Soldier chronicles coming out under fire
Internet citizens might have come across AreYouSuprised’s channel in the last couple of days to check out a military cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” a video currently going viral at more than 200,000 views.
But AreYouSuprised is not about popular musical covers by military personal.
It’s a channel dedicated to documenting a young military man’s coming out process pre-Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’s official repeal.
AreYouSuprised began his channel on April 28 with a video titled “Coming out to everyone as a military man.” Filming from neck down -- his face is hidden in every video -- he tells his audience that he wants to “show the journey and share my struggles with you.”
“I'm a hundred percent closeted,” he says in a quiet voice under a mesh tent. “Nobody knows. But I am sure of this and I definitely want to come out.”
AreYouSuprised does reveal a few small details about his life throughout his videos: He’s stationed in the Middle East and his deployment ends in early fall. He recently turned 21. He has a girlfriend, hails from the Bible Belt; and he doesn’t think his parents would approve of his sexuality.
On average, each of AreYouSuprised 11 videos are about 3 minutes long, and are uploaded about twice a month. He says in his first video the coming-out process might take a whole year.
AreYouSuprised explains in a later video part of the reason his updates are so infrequent. He has a hard time finding a place where he can be alone.
Sometimes he films himself outside, near vehicles. Sometimes it’s in a poorly lit bunk. In one instance, the sound of the wind prevented clear audio, so AreYouSuprised added captions.
By his fifth video, when a fellow closeted military friend mentions people might find out who he is from his YouTube videos, AreYouSuprised says that “subconsciously, that’s the plan.”
AreYouSuprised spends his first couple of videos answering questions from YouTubers, but it isn’t until his seventh video, uploaded onto YouTube on June 5, that he talks about coming out to his “first straight person.”
That person just happens to be his “boss” -- and “AreYouSuprised” only told him after apologizing for getting “pissed off” after being called a “faggot” on a “bad day.”
At first, his “boss” didn’t take him seriously, joking “yeah yeah, I know you are.” AreYouSurprised reports. But when he pressed the matter, his “boss” understood and asked if he wanted him to talk to the other guys.
AreYouASuprised adds that despite seeing him every day, their relationship never turned awkward.
Coming out to his good friend wasn’t so natural. AreYouSuprised wants to tell him but keeps “chickening out.”
Then on July 7, AreYouSuprised finally reveals his sexuality to his friend during a vehicle ride together. He actually films the conversation. The audio is difficult to hear and the friend is out of the frame. But the moment is dramatic for viewers.
“I’m gay,” AreYouSuprised says.
“It’s all good,” his friend instantly replies. “I don’t give a shit about that stuff.”
The conversation then quickly devolves into jokes.
“You can look but you can’t touch,” his friend jokes. AreYouSuprised retorts: ”You’re a ginger, I’m good.”
The video is short but makes its mark.
AreYouSuprised says in a later video that the conversation went “wonderfully.”
The whole process has prompted some YouTube viewers to ask why he’s coming out on YouTube. “I know how supportive this audience can be” and “99 percent” of the feedback he’s gotten has been “encouraging,” AreYouSuprised tells his viewers in a video uploaded on May 4.
Looking at the comments AreYouSuprised has received, his statement rings true. YouTube commenters have a reputation for being nasty, but in AreYouSuprised’s case, the hatred has been minimal.
“This is SO inspirational. Seriously. I applaud you SO MUCH for doing this! Seriously, I will never forget this. I wish you the best on your journey to finally coming out. I know how difficult this is for you (not first hand but i'm in a military family) and I support you 1000%. I can't wait for all of this to be complete. I'll be with you (via internet) every step of the way! You have seriously inspired me. Thank you.” wrote PridePerfection.
In another comment, walluvjerico said: “It is HORRIBLE that this awesome dude cannot BE HIMSELF in an environment where he is RISKING HIS LIFE. Sorry for the CAPS, but it just infuriates me that he has to hide like this. We are here to support you!”
Other videos worth checking out include AreYouSuprised’s reaction to the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal briefing he had to attend, which he says “brought me down a little bit.”
At the briefing he was told if he served openly as a gay man he would have no health coverage or tax breaks, “because of the Defense of Marriage Act.” He adds that he was “a little offended” when a fellow military member asked what the point of the repeal was.
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell won’t be officially repealed for another 39 days, but many YouTubers already cannot wait for AreYouSuprised to show his face.
AreYouSuprised has hinted he will, in fact, reveal himself once the repeal goes into effect.
We’ll keep you posted.