11 July 2024

New York, United States  – A lengthy essay speculating over superstar Taylor Swift’s sexuality has triggered anger online, with some social media users calling for its retraction.

The 5,000-word guest column published in the paper’s opinion pages suggests the wildly popular singer is sending veiled signals to her fans that she is queer, despite identifying publicly as straight.

Neither The Times nor Swift’s representatives immediately responded to an AFP request for comment over the piece or the backlash.

Speaking anonymously to CNN, a person in Swift’s camp called the column “invasive, untrue, and inappropriate.”

The essay by Anna Marks, an editor for the NYT’s Opinion section, strings together a list of times Swift has seemingly suggested she is queer.

“In isolation, a single dropped hairpin is perhaps meaningless or accidental, but considered together, they’re the unfurling of a ballerina bun after a long performance,” Marks wrote.

“Those dropped hairpins began to appear in Ms. Swift’s artistry long before queer identity was undeniably marketable to mainstream America. They suggest to queer people that she is one of us.”

In 2022 Marks published a guest essay speculating over the gender identity of Harry Styles, a pop star Swift has dated, examining accusations of queerbaiting against him.

Marks opened her Swift column by referencing the inner turmoil of Chely Wright, a queer country musician and activist who has described staying closeted for years for both career and personal reasons.

Following the essay’s publication, Wright lambasted it as “triggering.”

“I was mentioned in the piece, so I’ll weigh in,” Wright wrote on X, the former Twitter, over the weekend.

“I think it was awful of @nytimes to publish. Triggering for me to read — not because the writer mentioned my nearly ending my life — but seeing a public person’s sexuality being discussed is upsetting.”

– ‘Believe people’ –

Swift posted a banner 2023 as she continues her blockbuster “Eras” tour and catapults to an otherworldly realm of stardom.

For months the 34-year-old has openly dated NFL player Travis Kelce, bringing new legions of viewers to football games as the camera routinely pans to Swift.

Her dating life has long been fodder for tabloids, fans, and her songwriting. Swift has been linked to high-profile men including the actors Tom Hiddleston, Jake Gyllenhaal and Joe Alwyn, as well as the singers Styles, 1975 frontman Matt Healy and John Mayer.

Swift herself has never publicly indicated that she identifies as queer, although speculation has persisted for years.

She has championed LGBTQ+ rights, which she discussed in a 2019 interview with Vogue: “I didn’t realize until recently that I could advocate for a community that I’m not a part of.”

And in the prologue to her recent re-release of her album “1989,” Swift reflected that in her twenties she “swore off hanging out with guys” because of media assumptions that she was sleeping with every man she spent time with.

“I swore off dating and decided to focus only on myself, my music, my growth, and my female friendships,” she said. “If I only hung out with my female friends, people couldn’t sensationalize or sexualize that — right?”

“I would learn later on that people could and people would.”

Kayla Gagnet — director of digital content at Equal Pride, an umbrella brand of queer-focused media outlets including The Advocate and Out — said when it comes to celebrity news coverage, “pointing out obvious signals is not inherently problematic.”

Noticing signs of queerness, she told AFP, “should be no different” than media noticing Swift was dating Kelce before the pair had confirmed it.

On the other hand, Gagnet said, the backlash to the Times essay “is really focused on not the reading of queerness into her work, which I think is totally valid, but more on ignoring or being dismissive of what she herself has said about it.”

Followers of pop culture will always be interested in who celebrities are dating, she continued. “It’s fair game to sort of be interested in what that might mean about their sexuality.”

But at Equal Pride outlets, Gagnet said “we believe people when they tell us who they are.”

“And that is true for queer people and straight people and everybody in between.”

by Agence France-Presse