As far as Hollywood has come telling LGBTQ stories, there's still a long way to go -- and many creators in the community are counting on YouTube and other digital platforms to point the way.
Pushing for diversity in a tense political climate was the driving theme of OUT Web Fest 2017's premiere on May 12, where digital stars Tyler Oakley, Gigi Gorgeous and Ari Fitz were recognized for how they've used YouTube to create a deeper understanding of the LGBTQ community in ways that wouldn't have been possible just a decade ago.
"The number one thing I would hope for is YouTube realizes their power of empowering, and the people that are out there realize that it's not always the people with millions of subscribers that are making an impact," Oakley told TooFab on the YouTube Space LA red carpet. He was there to be presented with the Vanguard Award for raising LGBTQ visibility and acceptance.
This comes a time when YouTube is shifting focus to its more famous stars, trying to be more advertiser-friendly and taking on mainstream television with a new streaming service called YouTube TV.
Oakley said he hoped people realized the power of smaller creators in the LGBTQ community. "Often it's the people that have an engaged audience, who feels a connection, and that can be a subscriber base of 100 people, 1,000 people. It's not all about the big numbers, it's about those connections."
The web festival featured a screening of "This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous," a Sundance film about the trans YouTube star created by Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple.
Gigi told TooFab that her father's prominent role in the film, which is now available on YouTube Red, could help parents of LGBTQ youth who may not understand what their children are experiencing.
"My father is an icon because he literally listened, and he took into account everything that I was going through, because he loved me," she said. "At the end of the day, love trumps hate and love will conquer all."
Androgynous model, YouTuber and "Real World" alum Ari Fitz had a similar goal for her first filmmaking project "My Mama Wears Timbs," currently raising funds on Kickstarter.
"I'm doing a documentary about a pregnant butch woman, and how pregancy and masculinity can co-exist, and how you can wear menswear and also be very, very pregnant," she said. "It's so dear to my heart, it's really cool to be able to do that project -- and I met her through YouTube. It's cool how the two spaces can come together."
"Transparent" star Trace Lysette told TooFab that while digital platforms like Amazon and Netflix have made big strides with LGBTQ representation, there was still a lot of room to grow.
"We've seen the intro, and things that are becoming a little cliche," she said. "I know to the trans community, we want to get further than 'Hi, I'm trans.' We are full people, and while we are trans it's not all of what we are, and sometimes I feel that we get reduced to that. So I think the next step is to get past the sensational aspect of it, and get into the nuance and all the beautiful colors that exist in between transition and everything else."
OUT Web Fest was sponsored by REVRY, an exclusively LGBTQ streaming service that is "all about community and inclusivity," said CEO Damian Pelliccione.
"In today's world, especially with everything that's going on politically, it's super important to be telling authentic stories that really represent who we are as a community."