Popular beauty vlogger blackmailed into coming out as transgender. Her video is worth a watch.
NikkieTutorials/YouTube

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.

RELATED: This university's transgender bathroom signs are on point.

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:

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"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.

RELATED: The World Health Organization no longer classifies being trans as a 'mental illness.'

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.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."