I've had people thanking me for making videos, saying 'I really needed to hear this,'" she said. "Or just thanking me for sharing the journey, stuff like that. Most recently, it's just an outpouring of positivity, which I can't complain about really."
Finlay's story: 'When people see that it saves lives, that's what changes minds and hearts'
Finlay tells his story through his YouTube channel FinnTheInfinncible with a different perspective he thinks is desperately needed online.
"We need more older people in the media, which is why I don't ever shut up," he said.
Finlay had just gotten sober and stumbled across trans issues on YouTube for the first time when he was 37. He didn't think he could possibly be transgender because everyone else who was coming out was so much younger than him.
"I came to realize that actually that's not the case," he told Insider. "There are many ways to be transgender; there's many ways to find this out. And that's why I started sharing my story."
He started his channel, which now has 13,000 subscribers, to show there are a huge amount of narratives transgender people can follow. He also wants to show how it makes total sense some people only realize who they are later in life.
"When we were growing up, being trans wasn't around at all," he said. "We've lived all of our lives really confused, no idea what's going on, and now all of a sudden this knowledge is out there and we're all going, 'Yes, that's it.'"
Although Finlay's channel began with documenting his transition, he now thinks of it as motivation for anyone to overcome challenges and rewrite their story.
"I lived until 37 years of age with huge mental health problems, an identity crisis, and I was told all my life I was never going to amount to anything because of the state I was in," he said. "I got clean and sober, found out I was trans, and it was scary as hell to come out, but I did and I changed my life."
He steers clear of what he calls the "political issues," partly because he thinks plenty of younger people are approaching trans rights, but also because he thinks "the best way to change minds is just to be you."
"I think that is a much better way of activism," he said, "Showing the struggles we face as trans people are just the same as any other humans: We want to be happy, we want to feel comfortable, we want to be successful."
Transitioning is not cosmetic, it's life-saving
Finlay's partner Chris, for instance, didn't believe transgender people should have their medical and surgical transitions paid for by the NHS before they met. Now, through understanding Finlay's story of mental health, self-harm, and drinking, he knows transitioning saves lives.
"When people see that it saves lives, that's what changes minds and hearts," Finlay said. "Just seeing people getting on with their life and realizing that all the stuff they've been told about trans people isn't true at all. We're just like everyone else we just had a different start in life, and that's it."
A common question Finlay encounters time and time again is how he can be both gay and transgender. A lot of people still get gender and sexuality mixed up, he said, and think, "If you're going to be gay, why didn't you just stay a woman?"
"People don't realize what they are actually saying when they say these things," Finlay said. "You get a lot of misinformation like that, and unfortunately there's a lot of hate that comes with a YouTube channel."
Finlay removes the incredibly hateful and offensive comments, but leaves some of them up because it shows what trans people are up against.
"When it comes out to people being gay or being trans there is still a lot of stigma out there," he said. "So to me, leaving those comments, the ones that are really painful, shows what we actually face."
'I'm not as alone as when I came out'
Finlay does believe things have changed enormously for trans people since he came out, and he hopes his new book that documents his lower surgery will help people push acceptance even further.
"You can find yourself so much easier than you could a few years ago," he said. "I couldn't see myself anywhere a few years ago. Now when I go on YouTube and there are quite a few people my age and upwards and it's really nice because I'm not as alone as I felt a few years ago when I came out."
Overall, Finlay just hopes people see him as authentic. His aim in sharing his story isn't for views but to help other people through whatever tough day, week, or year they are having.
"You can overcome the most difficult and hugest mountain and there is a beautiful horizon ahead," he said.
The future is bright for trans YouTubers
Jamie and Shaaba never expected the YouTube channel to become sustainable enough to be their jobs, but they're grateful it's worked out that way. They want to collaborate more in the future and show more of their own lives, like getting married and having children however they choose to, to "share wider messages of acceptance," Shaaba said.
"Just showing you can be successful and trans, you can hopefully at some point have a family, and being trans doesn't have to stop you from living what other people would consider a normal and happy life," she said.
"Hopefully if we can achieve the goals that we want to achieve and document that process along the way, it will help reassure people that being trans is just another way of being."
Jamie said this will be for the benefit of people who aren't in the LGBTQ community as well, fighting the misconception that trans people are a "weird otherness of a person" to be probed and interrogated at every turn.
One thing is for sure: Whatever twists and turns those are, Jamie and Shaaba will be at each other's side.
"I certainly felt when I was younger that I was never going to be able to put up with somebody and live with somebody for the rest of my life," Jamie said. "We've both said that each other is the only person we can put up with for a long amount of time and still have stuff to talk about and still enjoy being around each other."
Charlie and Lauren will also be having fun regardless of what they come up against.
"We just work together really well," Lauren said. "We definitely compliment each other. And I feel like we've had to deal with a lot for only being together a year. I feel like we've done everything that we would need to do to work as a couple."
Their goal is to do some collaborations with other YouTubers soon, hopefully adding a transgender woman's voice to their videos to spread more awareness.
"I don't want to talk about it," Charlie said. "Just because I'm transgender, doesn't mean I'm an expert in how the other way works. I know about it, but I'd want a trans woman to explain it."
Ruby just wants to get the momentum of her channel back, posting consistently, even if it's her "talking mostly gibberish" for a few minutes.
Finlay, meanwhile, will continue to spread the message that there is no need for anyone to suffer through denying who they are. He said he sometimes finds it difficult being an older trans guy and looking back at the years he lost being scared and confused. But he wants people to know he is happy now and they can be too.
"I wish so much I'd had my boyhood and I feel sometimes I've transitioned straight into a balding middle-aged man with grey hair," he said. "But the other side of that is I get to live the rest of my life as the person I was always supposed to be."
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