Is Taylor Swift Gay?
A growing community of "Gaylors" thinks so
To be a die-hard Taylor Swift fan, a.k.a. a Swiftie, is to become an expert in the field of symbology — the fake academic field made up by Dan Brown for The Da Vinci Code. Ever since Swift acknowledged that she loves to hide easter eggs about upcoming announcements in her work, her most devoted followers have become ravenous. The number of emojis in a tweet becomes a clue as to when the next single is coming out, a sparkly dress worn on the red carpet means that Reputation (Taylor’s Version) is imminent, and the way she smeared her hand through a wedding cake in a music video means… well, no one could agree on that one.
These theories are usually outlandish and often wrong. Swift’s easter eggs are hardly ever well hidden, like when the album title “Lover” appeared in the music video for “ME!” But there is a subsection of the Swiftie community that has committed themselves to what they believe is Swift’s most obvious easter egg. They call themselves Gaylors and they think, as you might have guessed, that Taylor Swift is gay.
Or bisexual, or more broadly queer. There is some disagreement within the Gaylor community as to what the singer’s actual sexual identity might be. The one thing they seem to believe is that Swift is not straight and that she has had secret relationships with women in the past; the two major ones, according to them, were with supermodel Karlie Kloss and actress Dianna Agron. But the specifics of these relationships are less the point to a broad contingent of Gaylors, who are predominantly queer women. What’s most important is that they see themselves reflected back in her music. Like a mirrorball.
“My suspicion has always been that she'll come out on her deathbed,” said Kate (who preferred to have her last name left out of this for fear of being attacked by “Hetlors,” a.k.a. the people who vehemently defend Swift’s heterosexuality). “But if she did [come out], I mean, that would be really special… Especially if she's like, ‘Yeah, I'm in this loving relationship with a man, but I am queer, and this is part of my identity and this is real,’ [that] would be like, very validating for me.”
The man in question is Joe Alwyn, the actor Swift has been in a relationship with since 2017. The more romantic songs on Swift’s albums Reputation and Lover are supposedly about him, but if you spend enough time on Gaylor TikTok the passion with which people argue otherwise might make you think differently.
Take, for example, the song “Dress” off of Reputation. In the bridge she mentions the subject of the song having a buzzcut, much like Alwyn did at the Met Gala where the two supposedly met. But for Gaylors, that is just a diversion from what the song is actually about.
“That song so perfectly encapsulates the deep homoerotic friendship that so many queer girls had when they were young adults,” said Annika (who also requested we not publish her last name). “Dress,” if you are unfamiliar, is a sexy song detailing a secret relationship, and all the anticipation and furtive glances that come with it.
“Our secret moments in your crowded room / They've got no idea about me and you,” Swift sings breathily on the track. Then, in the chorus, “Carve your name into my bedpost / 'Cause I don't want you like a best friend / Only bought this dress so you could take it off.”
Gaylors are quick to note that Swift does not have many public male friendships, but what she has had are several prominent female best friends, making the line about not wanting someone as a best friend immediately ring alarm bells. It certainly helps their case that when Swift performed this song on the Reputation tour, she would dedicate it to Loie Fuller, an openly gay dancer from the turn of the 20th century. (Swift stated that the dedication to Fuller had to do with the fact that she “fought for artists to own their own work.” Although she did so while basked in the colors of the bisexual pride flag.)
If this feels like stringing together murder suspects on a corkboard, you haven’t gone very deep into Gaylor lore. Close readings of lyrics and stage performances are child’s play compared to some of the theories posited by devoted Gaylors. Look no further than a graphic that is now notorious within the community, the Gaylor Iceberg.
At the top of the iceberg, you’ll see “queercoded lyrics.” Those are easy enough. For example, in “Right Where You Left Me” Swift sings, “You could hear a hair pin drop,” which was midcentury slang for subtly letting someone know you were gay. In “The Very First Night,” a vault track from Red, she sings, “Didn't read the note on the Polaroid picture / They don't know how much I miss you” and then, “No one knows about the words that we whispered / No one knows how much I miss you.” Gaylors will ask you to think if there is a different pronoun that rhymes slightly better with “picture” and “whispered.”
But further down in the image you’ll find things like “false god live” (during a performance of “False God” on SNL it looked like Swift was fingering the air), “dianna’s tumblr handle” (Agron’s handle was “felldowntherabbithole,” which is a line in Swift’s song “Wonderland”), and my personal favorite, “the eye theory.”
The eye theory is one of the most far-flung Gaylor theories to date. It goes like this: On a promotional photo for Swift’s Reputation, Swift is shown with her hands over her face, revealing only her eyes. Some Tumblr detectives thought it looked odd, and after splitting the image in half they realized that the left side of “Taylor’s” face looked an awful lot like Karlie Kloss. In the original Tumblr post, they note that illusion and fragmentation were some of the “central reoccurring and fleshed out themes of the rep era,” thus Swift hiding Kloss’s face in the image was on theme. Later, in the “ME!” video, a pastel snake appears missing its left eye, which some think is a nod to the theory.
“I feel like [the eye theory] is such a perfect representation of how truly unhinged Taylor Swift fans are, but also how unhinged Taylor Swift is,” Annika said. “Because whether or not this theory has any basis at all, in reality, she has, since this came out, used imagery to call back to the eye theory to show that she's aware of it.”
Swift’s awareness of speculation around her sexuality is a foregone conclusion to Gaylors. They know she knows they know.
“She's explicitly begged us to beg the question,” Cam Gray told me over Zoom. Gray hosts “What I Will Say,” a pop culture and gossip podcast that features a hearty dose of Gaylor content throughout its 69 episodes.
Among Gaylors, there is a popular belief that this begging came to a head during Swift’s Lover era. Many of them speculate that she had intended to come out of the closet around this time. First, there is the music video for “You Need to Calm Down,” in which she surrounded herself with queer celebrities like RuPaul, Laverne Cox, Ellen Degeneres, and the Queer Eye guys. That’s not what strikes them as particularly gay, though.
“In the music video for [“You Need to Calm Down”] she wears the bi pride wig,” Annika told me, although she noted that she believes this is one of Swift’s “straightest” songs. “And that to me is damning evidence that at the very least she's intentionally communicating she's gay, because there's no way that you can be on a music video set as a $100 million brand surrounded by other gay people, and professional hair and makeup stylists and not a single one of them was like, Hey, girl, you're wearing the bi pride colors.”
The wig in question is exactly as Annika describes. It’s blue, purple, and pink, the same colors as the bisexual pride flag. “Either this woman is gay, or she's intentionally terrorizing the LGBTQ community,” Annika said.
Five months after Lover came out, Swift released her documentary Miss Americana. In it, as with everything she does, there are clues for Gaylors. At one point she is describing to Brendan Urie the video for their collaboration “ME!”
“It’s like, dancers, cats, gay pride, people in country western boots, I start riding a unicorn. Just everything that makes me me,” she tells a very excited Urie.
“Why does she have such a peculiar and particular way of speaking about queerness? And why did she spend an era and some change making herself the center of the conversation about queerness? Why did she put herself in a pride parade in the middle of a gay trailer park in her music video,” Gray asked. “These are things she's doing.”
Other things she’s doing include, but are not limited to: writing love songs about women “from the perspective of a man,” licensing her song “Ivy” to the show Dickinson for an episode in which the poet sleeps with a woman, making the special edition vinyl of her upcoming Midnights album lavender-colored, and alluding to making a “fateful and life-altering mistake” in her announcement of that album.
You can spend hours, days, months of your life falling down this rabbithole and convincing yourself that you’re correct. But Gaylors, unlike their closest analogue, Larries (the people who were convinced Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson of One Direction were/are in love), leave room for doubt.
“There are absolutely moments where I think I am in way too deep on this,” Kate said. “There's a possibility that she has queer feelings and is expressing that longing through music, because I've known a lot of people who are queer and especially if you're in a relationship with a man for a long time, you can feel a disconnect from that part of yourself.”
When I bring up that sometimes getting too far into Gaylor TikTok makes me feel vaguely QAnon-y, Annika admitted that she occasionally had a similar feeling.
“It's not a perfect comparison because Gaylors, first of all, aren't evil,” she said. “And second of all, we're right. But it does scratch that same social itch of being in a community where everyone has the same, you know, niche knowledge and speaks the same coded language and are in on a little secret that the general public doesn't know about.”
That community has grown exponentially on TikTok — after being forged on Reddit and Tumblr — where videos on the #gaylor hashtag have been viewed over 200 million times.
“It's becoming more of a friendship thing, which is really nice, because I don't have a lot of people in real life who will listen to me talk about this, and certainly not be enthusiastic about it,” Kate said.
That is not to say that posting about the perceived queerness of a mega-famous pop star who the majority of the world believes is straight does not have its downsides.
“I think when private jet-gate came out, I jokingly called her, like, an evil capitalist girl boss on my account… Not a single person had something to say about that,” Annika said, referring to the controversy surrounding Swift being named the celebrity with the worst private jet CO2 emissions in a questionable report from the marketing agency Yard. “But me saying this bitch is gay has resulted in, like dozens of death wishes from, largely, 13-year-olds.”
So maybe the tweens aren’t ready for Swift to come out of the closet (if that is, in fact, where she is residing). But the Gaylors are, and they think that it might happen with the release of Midnights on October 21. (If you believe the theories, she hinted at it by wearing lesbian pride colors in one of her recent TikToks.)
“I think it would change the world,” Gray said, “And I don't think I'm being theatrical or dramatic when I say that… We need gay heroes, and Taylor Swift is a lot of people’s hero.”
“I would like, I don't even know, go to the hospital,” Kate said when asked what she would do if Swift came out in the next month. “Like, just stand on my roof and scream I was right.”
But if she doesn’t do it, it’s hard to see how Gaylor theories could ever go away. Too many people believe in it too deeply for the Gaylor community to truly dissipate. It’s like believing in ghosts: there’s a lot of somewhat credible evidence, there’s a spectrum of how much you’re willing to believe, and at the end of the day, it’s more fun to think it’s real.
“The grip of Gaylor has to do in part with just all of the evidence and the affirmation that comes from the idea that the highest paid musician in the world also is gay and has to deal with the really dehumanizing experience of closeted and shame surrounding your sexuality,” Annika said. “But it also just comes from being in a community with like, really awesome, smart, definitely unhinged gay people, which the QAnon-ers don't have. That's probably why they're so miserable.”