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I love coming out stories. The good, the bad and the absolute ugly. In my experience, if you pour enough shots down a first date’s gullet, there will be a coming out story around the corner before the night is over. If death is the great equalizer, then coming out is the great roux in the concoction of a homosexual’s life.
I don’t have a coming out story — that is, if we are talking about the Grand Daddio reveal to the parental units. When I was 16 my father’s computer technician discovered a buttload of gay pornography on my hard drive and passed the message along to him. My parents sat me down at the breakfast table one morning before I headed off to school and tried their best to illustrate the predicament.
My father placed a blank sheet of paper down on the table and drew a straight line with a pen.
“You know, Brian … some people in life go like this.”
To the right of the straight line, he drew another line that curved.
“And some people in life … go like this.”
Fuck. Fuckety-fuck-fuck-fuck. My heart sank into my taint. They knew. They took a power drill to the frame of my closet door and let it come crashing down in front of me. I didn’t react. I was in catatonic shock. I went to school and spent the entire day mulling my life over on the swings in the back field playground.
Coming out can feel like a daunting and laborious pain in the ass. It’s an emotional state rife with dread, angst and yo-yo depression.
In January of 2015, coming out was about to meet its prodigal sons. In honor of National Coming Out Day, I would like to revisit the biggest coming-out story to date: The Rhodes Bros.
If you’re unfamiliar with Aaron and Austin Rhodes, don’t fret. I’m willing to bet the history books will experience a bout of amnesia concerning these fraternal twins. They are overly hyphenated YouTubers-models-actors-entertainers-lifestyle vloggers-singers-younameit.
Being brothers, they do look quite similar, although there’s one major key aesthetic difference: one of them is pouty, and the other one is pissy. The Rhodes Bros’ claim to fame is that they have the most-watched coming out video of all time, both in YouTubeland and the entire World Wide Web. It has been viewed more than 25 million times within a span of three years. (The original publish date was January 14, 2015.)
But their coming out video is a rarity given its backwards trajectory. While some YouTubers who were already at least marginally famous produced coming out videos down the road, The Rhodes Bros became famous practically overnight because of this video. In it, the beautiful brothers temporarily shed their model skins and become red-faced and blotchy with anxiety as they call their father to reveal their sexuality.
It’s no seven minutes in heaven, but instead eight minutes in hell as they tear up and tremble with their inevitable, uncomfortable admission. It all ends well, though, as the father assures his twins that he is ‘yay for gay’ and that he will get used to it. Resounding cheers and an immense outpouring of support from the online community soon followed once the video became viral.
But among the sonorous praise, there was something else to be noted — backlash. It wasn’t even from the usual suspects — homophobes, radicalized Christians or just angry trolls — but a part of the gay community.
A week after the coming out video, The Rhodes Bros and their father appeared on Ellen to talk about the video’s impact. Comments for the video on YouTube have since been disabled. If certain people were already pissed with the Rhodes Bros, matters became worse when she gave them a financial reward five minutes later.
When she cut them a cheque for $10,000, already tainted with a branding opportunity to two popular, attractive, white, young First Worlders for performing a homosexual’s sacred rite of passage to the masses, only one description came to mind: Yowza! If Alan Sader is a fan of Ellen, I sure hope he missed that episode. Keep that as a reminder the next time you must complain about straight hunks making bread in Gay for Pay.
Truth be told, I can see The Rhodes Bros as a glass half full and a glass half empty. What must be addressed, however, are the people who want to dump the water over their heads.
Coming out videos have increased exponentially since The Rhodes Bros posted their own. In fact, they have nearly doubled within a three-year span. The brothers are not pioneers, as coming out videos already existed on YouTube more than a decade prior to their video, but there’s no denying their influence has trickled down to a massive audience of vloggers. The act itself has never been the issue; it’s the intent behind it that is questionable.
I’ve always had a morbid fascination with gay day-to-day vloggers. It’s the same strange fascination that I associate with zoo animals — a mild mix of entertainment and pity. I’m not referring to the ones who produce humorous, entertaining or creative content on purpose but the ones who have converted their key-locked diaries into weekly video pamphlets they pimp out for everybody to view.
They are the kind of folks who if stranded on a desert island would bring a volleyball, a sharpie and a camera phone as their three essential items, spending their days prattling to Wilson’s marked-up leather face and taking selfies by every new palm tree discovery. They are prime examples of how YouTube has become an army of mutated Chatty Cathys who have now evolved to pull their own strings at will.
It fascinates me, because it’s a skill set I have never attempted to practice, or even cared to. Call me old-fashioned, but I enjoy arranging my thoughts carefully on the page like some an ancient scribe as opposed to blowing off steam daily like a mundane and insane cuckoo clock on a monitor.
The real reason certain gay people are acrimonious towards the Rhodes Bros is based on a dichotomy. People hate them because they are portrayed as the voice of a community when in fact they are the voice of an exclusive club.
Let me break it down for you: Guess who are the most popular homosexuals on Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, etc.: white, young, attractive, sexified males are the ones who dominate the cybersphere. It’s an irony given that a community which so proudly touts inclusivity has vanilla soft serve as its most desired flavour.
The Rhodes Bros are not the voice of a community; they are the voice of a fraternity (cough cough, Scream Queens), which is currently commanding their viewership, and now they have ascended into the upper echelon. YouTubeland has lionized them along with other gay “pretty beau peeps” and their flocks of sheep.
The Rhodes Bros were not immune to the criticism. On March 15, 2017, they published a followup video entitled “Coming Out Online” to address their detractors. It was a bad move politically speaking, and a very random date to revisit the issue a little over two years later. Posting a defensive video to address what should have been regarded as a non-issue was certainly, in fact, an issue. If the Rhodes Bros had zero qualms concerning their actions, then supplication was not a cute look.
Given my own experience with coming out, I can ascertain only two reasons why The Rhodes Bros decided to go through with it. They are either aloofly demented or nimbly opportunistic. I wish there were a less pedantic way to say it, but there isn’t.
Most of us have who have been in the closet have at the very least earned an apprenticeship in deception. The weight and pressure of coming out is such a personal process that setting up a camera to record it is plain fucking weird. Maybe it’s a gene I am missing from my chromosomal makeup — that certain gene reality stars have in their DNA where any attention is still attention, whether fighting, pouring your heart out or repeatedly embarrassing yourself.
As a result of The Rhodes Bros, influential coming out videos have become the warm-hearted versions of sex tapes. They generate exposure, create awareness and are promotional self-servicing stories that may inspire folks or keep the conversation going.
I have no venom towards them because I know they are not the culprits; they are the examples. Bitching and blaming somebody for being relevant or famous is a pointless venture. You might as well yell at a mirror in hopes to convince it otherwise. The hard cold reality is that no person in history has ever made themselves famous, ever! Don’t look at me, I didn’t make them famous, I specialize in infamy. Part of the problem is you.
The Rhodes Bros may not be inspiring, life-changing or heroes, but they created an opportunity out of something that will hopefully someday no longer be a concern in my lifetime. Their scenario is on par with Colton Haynes, who received an HRC Visibility Award in 2016, less than four months after coming out. I’m guessing the visibility part comes from his many shirtless scenes in Teen Wolf. My hope is that there will be more voices in the future — a variety of voices, a true diversification — which the community deserves. All you have to do is close your eyes and listen carefully.
So far Ellen gave them a platform, Ryan Murphy had them murdered on Scream Queens, plus modeling gigs, more videos and public appearances fell somewhere in between. The Rhodes Bros are currently standing where they belong in history, famous on the fringe.
I imagine a worst case scenario would be the Rhodes Bros attending their 10-year high school reunion only to encounter a Romy/Michelle conundrum, instead this time it’s based in reality.
“So, Aaron, what are you known for?”
“Well, I came out. It was sort of a huge deal.”
“No, really, what do you do?”
“That’s what I do. It’s what I’m known for. I invented coming out.”