In 2014, YouTube star Connor Franta came out in an emotional video that has been since watched more than 9 million times.
“I just want to be able to be me and not be afraid. I’m sick of censoring myself,” he said at the time. “This is just one little part of who I am, and I’m not gonna let my sexuality define or confine me. It’s part of me, it’s not all of me.”
Speaking at the 11th annual GLSEN Respect Awards in Beverly Hills on Friday night, Franta credited the strong online community around him as part of the reason he was able to accept himself.
“There were so many coming out videos that really helped me accept who I was,” Franta said, before offering his advice to young members of the LGBT community. “Just hang in there,” he said. “It’s going to get better, it really will. Don’t be afraid. Make sure you’re in a safe space to be who you are. You’ll get through it.”
Franta attended the GLSEN Respect Awards to hand out the student advocate award, and said he hoped society kept moving toward a more equal playing field for everyone.
“I hope that it will keep progressing and more equality and more acceptance and for the world to be a more loving place,” he said. “I really feel like we’re getting towards that so quickly. It’s amazing.”
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, was started in 1990 by a group of educators in Massachusetts as a way to improve the education system for LGBT students, and prevent bullying an discrimination. More on the organization can be found here.
Reporting by Christina Dugan