Celebrities like Harry Styles and Taylor Swift have long been accused of queerbaiting, embracing gender fluidity without being overtly queer. While it is true that these celebrities might benefit from the issues surrounding their sexuality, we need to avoid controlling people’s sexuality.
Harry Styles is known for his fluid style and sexual ambiguity, openly stating that he doesn’t want to define his sexuality, a statement that has drawn accusations of queerbaiting. More recently, Noah Beck received similar accusations after posting photos to VMA magazine, where he dons high heels, fishnet stockings and eyeliner.
These accusations are problematic. To suggest that wearing feminine clothes is queerbaiting only perpetuates stereotypes that men who dress this way are queer, an assumption that is both wrong and detrimental.
Harry Styles and Noah Beck openly wearing feminine clothes aren’t queerbaiting; it’s an embrace of gender fluidity and a break from the gender stereotypes that dictate how one should dress.
In reality, the clothes a person wears do not affect their sexuality. The sooner we realize this, the better.
That said, it’s frustrating that white performers who aren’t openly gay receive praise for their gender fluidity, while other performers who are open about their sexuality, especially people of color, often don’t. . Lil Nas and Hayley Kioko are just a few examples.
Still, that doesn’t mean someone like Harry Styles wouldn’t receive criticism if he did go out; Quite the opposite is true.
While the term “queerbaiting” is appropriate in some situations, it is important that we do not use this word to control people’s sexuality. Everyone, even celebrities, have a right to their privacy and no one should feel pressured out of the closet. That said, a gay POC’s frustration with white performers receiving this kind of praise is quite valid anger.
Whether Harry Styles and Noah Beck are gay or not is their business. They don’t owe us any statements or explanations about their sexuality. Celebrities are people too; whether they’re not ready to go out, aren’t sure about their sexuality, or they’re just not gay, they don’t need to reveal it unless they want to.
Harry Styles and Noah Beck are not completely innocent, however.
Whether intentionally or not, they take advantage of their weird perception, whether it’s true or not, just because fans choose to see them that way. They might not be able to change that, but they can – and should – use their preferred platforms to uplift queer POCs who don’t get enough support or recognition.
Instead of criticizing celebrities for adopting fluid gender expression, we should be encouraging a future without labels. Controlling people’s sexuality is not the right way to do it; instead, we should embrace both openly queer performers and those who simply break down gender barriers.
–Journal Editorial Board