Identity

NikkieTutorials Is Trans—Now Let's Shut Up About It

The popular YouTuber was coerced into revealing her gender history, and while more trans visibility is great, it shouldn't be up to the oppressed to educate others

Anyone who knows anything about the wonderful world of beauty on YouTube knows the name NikkieTutorials. With over 12 million subscribers on the platform, not to mention 13 million followers on Instagram, Nikkie de Jager is known for her gorgeous high-coverage beauty and impeccable glam looks. When I was first getting into makeup, NikkieTutorials was a role model for me, and I aspired to be as creative and expressive as she was. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks about how much makeup she wears, she wears it with pride.

This week, the star had a big announcement for her fans.

After 11 years of posting digital beauty content, NikkieTutorials surprised many of her followers by revealing that she is a trans woman.

In a video posted to her channel, de Jager explains that she started hormone therapy at 14 and considered herself fully transitioned at 19. As such, the now 25-year-old had actually been making content both during and after her gender transition. But she never mentioned her gender identity until now.

She goes on to say that she has always known how she really wanted to see herself: “Ever since I was born, I knew I was a girl. I just couldn’t understand why I had to have short hair, why I had to wear trousers, why I couldn’t wear dresses…all of me was girly.”

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But then, de Jager says something which, to me, speaks volumes about how difficult it can be to identify as anything other than cisgender. “I am still Nikkie. The last thing I’d want is for you to not trust me anymore, or to look at me with different eyes,” she says.

The sentiment insinuates that by not informing her fans about her gender identity sooner, she was somehow being dishonest or could now potentially be deemed untrustworthy. And in my humble queer-yet-cisgender opinion, this should not be the case whatsoever.

No matter how high-profile a celeb or influencer is, gender identity is no one’s beeswax but their own

“Trans visibility in any form of media is important, but the most important thing is that the trans person is the one choosing how and when they get to tell their story,” says Janelle Rae, another YouTuber and trans woman. “Nobody else was paying Nikki’s bills so she doesn’t owe anyone anything…The only responsibility trans people have is being comfortable with themselves.”

Unfortunately, trans people being harrassed for “lying” is nothing new. Less accepting people have been reported to react violently to trans people coming out, claiming to having been “deceived.” According to the Trans Murder Monitoring Report, there were at least 331 recorded cases of murdered trans people in 2019. “Violence against trans and gender-diverse people frequently overlaps with other axes of oppression prevalent in society, such as racism, sexism, misogyny, xenophobia and anti-sex worker sentiment and discrimination,” the report states.

“The reason why the trans part of me never got to the light was because I wanted my channel to be about my art,” de Jager says. She never intended to be an educator about gender identity. That’s not what her channel is about.

“The reason why the trans part of me never got to the light was because I wanted my channel to be about my art.” – Nikkie de Jager

And in de Jager’s case, there was some pretty serious coersion involved in her decision to come out: She says she was being blackmailed for “not telling her truth.” I can only imagine how stressful it would be to go through this extremely personal experience when you aren’t fully ready or willing but feel pressured to do so. I’m sure de Jager was not only concerned about the reaction from the people she knows in real life, but also the millions of fans that make up her career and livelihood.

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Thankfully, a number of her fans and fellow beauty bloggers have come together in support of her announcement, with many calling out the horrible crime of blackmailing.

De Jager’s isn’t the only story that should remind us that we are not entitled to trans people’s histories. In 2017, beauty blogger Nikita Dragun shared her experience with coming out as a trans woman to others. She says in her video, “I’m not gonna walk up to someone and be like “Hi I’m Nikita Dragun and I’m trans…I don’t have to do that for anyone.” Nikita and Nikkie have way more to offer than their trans identities, and it should be their choice to be as vocal or private as they want.

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Minorities are often expected to be their own advocates. And while I am grateful to have learned from trans activists such as Laverne Cox, Alok Vaid-Menon and Janet Mock, as well as YouTubers such as Nikita Dragun and Stef Sanjoti, it shouldn’t be up to them to educate others. Yes, their experiences have helped so many people feel less alone and find a community. However, not every trans person needs to be a visible activist. Putting this burden on the oppressed is a microaggression that they have to deal with on a constant basis. As cisgender people (with increasing accessibility to information about different communities online), it’s our responsibility to educate ourselves.

If going forward, she chooses never to talk about her gender identity again, that is perfectly OK. Because at the end of the day, it’s her channel. Besides, her gender identity has nothing to do with the bomb-ass lipstick she recommended to you.