By Grace Hamilton, Writer
Every generation looks to celebrities to represent what they feel and who they are. Seeing yourself reflected in the people whose music you listen to, whose movies and shows you watch, whose media you consume, is incredibly important. We know true representation matters, but we don’t always practice what we preach.
Harry Styles and Taylor Swift are perfect examples of this.
We’re obsessed with attaching the oddities to our idols, even if they won’t claim us. Styles has never labeled his sexuality, but he also claims he hasn’t “publicly dated anyone,” which is so untrue it’s laughable. Styles recently dated Olivia Wilde and has very publicly dated women in the past, including Swift.
To be clear, celebrities do not owe their fans an explanation or clarification of their sexuality. However, the line is crossed when they capitalize on the perspective of their queerness to make a profit without ever claiming the community as their own.
During her Lover era, Swift co-opted caerness to sell more albums. To this day, her fans analyze everything she releases or says for subtle hints of her sexuality. They claim that her relationship with Joe Alwyn is just for PR and that she’s really only interested in women, despite the fact that they’ve been together for six years and are rarely seen together – which means if it’s PR, it’s not very PR good.
We could also talk about the credit we’re desperate to give Swift and Styles for breaking gender norms or making leaps for queer culture. Styles wore a dress on the cover of Vogue and people acted like he was the first person ever to do such a thing. Billy Porter did it before Styles, and transgender people of color did it before him. All Swift did was release a song, “You Need to Calm Down,” and people made it seem like she personally ended the fight against homophobia — all because she dyed her hair blue, pink, and purple and made a statement that is not true. the controversial one for a fan base of young girls who would find a way to defend her if she kicked a puppy.
A 2020 Vox article on folklore is titled “How Taylor Swift Became a Gay Icon”. A Rolling Stone article from September of this year asks if her Midnights album is Swift’s.
I feel like it’s important for me to mention that I’m a massive Swift and Styles fan. I listened to Midnights as soon as it came out and there are songs from Folklor and Evermore that I listen to almost daily. I saw Styles in concert just last year. I have the lyrics to “Fine Line” tattooed on my body in his handwriting.
But despite that, I don’t consider any artist to be any kind of queer icon. I won’t give them credit for flying a pride flag when it was transgender people of color who died for the movement, who turned Stonewall into a riot, and who broke gender norms way before cis, straight guys, white people to do it for views on TikTok.
Styles and Swift, with all their alliance, never claimed you. They capitalize on fan theories about their own sexualities for profit, and it’s worked very well for both of them.
Again, none of them have to come out if they are actually queer. If they want their own sexualities to be private and personal, that makes perfect sense to me, but co-opting, appropriating, and commoditizing queer culture while refusing to claim community is not okay.
We don’t exist as dollar signs in the eyes of straight-faced white celebrities. And this obsession with making white artists the faces of the queer community is a slap in the face to those who have done the most for it.
We don’t exist to make a profit for people richer than we will ever be. They are opportunists, banking on the creativity and inventiveness of queer culture to support their own careers. It’s not all their fault. Some of their die-hard fans are desperate to put labels on them that they won’t even put on themselves.
Queer artists like Frank Ocean, Hayley Kiyoko, Lil Nas X, Janelle Monáe, Rina Sawayama, and Tyler the Creator all exist. They make amazing music and are all openly queer. Let them represent you – they really want to.
Styles and Swift are iconic pop artists, but they’re not queer icons until the day they say they’re queer.
Until that day comes, let them do what they do best – just stop falling in love.