In 2020, coming out as transgender isn't necessarily a bombshell. Slowly but surely, people are catching on to the fact that biological sex and gender are two different things, that those two things don't match up in some individuals, and that people are people no matter what gender they are.
Of course, there are also those who don't understand any of the above and feel the need to let other people's identities affect them, for whatever reason. Regardless, simply announcing that one is transgender, while sometimes a surprise, isn't headline newsworthy at this point.
What is newsworthy is someone being blackmailed into coming out, which is what happened this week to YouTube star and beauty vlogger, Nikkie de Jager.
Nikkie has been sharing has been sharing makeup tips on her YouTube channel NikkieTutorials for a decade. She's built up a following of 13 million subscribers on both YouTube and Instagram, entertaining and informing her viewers with her upbeat, positive approach to make-up artistry.
Until this week, the vast majority of those millions had no idea she was transgender. It wasn't something she'd ever announced, and though she says she had planned to share that fact with followers eventually, she wanted to do it when she felt ready.
Unfortunately, that right was stolen from her by individuals who threatened to go to the press and out her as transgender for money.
Nikkie made the most of the situation, choosing to come out on her own in a video posted to her YouTube channel:
"Today I am here to share something with you that I've always wanted to share with you one day, but under my own circumstances," she said in the video, "and it looks like that chance has been taken away from me. So today, I am taking back my own power and I have to tell you something."
"When I was younger I was born in the wrong body, which means that I am transgender," she said. She told her whole story, explaining that she dressed exclusively in girls' clothing from the time she was seven or eight, and was fully transitioned by age 19. But she also said she doesn't want to be identified with a label that she thinks isn't necessary.
"I am NikkieTutorials, and I am Nikkie," she said. "I am me. We don't need labels. But if we are going to put a label on it, yes, I am transgender. But at the end of the day I am me."
Without naming names, she said, "I have been blackmailed by people that wanted to leak my story to the press." She said she always wanted to share her full and true identity with her followers, but at the same time, she wanted to keep her channel focused on her makeup artistry. That sounds perfectly reasonable and respectable, doesn't it?
Nikkie has the right to share whatever she wants, and it's tragic that this announcement wasn't truly made on her own terms or on her own timeline. No one should ever feel forced to come out before they want to. No one should ever feel threatened over who they are or how they identify.
While she has made lemonade out of lemons and created a positive, uplifting, sincere coming out video, the way it came about was completely unacceptable. Not only is blackmail wrong—revealing oneself as transgender is a very personal thing. Nikkie has now publicly identified with a community that will no doubt welcome her with open arms, but she has also been forced to open herself up to transphobic ridicule and potential abuse. That shouldn't be the reality of being transgender, but statistics tell us it is. And people should get to choose when and if they make that announcement.
It also shouldn't matter. As Nikkie says in her video, "I'm sharing it with you now, but nothing changes." Clearly, she's a talented makeup artist and beauty vlogger or she wouldn't have the massive following she has. The fact that she's a transgender woman makes zero difference in her work, and she shouldn't have had to share that information with her fans unless and until she wanted to.
You don't have to fully understand someone's identity to respect their right to privacy and personal agency. Shame on the opportunists who forced her to come out before she was good and ready. They are the only people in this whole scenario who should feel ashamed of who and what they are.