Stratford vlogger helping young people through YouTube videos

Roland West says his videos have helped to stop people taking their lives

Roland West says his videos have helped to stop people taking their lives - Credit: Archant

For many young people, coming out as gay can be a daunting and sometimes lifechanging experience – something LGBT history month, taking place this month, aims to recognise.

But the rise in popularity of YouTube means that videos, such as those made by Stratford vlogger Roland West, have provided a source of support.

“When I was growing up, when I was coming out, I didn’t have anything like YouTube,” said the 25-year-old.

“For me it’s important, definitely, to talk about what I went through.

“I’ve had people say that I’ve stopped them committing suicide, that they’ve come out to their families, that they’ve accepted who they are.”

Roland, who identifies as gay and gender fluid, has addressed a lot of topics in his weekly videos, including HIV testing and the often-asked question of what pronouns to use.

“You can call me him, her, they, them – you can even call me she if you want but that might take some explaining to people,” he said.

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Roland moved into a flat in East Village four months ago with two friends, having spent the previous year living with his sister in Sydenham, south London.

He said his experience of living in the capital was a contrast to growing up in Devon.

“I go out wearing heels and things and in London, nobody bats an eyelid,” he said. “In Devon, I’d probably get hit.”

Retail worker Roland said that he felt lucky to have a supportive family, but that his sexuality made his teenage years difficult.

“I came out to my sister when I was 11,” he said.

“When I went to high school, I was bullied for being the gay kid.

“It was difficult, I wanted to get rid of these feelings, I tried to hide it.

“It wasn’t until I was about 14 or 15 that I realised I couldn’t do it any more.”

Five months ago, Roland also came out as gender fluid – meaning he identifies as different genders over time.

“It was difficult to realise I was gender fluid,” he said.

“I wasn’t sure if it was me just being expressive, but when I started to research it, I realised that was what I was.

“A lot of people were confused, but when I explained what it meant, they understood.”

Roland, whose channel

RolyUnGashaa has amassed more than 41,000 subscribers, offered a few words of advice for anyone struggling with their sexuality.

He said: “You’re fantastic and you’re fabulous, and so many people will accept you for who you are.”