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YouTube has a lead on LGBT outreach, and he's becoming his own YouTube star




Raymond Braun (L) poses with Lance Bass. Braun is YouTube's lead exec in charge of outreach to the LGBT community.
Raymond Braun (L) poses with Lance Bass. Braun is YouTube's lead exec in charge of outreach to the LGBT community.
Raymond Braun via Instagram

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YouTube has more than just cat videos. There's also a number of uploads by LGBT people sharing their stories and offering their advice.

But here's something you probably didn't know: YouTube has a person in charge of reaching out to the LGBT community and even curating those videos.

Raymond Braun created the position himself in 2013. He was in the company's marketing department and got the idea to transform the site when the U.S. Supreme Court effectively struck down California's Prop 8, which banned same-sex marriage.

"The second that decision was released, that YouTube logo at the top-left side of the page turned into a rainbow," he recounted. It redirected to a large playlist of videos highlighting LGBT history, figures and more.

A screenshot of YouTube's Spotlight page on June 26, 2013. The site transformed to highlight LGBT people after the US Supreme Court effectively struck down California's Prop 8.

Those videos were moving tools for people to find each other across time and distance.

"On YouTube, an African-American trans woman in the deep South can find another African-American woman in the deep South making a video talking about her experiences," Braun said. "Anyone who shares their story is powerful because it creates an opportunity to identify and connect with them."

Braun takes his position very personally. Growing up in rural northwest Ohio as a closeted child, there were no other LGBT people like him.

At 11 years old, he cautiously thumbed through books at the library paging for information about what being gay meant, and typed into Google, "Will my parents accept me after I come out?"

"It was trying to forage for information about what my identity was," he said.

But then he remembers finding a gay man's blog about his life in New York City.

"It was nothing groundbreaking or revolutionary, but he would talk about the date he went on last night or his job," he recalled. "But I was obsessed."

Using YouTube as a platform, Braun wants to create a path for the next wave of people sharing their lives and stories.

His own is one of them: Braun created his own YouTube channel where he interviews different figures and activists. He also travels to document historic events for LGBT people so later generations will know what it was like to be there.

"I always go back to 12-year-old Raymond living in northwest Ohio and how valuable it could have been for me and people like me to find this channel and see a wide range of experiences," he said. "It's a real opportunity to speak to youths at that critical time when they're learning who they are."