The ‘Gaylors’ are showing us the toxic sides of celebrity culture
The Taylor Swift fandom doesn’t exactly have the best reputation (pun intended). If you ask a non-Swiftie about the Taylor Swift fandom, you’re likely to hear that we’re nothing more than a bunch of crazed young women obsessing over the life of a mediocre singer.
This is, of course, wrong. So wrong, in fact, that if someone dared to call Taylor Swift mediocre to my face, they’d be lucky to escape alive. Setting her 42 Grammy nominations and 11 wins aside, her music is diverse and tells captivating stories, and the Taylor Swift fandom is not half bad either. The vast majority of us Swifties are young women who appreciate and look up to Swift and her music. Sometimes we may appear a bit obsessive — buying as much of her merch as possible, learning the name of every single one of her cats (Meredith, Olivia and Benjamin, in case you were wondering) — but it’s all in good fun. We’re fangirls being fangirls, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
However, there is one side of the Taylor Swift fandom that has always managed to rub me the wrong way. The “Gaylors,” as they call themselves, are a sect of Swifties who believe that Taylor Swift is one day going to come out as gay. They have done a deep dive into her past relationships, friendships and lyricism to arrive at this conclusion, and are ready to tell off anyone who dares say otherwise. They publicly speculate about her sexuality all over social media, taking even the smallest crumb of information and twisting it to fit their beliefs.
Most recently, Gaylors were thrust into the spotlight when Swift announced track one on her newest album, Midnights. “Lavender Haze,” she explained, was about her struggle to ignore “weird rumors” in order to protect the “all-encompassing” love she feels for her long-term partner, actor Joe Alwyn. The “weird rumors” Swift was referring to could have been any number of things, but Gaylors took them personally, lamenting on social media that Swift was not coming out any time soon — as if her Queerness was just a fact of life.
On the surface level, there is nothing wrong with theorizing about your favorite idol. I myself have spent more time than I’d care to admit unpacking the various easter eggs Swift plants all over social media, but speculating about someone’s sexuality — especially someone who you do not know (celebrity or not) — is unsettling. Swift has already dealt with controversy after controversy throughout her career, from criticisms of her list of past boyfriends to attacks on her “lack of talent.” While drama comes with the job for someone as popular as Swift, theories as ungrounded as the Gaylor movement just fuel the fire.
Personally — given her dating history, discography and the fact that she’s spoken out on this issue before — I think it’s pretty clear that Taylor Swift is heterosexual. However, I’m not here to tell you whether or not she’s straight. That is not the question we need to be asking. What really needs to be considered is why people think it’s appropriate to center a fandom around speculations about someone’s sexuality. At its core, sexuality is incredibly personal and can be an overwhelming subject to consider even in a private setting. Do we really think that engaging in public discourse about whether or not Swift is straight would — if she is gay — encourage her to come out? Would it not accomplish the very opposite?
LGBTQIA+ Swifties have every right to feel represented by Swift’s music. In fact, fans should feel encouraged to search for representation in the media they love. The Harry Potter fandom is just one example of a series that — with the help of some very devoted fans — has strayed from its canon material to include characters of all different races, ethnicities and sexualities, something that the infamous JK Rowling has failed miserably at accomplishing. However, this is a fandom for fictional characters. There is no harm done when Harry Potter fans write elaborate fanfiction about Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter’s secret relationship, but you’ll be pressed to find fans who devote hours of their life to theorizing about whether or not Daniel Radcliffe (“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story”) and Tom Felton (“Burial”) are in love, because that would be immensely inappropriate.
Yet that is exactly what Gaylors are doing. They are treating Swift like a fictional character to whom they can assign any sexuality they would like, with no regard for the fact that she is a real human being with a life outside of her musical career. Interpret Swift’s lyrics any way you want, but don’t use them to feed some unsupported theory you have about who she is, because in reality, we don’t know her, and we aren’t entitled to this information about her.
The Gaylors are not the only fandom out there in need of a major wake-up call. In fact, celebrity culture in general is in need of some serious revamping. Over the past several years, celebrities have been tossed into the spotlight, only to have each and every detail of their lives examined under a microscope until it becomes too much. Actor Kit Connor has faced intense speculation surrounding his sexuality since his breakout performance as Nick Nelson in Netflix’s, “Heartstopper,” so much so that he was forced to publicly respond to these comments. Millie Bobby Brown, best known for her starring role in the hit Netflix series, “Stranger Things,” was forced off social media in 2020 due to a whirlwind of hate. “Fans” sexualized her repeatedly even after she spoke out about how this made her uncomfortable. She was also “shipped” inappropriately with her castmates, and has had all of her real-life relationships scrutinized by the public. Worst of all, Brown was forced to deactivate her Tw itter account in 2018 due to the circulation of a meme that claimed she was homophobic.
These “fans” have the same disregard for Brown and Connor’s well-being that Gaylors have for Swift’s well-being — they choose to ignore the fact that these are real people, and instead treat them like fictional characters, with zero regard for privacy. This is the most toxic side of celebrity culture and fandom: the utter lack of respect that many supposed “fans” have for their idols. It’s tremendously upsetting. Fandom has the potential to be such an incredible thing. It encourages discourse around the media that we love and fosters a remarkable sense of community, but it loses its magic if we cannot show a basic level of respect toward the people we supposedly idolize.
I’m proud to be a Swiftie, and nothing will change that. However, we will never be an entirely wholesome community until we stop treating Swift like she is some fictional figurehead, and instead offer her the support and love that she deserves. That is what loving Taylor Swift is all about.
Daily Arts Contributor Rebecca Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.