For years — years! — we’d gathered every clue.
Kissgate. All those rainbows! Swapped lyrics featuring female pronouns. Lyrics that just seem really gay. The cats. The donations to LGBT causes. That performance with Hayley Kiyoko. Today, April 26, the day of Taylor Swift’s long-awaited announcement, is literally Lesbian Visibility Day.
I can’t claim to be nearly as much of a #Gaylor diehard as the true champions who’ve dedicated themselves to combing every last social media post, every public appearance, every exchange — however brief or seemingly insignificant — for evidence of Taylor’s queerness (and/or evidence of a romantic relationship with her sometimes-BFF Karlie Kloss). But there’s always been a deep, deep part of me that suspected one of the century’s biggest pop stars, as maniacally loved as she is deeply loathed the world over, plays (at least some of the time) for the girl’s team.
But particularly in the last few days, I’ve lost my head completely. I wouldn’t even call myself a Taylor fan, but I became a full-on #Gaylor truther, yelling at all of my colleagues that, surely, this famous lady was going to come out — as bi, as gay, as something. Jill Gutowitz’s investigations at Vulture had me hooked. The mural Taylor commissioned, revealed in Nashville yesterday, could not look more like the wings Karlie wore at the Victoria Secret show in 2013 — the year both she and Taylor walked in the show. Why would Taylor change some of the pronouns in her lyrics to “her” this week, of all weeks? Why???
I can’t help but suspect that Taylor, for her part, seemed to know that a dramatic countdown to a Big Midnight Announcement is exactly what her long-suffering queer fans have always wanted: a formalized hunt for The Truth. It’s almost as if she’s wanted to encourage the celesbian rumor mill. Taylor has been leaving clues for weeks as to what her announcement might entail, which means that, for Kaylor shippers, the past month has felt like Christmas. She even got a whole bunch of gays to watch her interview with Robin Roberts during, of all things, the NFL draft, a feat of enormous power if there ever was one.
Today I’m feeling like reporter Mary Emily O’Hara, who tweeted, “Taylor Swift is hardly the first straight girl I let lead me on.” Clearly, we should have known better. If only we’d heeded the skepticism of another reporter, Trish Bendix, who offered us a helpful reminder that it was just a short time ago a bunch of us got fooled into thinking a mysterious, major announcement from Kendall Jenner would be her coming-out moment, though it turned out to be the biggest not-news news of our time: She’d signed on as a Proactiv sponsor. It’s hard, in retrospect, to think we’d all been fooled into believing, as my friend Ellen put it, that “Taylor’s orientation is anything other than ‘capitalism.’”
Even though Taylor made the straightest gay music video of all time without actually coming out, it seems like the #Gaylor conspiracists haven’t given up hope yet. I doubt they ever will. And why would they?
Set aside, for the moment, the argument that public figures coming out is good for the community: Openly gay and bisexual people can serve as It Gets Better–style role models for all the many LGBT people out there who aren’t able to be open in their own lives quite yet. And the more openly queer people there are, the less stigma we’ll all face.
But besides all that: Queer celebrity gossip is fun!
(Of course, there’s a difference between friendly questioning about somebody powerful and viciously outing vulnerable, private citizens. Even shipping famous same-sex couples can go off the rails. That’s not the kind of queer gossip I’m talking about. Mostly, I mean shooting the shit with my friends.)
Whenever I’ve been with a bunch of lesbians and the topic of Taylor’s rumored queerness comes up, somebody will inevitably joke that they’d happily trade her in for Rachel Weisz or Cate Blanchett instead. (All of those people today, hearing Taylor didn’t actually come out, are feeling quite relieved indeed.) We argue about whether or not she broke Karlie’s heart, whether she really dated Dianna Agron.
Celesbian gossip, like all celebrity gossip, isn’t really about the celebrities. It’s about us, about what we value — in ourselves and in one another. It’s about what we want in our partners and friends and communities. Do we have a responsibility to come out? What makes a good queer, a progressive queer, a hot queer, a likable queer? What kind of language do we use to define who we are? How important is our sexual orientation to the way we structure our lives? Why do we put some queer people on pedestals and not others? What do we want a queer-friendly world to look like?
Celesbian gossip is also sort of soothing, because it can mirror the way a lot of us feel in our daily lives, trying to suss out whether or not our crushes might return our feelings. We’re all living in real-life versions of that famous discussion in season one of the L Word, when everybody’s trying to help Dana figure out if her new love interest is gay: Did you look at her fingernails? Did you look at her shoes? What is gay life, after all, if not an endless hunt for other gay people?
This time around, I found it quietly remarkable it is that, leading up to Taylor's grand announcement, we could even speculate about her sexual orientation so widely and loudly at all. Just a few short years ago, indicating that a celebrity might be gay or bisexual on social media, in the press, or any other kind of public platform could get you accused of “outing” them without their permission. For a million years, it seems, Kristen Stewart was openly holding hands with her girlfriends but still getting gal-pal’d and straight-washed in the tabloids. Only when Kristen “officially” came out were we, the public, then given permission to name what we’d already been seeing with our own eyes.
In the leadup to Taylor’s announcement, when rumors she’d be coming out began to furiously fly, the mainstream media and the gay press alike have published pieces openly speculating about whether or not her Big Reveal would be queer-related. My Twitter feed had been talking about nothing else all day. Perhaps, finally, wondering whether or not someone might be gay or bi doesn’t have to be treated like we’re poking at some shameful secret. (OK, a couple people on Twitter did accuse me of outing her when I said I wish Taylor would go ahead and come out already — I don’t stay up til midnight for just any woman! — but they were in the minority this time.) It’s simultaneously a big deal when somebody comes out and not that big of a deal at all. As the meme goes: “Some people are gay, Steven.”
I really thought Taylor was coming out this time. I really did! Now, there’s a big part of me — the grouchy and cynical part — that feels like the rollout for Taylor’s new song and video was a calculated attempt to queerbait us all before she turned on her glittery heels and announced that “Me” would be… the soundtrack to more of the NFL draft. But there’s another part of me that has to grudgingly respect how she whipped a bunch of full-grown gays who “don’t really care about Taylor Swift” into such a frenzy. Taylor is nothing if not an excellent businesswoman.
Because of this sort of stunt and many others, I wouldn’t say that Taylor has ever been my favorite celebrity about whom to speculate (if you’d like to trade queer celeb gossip: DM me). Still, I’ve always enjoyed floating my half-baked #Gaylor theories to an unsuspecting group of people because, to most, Taylor has always just seemed so… hetero. And that’s not (only) because she’s very feminine, though straight people in particular seem to never learn that gays come in all kinds of packages. She’s also a famous serial dater of a whole bunch of famous men. Taylor, the ex of Joe Jonas and John Mayer and Jake Gyllenhaal? She couldn’t possibly be anything but straight!
For my entire adult life, I’ve been astonished at people’s inability to consider that, just maybe, a famous person — even one who’s famously dated men and seems way too uncool to be queer — could actually be gay or bisexual.
I’ve known Kristen Stewart was queer, for example, since I saw her play an adorable little 12-year-old baby dyke in one of the movies that spurred my sexual awakening, Catch That Kid (2004); her character, Maddy, convinces two different boys she’s in love with them so they’ll do her bidding, even though she doesn’t actually care about either of them. (Gay rights!)
Of course I couldn’t really know. But I knew, you know? That’s just how it works sometimes — a kind of spiritual gaydar. Even when Kristen Stewart became one half of what was, at the time, the most famous straight couple in the world — she dated her Twilight costar Robert Pattinson, in case you’d forgotten — I knew. I knew it in my gay-ass bones. But I’d get frustrated with my (mostly straight) friends during that period and long afterward who not only refused to believe my theory, but refused to even entertain the possibility that the pretty, morose actor who played Bella Swan might actually be a homo.
Of course, nobody should believe every wacky celeb conspiracy theory that flies across their feed. Not even the ones I peddle! But maybe it's worth examining our reasons for believing some celebrity theories more than others.
Before some famous women actually did come out (in whatever complicated form) and vindicated me, I’d mention my suspicions — about Kristen, or Demi Lovato, or Taylor Swift, or Ellen Page (seriously, Ellen Page) — and receive a remarkable amount of pushback. These days I’ll mostly get an “Eh, I don’t buy it” when I get too tin-hatty, but even in the year 2019, I can still hear something like: “Of course she isn’t GAY. Why would you even THINK that? And even if she was, why would it even MATTER in the FIRST place???”
Today, as everybody dissects Taylor’s video for still more clues — and as others judge those people for caring a little too much about what a celebrity chooses to do in private — I’m still gonna root for the believers. It feels hokey to say so, but coming out does still matter. Whatever the hell that looks like anymore. ●