Tyler Oakley visits UIUC

On Thursday, November 9, Tyler Oakley visited the University of Illinois for a discussion about the LGBTQ community, his work with the Trevor Project, and his Youtube platform. The event took place from 7-8pm at the Illini Union and was free to attend. Dixie Limbachia, director of the Enriching Programs for the Illini Union Board, organized the event and led the discussion and an  audience Q&A.


Oakley is a YouTuber, podcaster, author, and activist. His videos focus on pop culture, the LGBTQ commuinity, and include humor as well. He also works with the Trevor Project, which is the nation’s leading suicide prevention hotline for LGBTQ youth. He has published a book, Binge, and a documentary film, Snervous.


The turnout for the event was massive, with every seat filled and many attendees standing around the edge of the room. Most attendees were university students, but also included high school students, parents, teachers, and other community members. Limbachia sat down with Oakley for a casual discussion, and Oakley’s answers often devolved into anecdotes about his life, including his time on the reality TV show The Amazing Race and playing with Former President Obama’s dogs.


Tyler started the discussion by mentioning that his first public speaking event was actually at the University of Illinois. He came from the Michigan State University, where he graduated from in 2011. Nervous around crowds, Oakley stated that he felt welcome at the event. He engaged with the audience, talking to them during the Q&A and encouraging them to tweet him after the event, promising to like all of the messages.


Oakley started working with the Trevor Project in 2009 as an intern. In 2013, he asked his fans to donate to the Trevor Project for his birthday with a goal of $150,000, but ended up raising over half a million dollars. He has dedicated his birthday as a day for people to donate to the Trevor Project, and has raised over a million dollars so far.


He hopes to be a voice to those who are still struggling with coming out and being comfortable with their identity. Oakley emphasized the power of social media to encourage and educate people about current issues. He shared during the Q&A how he tries to focus on intersectional activism and gave advice for those trying to become more involved in politics.


In 2014, Oakley and other YouTuber stars were invited to the White House to speak with Former President Obama about how to use online media to encourage young people to become politically engaged and to promote healthcare. Oakley has been outspoken on these issues and criticized the current White House by saying  “They have yet to reach out to me,” about issues like LGBTQ visibility and healthcare.


Many attendees came as fans of his YouTube channel, and were extremely excited to see him live. They were not disappointed as Oakley brought his usual bubbly personality and humor to the event. The event was both insightful and fun, as well as encouraging to a crowd of young people who will be the activists of the future.