Tyler Oakley is sassy. He's fabulous. He's hysterical. He's also kind of my role model.
I hopped on the Tyler Oakley train much later than many of his most devoted fans, though I am proud to say that I became obsessed with him long before he reached his first million subscribers on YouTube. He has given me a fabulous collection of one-liners. "Check thyself before thy wreck thyself" is my personal favorite. My obsession with him has led to a floral iPhone case and prescription RayBans glasses. Many of my friends are hopping on the Tyler Oakley train as well... but I sometimes get the feeling that they don't have the same love for him as I do.
You see, Tyler Oakley has literally redefined the way I live, and it all started with his video "How to: Be a Manly Man." After reading a list of things that manly men should be able to do -- such as "survive a shopping trip with your girlfriend," "put out a fire" and "change a tire" -- he makes a marvelous clarification: "But for the record, for those of you who don't know, it is not your actions or abilities or your appearance that makes you a man. It is identifying as a man."
And that may have been the most liberating thing I've ever heard.
I've never, ever, been "manly." I play the piano, I have a nice collection of skinny jeans, I dye my hair and I hope to one day own an infinity scarf. I've never wanted to wrestle with my dad like my little brother does, and I honestly can't fathom the idea of going deer hunting and enjoying it -- all of which are stereotypically "boy" things to do. For the longest time, I thought that was a problem. I felt like my gender identity was dependent on society's perception of the typical male, and if I didn't fit the box then there was something abnormal about me.
Of course, it's only too easy to tell where this is going. When people can't understand your character, they try to put you in a different box. I've been tossed into the LGBTQ spectrum by so many people in my lifetime that I truly feel like I resonate very well with gay people, even though I do identify as straight.
Tyler's statement can be changed. "It is not your actions or abilities or your appearance that makes you a man. It is identifying as a man." Replace "man" with "woman," or "gay," or "straight" or whatever other category or label that attracts a stereotype. I've learned through Tyler's words that none of the outward visuals matter.
I am a proud man who is jealous of girls that can wear makeup (come on, guys, acne is terrible and I want to cover it up so bad!), who loves floral print, who hates playing sports and who is infatuated with Emma Watson.
Tyler's love for himself is only one of the reasons why he is my role model. He has an unfailing love and a serious respect for all humans, but he doesn't exactly make a big deal about it. I find that frequently people want to place others who do extraordinary things on a pedestal, but Tyler's life challenges that approach. He reminds me constantly that loving other people is not extraordinary. It's the human thing to do.
I don't think everyone sees the more serious side of Tyler Oakley, but knowing that side of him allows me to appreciate his hilarity a bit more.
Throughout my life, a lot of people have made me want to change things about myself, but Tyler Oakley helped me to realize "you do you and I'll do me." And he gave me a wonderful mantra about masculinity -- one that I love so much I've decided to use as my senior quote in my high school yearbook this year. While I've never met Tyler and my only proof that he knows I exist are the five tweets of mine he has favorited, I don't think that changes anything that he has taught me. I honestly don't think I could have grown into the person I am today without Tyler's assurance that it is perfectly okay to be myself.