In a world of stereotypes, two couples want to show gay relationships are normal by putting their own on YouTube for the world to see.
Will Shepherd, 24, and R.J. Aguiar, 25, have been daily vlogging their relationship on their YouTube channel “shep689” since January 2012. It started as a month-long experiment to video every day of their lives together. Since then, their channel has expanded to more than 100,000 subscribers and almost two years worth of daily videos.
“Daily vlogging happened by accident,” Aguiar says. “We decided to try it for a month and thought it would fail completely, but instead it took off. We tried it for another month and it took off even more than the first.”
Shepherd started the channel as a hobby to respond to funny videos his friend posted. It grew into posting self-help advice and book reviews and eventually included “day in the life” videos after he met Aguiar. Occasionally the two would record themselves on vacation and at the request of subscribers, they decided to try vlogging every day. From there, the channel’s focus became Shepherd and Aguiar’s everyday lives together.
“I wanted to portray gay life as it should be,” Shepherd says. “We wanted to show that there are very little differences between the daily life of a heterosexual couple and a homosexual couple.”
Shepherd, who works in advertising, and Aguiar, who works in marketing, have documented large parts of their lives like their move from their home state of Florida to Los Angeles and getting a dog. They’ve also recorded little moments such as going to Chipotle, being stuck in traffic and getting locked out of the house. Their channel led to the launch of their website, notadamandsteve.com, a mix of everything from advice and reviews to recipes and personal stories.
Kaelyn Petras, 25, and Lucy Sutcliffe, 21, started their YouTube channel “Kaelyn and Lucy” to stay connected in their long-distance relationship, which began online. Sutcliffe had been following Petras’s Taylor Swift Tumblr and saw that Petras posted she was ready to come out to her family.
“I’d spent the springtime obsessively watching all six seasons of ‘The L Word’ and had sort of just begun accepting myself as a gay woman,” Sutcliffe says. “So I decided to send Kaelyn a quick email, just letting her know that she wasn’t alone and that I was here if she ever wanted to talk. A few hours later she responded and we just haven’t stopped talking.”
Sutcliffe, who resides in England, had planned a road trip in the United States and decided to fly to visit Petras, who was in veterinary school in Saint Kitts (an island in the West Indies), at the end of her trip. Sutcliffe, a student filmmaker, filmed the trip and uploaded it to YouTube, mainly as a memento for the couple. Instead, it gained unexpected popularity.
“A few months passed and then literally overnight the video had gained several thousand views,” Sutcliffe says. “People had started commenting, ‘This video saved my life,’ ‘You girls have showed me that I don’t have to be ashamed of my sexuality,’ and ‘Our daughter has just come out to us and we didn’t know how to react. We’ve just stumbled upon your video and you’ve showed us that our daughter needs nothing from us but support and acceptance.’”
Now, their channel has reached more than 100,000 subscribers. They record videos of their visits together both in England and the United States and have expanded into separate vlog posts of their lives when they’re apart. They film themselves watching television shows on their laptops and going to get sushi while also filming the emotional turmoil they face when they have to leave each other. They’re the sort of situations any couple can relate to.
“The main goal of the channel is to normalize lesbian/gay relationships and that it’s OK to embrace who you are and be proud of it,” Sutcliffe says.
Exposing your life to thousands of people does have its downside. Shepherd and Sutcliffe, who edit their videos, both are careful not to reveal too much personal information. However, Shepherd says some viewers have been able to piece together where he and Aguiar live and have spread the information on the Internet. Sutcliffe admits that it can also be difficult for people to comment and question her and Petras’ relationship.
Yet both couples plan to continue sharing their lives on YouTube.
Shepherd and Aguiar recently got engaged; both of their proposal videos to each other are on their channel. They expect to continue vlogging at least until their wedding set for 2015. They want to let subscribers share in that day as well with plans to have it professionally filmed or vlogged by friends.
“Since we embarked on this as an experiment, it’s kind of difficult to know how it’s going to end,” Aguiar says. “It has to be organic the same way that it started.”
Petras and Sutcliffe plan to move in together this summer. They still want to continue making videos even though they recognize their videos will change as their long distance situation changes. They hope to continue to show a gay relationship is like any other relationship.
“Nothing we do or say is scripted or fake. It’s just us being our normal, sometimes boring, selves,” Sutcliffe says. “We love having people countdown with us, cheer us on when we’re together and cry with us when we leave. It sounds cheesy, but it’s like having loads and loads of supportive friends, really.”
Helping young people struggling with coming out who are searching for solace on YouTube is something Shepard and Aguiar hope they can ultimately accomplish.
“When I was coming out,” Shepherd says, “I thought I had to change who I was and be a magical quip machine or a ‘Queer as Folk’-type gay. The point of our videos is to show that you don’t have to change who you are.”