Being Queer on Twitch

“What does your sexuality have to do with your content?”

I have been asked that question, one way or another, so many times. Sometimes, the person doesn’t really mean any harm and is just curious. In fact, I once had a fellow bisexual person ask me why me being bi on Twitch was so important to me. Other times, the fact that I’m loud about my sexuality makes people really angry. I shouldn’t talk about it. No one cares. And many more absolutely nonsensical ways of saying, “I’m mad that your sexuality might draw in an audience and help you build a community of like-minded individuals, meanwhile I have absolutely no redeeming qualities and also have the personality of a piece of lint.”

For any of you who somehow don’t know, hi! I’m bisexual. I’ve known I was bi since I was a teenager, at least. As a child, I would become obsessed with girls on TV. At the time, I just thought I really wanted to be their friend, but I realise now probably fancied them. I came to accept that I was bi sometime in my early teens. I’ve never hidden it. My parents didn’t find out until much later, but my friends knew. When I started streaming, initially I just sometimes talked about people I found attractive. Most of them were women. I never explicitly talked about my sexuality, but I don’t think it was really surprising. Over time, I became a little louder as my confidence grew and I felt more comfortable with our community. And then, I became louder. And louder.

You see, when I was a teenager, I was in a relationship with a boy. I eventually told him I was bi, and he didn’t take it well, at all. He somehow managed to make it feel like something I should be ashamed of, and something that he should be allowed to enjoy secretly, at the same time. He didn’t want me to tell anyone. So I made myself small.

I’m done making myself small now. In early 2020, I joined a stream team on Twitch called Rainbow Arcade. In fact, they invited me the day before my birthday. I was so thrilled. I knew a few people on the team, and as soon as I saw them talking about it I thought, “That’s it. That’s where I belong.” Thankfully, the team agreed. I can honestly say, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done for my streaming journey. Through Rainbow Arcade, I met more people like me, and I felt a sense of belonging I haven’t felt…well, ever. I made some incredible friends. I noticed my channel started to grow a lot more, and in a way that felt far more natural and sustainable than before.

Now, I know that some of that is due to the global pandemic, and more people working from home. Some of it is due to my own work, I know that too, as hard as it may be for me to accept sometimes. But I genuinely believe that joining Rainbow Arcade kickstarted some of that growth, and not in the way I think most people expect growth will come with a team. While yes, I thinkĀ  new people discovered me, both on and off the team due to community crossover or just feeling like they trusted members of the team to provide a safe place. The big reason, though, is that it gave me the confidence and comfort boost to feel like I could truly be myself. I was accepted in the team, so why not be accepted everywhere else too?

I started being louder about my sexuality. It did become a big part of my content. Not only did I talk more openly about my sexuality, but we started having discussions about difficult topics. We talked about homophobia, biphobia, transphobia. We talked about abuse and harassment. I found the ability to be more vocal about issues that affected me and our community we’ve built.

The thing is, my sexuality is a part of my content. Why? Because it’s a huge part of my life and who I am. It affects literally everything I do.

I was at a wedding recently, and I met a girl and we chatted about true crime and spooky stuff and I had a great time, and the entire time I wasn’t enjoying myself as much as I should. I was worried that other people who saw us talking, who knew I’m bisexual, might think I was flirting with her. What if she knew I was bi and thought that too? How do I make friends, and make sure they don’t think I’m only talking to them because I fancy them? That wouldn’t even be so scary, but I’m in a monogamous relationship, and I don’t want people thinking I cheat on my partner, because that is frankly a huge stigma that bisexual people face. It puts me off even attempting to make friends sometimes.

When I go to the shops and realise I’m still wearing my pride shirt from streaming, I don’t always feel safe. I almost fall back into making myself small again.

The community we’ve built together, and the space we’ve carved out, does make me feel safe. And I hope it makes a heck of a lot of other people feel safe too. So yes, my sexuality is important. It does matter. While Twitch may not be doing much to protect its marginalised content creators right now, it’s important to me that we as a community continue to do so, in whatever ways we can.

What does my sexuality have to do with my content? Absolutely everything, and if you don’t like that, we’ll gladly show you the exit.

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