How Troye Sivan Helped Me Find Solace During My Coming Out

My experience is like being closeted gay in high school was like a lot of LGBTQ+ stories being told today—without the whirlwind romance. The hopeless romantic in me wanted so badly to be loved.

Without the love of my life by my side, I turned to the internet for communication and spent a lot of time consuming queer content on the World Wide Web. I watched videos from creators like Tyler Oakley, Connor Franta, and King “Kingsley” Russell during what I like to call the “golden age of YouTubers.” Davey Wavey’s videos on sex and relationships helped me learn more about sexual health, and YouTubers like Kat Black and Lacey Green helped me learn about intersectionality in the queer community. It was a time when the most popular creators were really fun to watch, and their collaborations were often born out of true friendship.

Troy Sivan was the one I noticed the most, a thin, pale white boy with piercing blue eyes and a mop of curly brown hair. I seriously watched Sivan’s videos on YouTube and felt like he and other YouTubers were my friends.

I was introduced to Sivan when I was thinking about confessing to my parents. I didn’t know what to do or what to say. So I typed “Coming Out” into the YouTube search bar and I was shown hundreds of videos of young white boys confessing to their parents and getting immediate positive reactions.

I met Sivan by chance Video “Exit”, where he talked about how the word “gay” scared him. I felt connected to it because I felt the same way. I didn’t want to be gay. His video drew me in because he and I found solace on the internet during our offsite travels. That was enough to make me want to subscribe to his channel. IIt was only later that I realized that he helped me get through more than one important moment in my life..

When the star of Sivan began to rise, I set off. He released his official debut single “Happy Little Pill” during my freshman year of high school in 2014 and I’ve listened to it numerous times since its release. The bold yet subtle dream-pop aesthetic was exactly the type of music that I had never suspected. The explicitly gay lyrics were an added bonus.

In his song “Heaven” with Betty Who, he wonders, “Without losing a piece of myself, how do I get to heaven?” I was familiar with this issue because I grew up in a Catholic family. His honesty continued with songs like “10/10” where he describes not being the perfect partner for someone, and “Animal” where he talks about animal love for the right person.

His second studio album Bloom explored the sexual relationship between two men in a similar way to a flower. The “postcard” in which he describes the lack of effort he saw in a partner helped me get through a similar situation. I hung out with Wild and My My My and connected too much with Seventeen.

However, at some point, I realized that consuming so much content on the Internet was making me unhappy. At the time, Tumblr was everyone’s favorite platform, as it was easy to keep up with popular YouTube creators and talk about their work. But with that came more presentations of unrealistic body standards, an endless stream of chiseled abs and thighs. I knew that prolonged exposure to such media could do more harm than good, and it soon began to take its toll on me personally.

It was the year before my prom, and I decided I didn’t like the way I looked: tall, dark, and plump. It was definitely a symptom that as a teenager I was finally online, when I was bombarded with images of attractive white people, and I realized that I did not look like these photos.

Sivan performs during a concert at Gretchen on 11 November.  December 26, 2015 in Berlin.
Sivan performs during a concert at Gretchen on 11 November. December 26, 2015 in Berlin.

Frank Hensch via Getty Images

Then I decided that I could fix one of those things: being overweight. I began to go to the gym more often, began to eat better (but sometimes very little), became obsessed with fast weight loss. At some point, I decided to stop eating carbohydrates altogether, and the kilograms decreased significantly. When I was at my thinnest, my aunts complimented me saying that I looked great, that they could say that I had lost a lot of weight. I was in this paradoxical space of “looking your best” and feeling your worst. I wanted to hide, but a part of me also wanted to be seen.

I started to feel like I could be someone who posts selfies on Tumblr and gets hundreds of likes. Hell, maybe I could even be a YouTuber like these people I’ve been watching for years. They were so open about who they are; it seemed like they never had any problems to deal with. They were sent free stuff and invited to amazing events.

It wasn’t until I read Oakley’s book Booze that I realized it wasn’t all about glitz and glamour. Oakley speaks openly about the burnout experience, how the expectations of content creation were heaped on performances with performances and red carpet events. While it might all look amazing, it wasn’t always the best experience.

In a way, it prompted me to look inside myself and remember that these people who have seemingly perfect lives are dealing with their own shit, and if they can handle theirs, I have to deal with mine. The struggle with my identity is still going on: I’m more than comfortable being gay, but New York’s gay community isn’t always the most welcoming, and I sometimes run into these body image issues. I told myself that I would work. But enough about that – this is between me and my therapist.

There haven’t been many regulars in my life over the years, but Sivan has stayed by my side. He has been with me through graduations, heartbreaks, new jobs, losses, and now the pandemic. I listened to “Take Yourself Home” on repeat after it came out during the pandemic because it reminded me of dancing in a gay bar without any worries.

He and his music taught me a lot and I’m glad he found me when he did.