Tanner Armstrong’s TikTok started as a joke. In all of the tumult happening this year, Armstrong, a fourth-year McGill University student currently based in Ottawa, thought, “Why not rally LGBTQ2 community members to come together?” He got to work. The subsequent video shows Armstrong posing with a limp wrist (featuring a soft Ariana Grande “yuh”) to “ward off the homophobes,” then using the greenscreen filter to share his screen and explain how to gain access to a shared Google Calendar cheekily dubbed “The Gay Agenda.”
“Now is not the time to be slipping,” he tells his TikTok audience with a smirk. “All I’m saying is, we’re not going to be able to take over without any systems in place!”
@__tannerjameswe all gotta do our part ##lgbtq ##GetFit♬ original sound – __tannerjames
Even though it was a silly, one-off video, LGBTQ2 content in particular tends to gain traction quickly on TikTok—within a day, thousands of people had their hands on Armstrong’s shared Google account. Users were signing in to create events without him even realizing, he says. “I had forgotten about the original open-access calendar video until I started to get comments saying, ‘I’m in,’” Armstrong recalls. “It wasn’t until I actually checked the calendar that I realized I had accidentally started a real Gay Agenda.”
The result: Hundreds of events, memes and jokes for LGBTQ2 folks all in one space. “I thought to myself, ‘Holy shit! This is really a thing!’”
Eventually, a shared Google Drive was added to the account—that’s when the project really began to take off. Now with more than 16,000 users, the Gay Agenda has become a huge compilation of educational resources, entertainment suggestions, penpals, funny diary entries and more.
While the resources are still being organized by Armstrong and his newly recruited team of volunteer moderators, they are documented in different forms—from long written docs to hilarious slideshow presentations. “There’s something about the chaotic slideshows in the Gay Entertainment folder that make me cackle—it’s always updating with the finest of queer humour and is a consistent good time.” His favourite: A slideshow called “Gay Coded Kids Shows that I Can’t Stop Watching, presented by raging lesbians.” “It’s lighthearted and is done in a really creative and funny way,” he says. “Plus ‘Raging Lesbians’ would make a fantastic band name!”
But more than just entertainment, the Gay Agenda has provided a safe space for young people to reach out and find other queer people—something that has proven to be especially difficult in the midst of a pandemic. “I have seen countless interactions of members supporting each other and finally finding people who understand their struggles in a way that makes them feel seen and validated, which is incredibly rewarding for me,” Armstrong says.
There is something inherently queer even in the way that the Gay Agenda drive is structured. It’s not perfectly organized, but that just speaks to the enthusiasm that the users have for connecting with others. Popping into the drive is like witnessing multiple simultaneous conversations among perfect strangers, and delving into each one provides some sort of enriching—or at least entertaining—experience.
Despite the wide window for trolling, the Agenda’s patrons have shown nothing but care and respect for each other. In a hacking incident in which everyone was locked out of the account, the community came together to guess the password the intruder had changed and were able to regain access. (Shockingly, none of the content had been disturbed during this time, either.)
The Gay Agenda is just one example of the resilience of queer folks at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic: We manage to find community where we can, even when our options are limited. It shares a similar quality to other pandemic initiatives—from the online queer party Club Quarantine to live drag shows streamed on Twitch to Zoom gay-straight alliance meetings.
So what’s next for the Gay Agenda? One shared login has posed problems with safety and security, so Armstrong and his team are in the midst of creating a Shared Drive instead for improved collaboration. He’s also looking to create merch designed by creatives in the community, merging the virtual with the real world. “I have so many crazy big ambitions for this project, and the full truth is that the sky’s the limit,” he says.
“The idea that you can make a career of bringing people together to share a laugh and have conversation continues to melt my brain,” Armstrong adds. “I am so excited to continue using my TikTok to grow this project and just seeing how many people we can reach.”
BTW, here’s how to access the Gay Agenda:
- Fill out the following Google Form with your Gmail address: https://forms.gle/J5EYb6soR1LtLa118.
- Once you’ve been added, you will receive an email invitation to join the ‘Our Gay Agenda 2020’ Shared Drive. (It should take one to two days.)
- On the Google Form, you can also indicate if you would like permission to create events in the ‘Our Gay Agenda 2020’ Calendar, or to just view it.
And you’re in! See you there!