Guys We Love: Dylan Marron

The queer activist creates viral videos that touch on racism, homophobia, transphobia and other important issues—and people are paying attention.

Courtesy of Dylan Marron

Each month, Dylan Marron sits down and unboxes something hot and trendy for his viewers at Seriously TV. But instead of reviewing the specs of the newest tech gadget, Marron unpacks what he calls “the latest intangible ideologies”—everything from white feminism to Islamophobia to rape culture. Wearing his signature pearl earrings and kind grin, Marron speaks with a clarity and levity that makes serious, touchy topics accessible—and entertaining—for a wide audience.

As a writer, performer and video maker, Marron’s most recent work includes the “Every Single Word” project, which edits down popular films to only the words spoken by people of color (spoiler alert: there aren’t many); the “Shutting Down Bullshit” series, in which diverse panels bust myths on misunderstood topics like Muslim identity, HIV/AIDS and prison reform; and the funny and informative “Sitting in Bathrooms with Trans People” series in which he interviews trans people speaking about their experiences and passions while cozily seated inside a restroom stall.

Marron’s style is compassionate and smart, balancing important political critiques with incisive satire and the occasional hilarious physical comedy. Through his work, viewers are inevitably clued into their abilities to learn and grow into better versions of themselves: His videos are an invitation to invest in a more nuanced understanding of the world.

Marron spoke with GO about his approach to intersectionality and his vision for a more supportive, inclusive internet culture.

ON HIS IDENTITY:

“I’m a queer brown cis man. When I learned the term ‘queer’ instead of ‘gay,’ I always preferred it. It was nicely nondescript. And racially, similarly to how I learned ‘queer,’ I felt the same way when I learned ‘brown.’ There are a lot of people who can be under that umbrella.”

ON HIS WORK:

“Each video is not going to fully explain the entire nuance of this whole situation that affects a group of people, but it can begin to be an arrow that points people in a direction to know more. Now that my work has led me to a place where I have the privilege of having a platform, I feel like it’s my duty to say something with it.

I make sure to talk about different issues with certain people. When I talked to [activist and writer] Shaun King, I wanted to make sure we talked about how he covered the Orlando shooting, which was something that really impressed me. He focuses on Black Lives Matter a lot, and he’s one of those people who understands that Black Lives Matter is also linked to the queer movement. There are queer black people whose lives matter.”

ON INTERSECTIONALITY:

“On every panel, I always do my best to have at least two women of color. And that means even panels that have nothing to do with race. You’re going to see these women on a panel not talking about race. They may talk about how it intersects, but that’s going to be up to them to define and not up to me to define it for them. People contain multitudes and I just want my work to highlight that.”

ON FITTING INTO LGBTQ:

“I appreciate the acronym, and I appreciate how inclusive it is. But I think the inclusivity of the acronym is optimistic. I wish that all of those consonants were working together. When I first came out, I was like, ‘OMG, I’m just going to meet everyone like me, it’s going to be a field of kind, queer people.’ But there’s deep racism you find within the LGBTQ community. There is deep classism in the community. And that is something to wrestle with.

I know what it’s like to feel invisible in gay bars for being a person of color. I know what it’s like to feel invisible on online dating profiles because I’m brown. Men of color are so often invisible in those spaces. Especially ‘effeminate’ men of color. There’s this idolatry of masc-presenting gay men. It’s something I never fit into, and literally cannot try.”

ON ENGAGING ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

“[Social media] has highlighted queer, trans, disabled, non-white, non-Christian voices for a really long time. It is an amazing way to engage with people who thought they were floating satellites all alone. I don’t want this to sound cavalier, but I re-ally don’t pay much attention to the overtly negative things trolls say. If someone writes under a video, ‘This is the stupidest liberal trash I’ve ever seen,’ there’s nothing I can really do with that. The real problem with that is, because I tune out the negativity, what I really miss is actual criticism. I have grown from people taking the opportunity to tell me why they disagree with something that I said, and I feel really grateful for that. So, I want to hear criticism, I really do. But calling me a ‘gay-wad fag’ is not criticism—it’s the obvious. And you are only getting in the way of my ability to read actual criticism so that I can get better and more nuanced in what I’m saying.”

ON BEING KIND:

“Kindness is a tool to help a conversation, and it’s really the tool that I’m most acquainted with. I really believe in kindness, but I want to be very careful when I say that, that I don’t mean that kindness or love will save the day. When someone is harassing me online, I understand that there’s something going on for them; something deeper than anything I can understand or have experienced. I want to know about the people who troll me. Not to harass them, not to tear them down or make fun of them, I just want to know why they feel the way they do.

I was harassed in high school by the popular jocks. Those aren’t the people who are trolling. I think it’s actually people who had a much more similar experience to me who are trolling. It’s recreating a system of oppression that we see in the macro right now, which is: Hurt people hurt people. It happens all the time, within and between marginalized communities. People who are hurt by a larger authority take it out on people who they see as smaller than them. Whereas, really all we need to do is band together and understand what is being levied against us so we can regain our power. All I want to say is, friends, look up, we’re wasting our punches.”

ON CHANGING THE WORLD:

“I think what fuels me to keep going is that there is in fact still a lot of hope. Now, I don’t want to be misquoted, because things are dark as fuck. But when things are darkest, that’s when I think there sometimes is the most hope. What gives me hope is the fact that, when I made ‘Sitting in Bathrooms with Trans People,’ I didn’t single-handedly change a law, but through my guests sharing their stories I introduced my sister-in-law to trans people, whom she’d never seen before. That matters to me. That is the grassroots of how you change laws. I love doing what I do because it can really start conversations. Media is such an incredible tool. Our president knows that very well. But it’s a tool for us, too.”

You can find Dylan Marron and his work on Facebook at facebook.com/dylanmarronpage and on Twitter at @DylanMarron.