ESSAY: Out of the Woods, Not the Closet: Taylor Swift’s Fans’ Yearning for Queerness

Out of the Woods, Not the Closet: Taylor Swift’s Fans’ Yearning for Queerness

Essay | Margaret Baughman

Graphic | Kirsten Beard

When Taylor Swift’s first album was released in 2006, “Our Song” was playing on the country radio station my parents preferred and the pop station I was beginning to get into. Her music has been increasingly inescapable since then. The first time I held a Taylor Swift album was in the gathering area of my childhood church. A friend passed it off to me so that I could transfer all of the songs to my first MP3 player. 

I don’t remember the context in which I first heard the rumor that she might be queer, but if you spend enough time searching “Gaylor,” it is easy to be convinced by the lyrics, video clips and fan-made archival of facts about her and Karlie Kloss that insinuate a romantic relationship. To those of us that have been closeted, it makes perfect sense. The Venn diagram of having an extra-close-gal-pal-BFF-with-whom-you-do-everything and queer women that scream-sing “You Belong with Me” in their cars is a circle. 

The significance of someone as mainstream as Swift possibly being gay all along is huge. In her Netflix documentary, Miss Americana, she discusses the added pressure her marketing team and managers put on her to fit into certain boxes. She mentions that it wouldn’t be safe for her to speak up about certain issues. 

Last summer alone, three people attempted to break into her summer home—just one example of how people stalk and attempt to cause her harm. It is easy to see that homophobes that have considered themselves to be Swifties—until now—would attack her for not sticking to her “Christian values” if she were to come out. Not everyone has the motion detectors and armored cars that she does. Still, it is easy to connect with Swift because she understands the fear of having her privacy—our sexuality—invaded and in turn be harmed.

Whether referencing queerness or not, these ideas are relatable to closeted folks that are eager but nervous to express themselves. Young, queer people yearn for Swift to be queer so that they can feel validated about listening to her mainstream music. And if she came out, perhaps more people, such as my Midwestern parents, would understand that girls are queer— even the Grammy Award-winning, acoustic guitar-playing, feminine, country-singing girls.

It is time for openly queer people to become household names the way she has. The possibility that her music could relate to a sapphic relationship while still being adored by straight people shows that LGBTQIA+ music isn’t just for the people that identify as such, but that anyone could see themselves and their experiences in those songs. 

With all of this said, the lead up to the release of her latest album, Lover, cannot be overlooked. There was a ton of speculation that it was going to be her way of announcing she was bisexual, just in time for Pride 2019. People like culture writer Jill Gutowitz have written detailed breakdowns that go much further than just analyzing the ultimate allyship song, “You Need to Calm Down.” But she didn’t come out. 

People were disappointed and left questioning; was she queer-baiting or was all of this just exaggerated or misplaced support? I hope it is the latter; if she were going to come out as bisexual, I think it would’ve happened by now.

I can’t imagine what my 12-year-old self would think about going from dramatically singing along about the teardrops on my metaphoric guitar to tipsily belting the 2019 queer anthem at Pride. Being able to relate to Taylor Swift’s music as we both moved from small religious homes to liberal cities has allowed me to find a more truthful version of myself. In the next few years, I look forward to seeing how she continues to feel confident expressing her politics and, maybe, her pride. 

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