Taylor Swift, designated gay icon by the Kaylor community and herself, can explain the whole rainbow, glitter-dusted, LGBTQ celebration that her new album Lover has brought us. Because while it seems like it’s done in good faith, it also feels like it came out of nowhere.
In a Vogue cover story by writer Abby Aguirre—who seems to think gay advocacy has been an explicit theme in Swift’s songs, apparently for years, including the lyric “boys and boys and girls and girls” in “Welcome to New York” (to which I say, mmkay)—Swift explained, essentially, why now. Why drag queens and rainbow flags in her messaging now? Aguirre asked about it:
“Maybe a year or two ago, Todrick and I are in the car, and he asked me, What would you do if your son was gay?”
We are upstairs in Swift’s secret garden, comfortably ensconced in a human-scale basket that is sort of shaped like a cocoon. Swift has brought up an ornate charcuterie board and is happily slathering triple-cream Brie onto sea-salt crackers. “The fact that he had to ask me . . . shocked me and made me realize that I had not made my position clear enough or loud enough,” she says. “If my son was gay, he’d be gay. I don’t understand the question.”
I have pressed Swift on this topic, and her answers have been direct, not performative or scripted. I do sense that she enjoys talking to me about as much as she’d enjoy a root canal—but she’s unfailingly polite, and when we turn to music, her face will light up and she will add little melodic phrases to her speech, clearly her preferred language.
Swift says she realized she needed to be clear on her position and to her LGBTQ fans. Do I think she needed to write what is ostensibly a badly written gay anthem to do that? Not really! And for those who wondered if she really was comparing homophobic, picket-sign wielding homophobes to her own trolls, she says as much in the story: “The first verse is about trolls and cancel culture. The second verse is about homophobes and the people picketing outside our concerts.”
It’s true that Swift’s political advocacy, such as endorsing Democrats for the Tennessee Legislature and urging fans to vote, actually got people to register (over 65,000). But LGBTQ advocacy, and her involvement in the MeToo movement with her pointed testimony against DJ David Mueller and $1 settlement, seems to be the sole source of her political activism these days. She is keeping things at a very personal and local level. For example, the picketing group in the “You Need to Calm Down” video references a specific religious group who pickets her shows, not right-wing zealots in general.
Swift also talks about what it felt like to hear calls to “cancel” her after the Kanye x Kim x Snakes x Phone Recording scandal of 2016:
“A mass public shaming, with millions of people saying you are quote-unquote canceled, is a very isolating experience,” she says. “I don’t think there are that many people who can actually understand what it’s like to have millions of people hate you very loudly.” She adds: “When you say someone is canceled, it’s not a TV show. It’s a human being. You’re sending mass amounts of messaging to this person to either shut up, disappear, or it could also be perceived as, Kill yourself.”
I dunno, was Swift canceled? Because I feel like she had a massively successful album release after that, in which she used the whole press cycle as artistic inspiration.
You can read the full Vogue profile here.