Jojo Siwa, a 17-year-old singer, dancer and YouTuber whose primary audience consists of children younger than her, recently came out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community through two social media platforms, TikTok and Twitter. Siwa’s TikTok featured her lip-syncing the lyrics to “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga, and the accompanying image was posted on Siwa’s Twitter account soon after. Siwa has recently been using her social media platforms to thank her supporters for accepting her.
In addition to the support of her followers, Siwa has also been known to have the admiration of her audience’s parents due to the emphasis she places on being an age-appropriate role model for her followers. When speaking about her young fan base in an interview with the Today Show, Siwa further proved she is looking out for them, explaining why she turned her Instagram comments off. She stated, “Those kids are so young, and people on Instagram comments use such bad language. I don’t want the five-year-olds on their mom’s phone looking at those.”
So why is it “monumental” that a 17-year-old girl came out? Siwa caters to an audience ranging from ages 4 to13. Think of the beloved, young gay icons you looked up to when you were that age. If you couldn’t immediately think of one, then you aren’t alone. Most of the celebrities college students grew up with came out after our formative youth. For instance, Raven Symone, the star of the early 2000s show “That’s So Raven,” revealed she was attracted to women after her time on Disney Channel. Symone explained she felt the need to uphold a certain image and was unsure if she could deal with the public scrutiny, which she felt would occur if she were to come out during her Disney days.
My intention is not to critique Symone and to uplift Siwa. Coming out can often put people in vulnerable positions, so it should be done if and when people feel safe, ready and comfortable with their identity. It is also important to remember that coming out does not determine someone’s worth in the community.
My intention is, however, to celebrate that throughout the years, society has cultivated an environment where a teenage icon in the public eye can feel safe enough to share part of her identity with us.
Jojo Siwa can now be the LGBTQ+ representation for kids that our generation did not have. She can bring in a new wave of reform for the next generation, as her identity alone can either validate her young LGBTQ+ fans who are confused about their identity or promote learning more about their community. With this new impact, Siwa can bring us one step closer to acceptance and allyship rather than hostility.
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