JoJo Siwa— the giant hair-bow wearing, super talented dancer, singer, actress, and all-around social media personality who got her first start on Dance Moms — is in the spotlight in a new and exciting way. JoJo came out! It turns out there might have been some queer symbolism in all those rainbow hair bows, rainbow sequins, and rhinestone outfits that have taunted so many of us in the Target kids clothing section (why don’t they come in adult sizes?!).
Over the weekend, JoJo posted on Twitter: “My cousin got me a new shirt,” and the accompanying photo showing JoJo wearing a black t-shirt with blue text that said “Best. Gay. Cousin Ever.” The response has been overwhelmingly positive on the coming out post, which is JoJo’s current pinned tweet has over a million likes.
JoJo followed up her announcement by retweeting supportive comments from LGBTQ+ celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres and discussions about how meaningful it was for her to be coming out, given the young age of many of her fans. JoJo then also shared a high energy TikTok video singing Lady GaGa’s “Born This Way” and specifically the queerest section: “No matter gay, straight, or bi, lesbian, transgender life…” This TikTok made it even more obvious (if it somehow wasn’t already clear to everyone) that JoJo was being serious in her earlier tweet and that she really really is a member of the LGBTQ+ community!
In an Instagram Live follow-up over the weekend, which has since been shared on Twitter, JoJo spoke explicitly about having come out. JoJo shared that she’s not ready to put a label onto her sexual orientation, but confirmed she’s part of the LGBTQ+ community. In the live video, JoJo explained that she’s extremely happy in her life and with her decision to have come out. In the live video, JoJo very much sounded like a role model speaking to younger LGBTQ+ youth and people not yet out:
“What matters is that you guys know that no matter who you love that it’s ok and that it’s awesome and that the world is there for you, there are so many people who are there for you.”
JoJo continued to reference how happy she is, and how much support she has received in response to her announcement. It’s been incredible to watch the positive outpouring of support that JoJo has received.
Coming Out Isn’t Always Just Rainbows
“Everyone’s situation is different and it might be harder for some people and easier for some people to be themselves.” JoJo commented in her Instagram live video before saying “Coming out has this stigma around it that it’s a really scary thing — but it’s not anymore. There are so many really accepting and loving people out there.”
Although I was thrilled by JoJo’s sentiment that being different should be celebrated despite how afraid people are, as formerly homeless LGBTQ+ youth myself, and as someone who worked as the Director of an LGBTQ+ homeless youth drop-in program in NYC for many years… while it is exciting and wonderful to see that JoJo’s experience has been one of acceptance, it’s important to remember that this isn’t true for all LGBTQ+ youth.
Studies show that one in four LGBTQ+ youth are forced to leave their homes as a result of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. LGBTQ+ youth are still 120% more likely to experience homelessness than their non-LGBTQ+ peers. Black and Latinx LGBTQ+ youth experience homelessness at higher rates than other youth. If you are thinking of coming out, make sure that you have safety plans in place as well as ideally people ready to advocate and support you before coming out if you are relying on parents or family members for a palace to live, or financial security.
The response to JoJo coming out hasn’t entirely been positive. Concerningly, Seventeen Magazine is reporting that this weekend, after JoJo came out, her family’s house was “swatted.” This means that someone (it is believed, though not confirmed, to be paparazzi) called the police claiming there was a serious incident at the house requiring police presence.
Police showed up at the house and JoJo and family had to leave their home, which Seventeen reports is possibly what the paparazzi wanted in order to get photographed. Thankfully, no one was injured by police in this swatting interaction, and the incident is under investigation. It seems that for the most part, however, it appears JoJo hasn’t had any other significant backlash so far as a response of her coming out.
Positive Role Models
JoJo’s coming out has been so exciting to watch. When I first come out in the early 2000s, there were so few representations of out LGBTQ+ people and I never imagined that I would see the kind of representation that we have today, let alone that a teen performer who has made a career out of performing for children coming out as LGBTQ+ and then having such a positive response! It’s exciting, inspiring and heartwarming to know there are LGBTQ+ kids who might not even be out yet that are growing up playing with JoJo dolls and with JoJo’s smiling face on their lunchbox, and backpack this is a new kind of LGBTQ visibility and role model!
About the Author:
Sassafras Lowrey’s novels and nonfiction books have been honored by organizations ranging from the American Library Association to the Lambda Literary Foundation and the Dog Writers Association of America. Sassafras’ work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired and numerous other newspapers and magazines. Sassafras has taught queer writing courses and workshops at LitReactor, the NYC Center For Fiction and at colleges, conferences, and LGBTQ youth centers across the country. www.SassafrasLowrey.com