The world is once again asking if Harry Styles is queer.
He’s never labelled his sexuality, despite being asked, numerous times.
Accusations of queerbaiting have been flying at the ex-One Direction member for yearsbut a recent Rolling Stone interview and upcoming movie have reignited the debate (and no, we’re not talking about the movie that’s spurred rumours of a rift between co-star Florence Pugh and director Olivia Wilde and, among other things, an allegation of spitting).
Wait, what is queerbaiting?
It’s a tricky concept to define.
Some see it as an attempt to attract queer audiences while still retaining conservative fans — a sort of “plausibly deniable queerness”.
Others go further to say these public figures are hinting at queerness for publicity or financial gainwithout actually identifying as members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
The argument goes: if you don’t experience the homophobia and discrimination that can comes with being queer, you shouldn’t be able to capitalise on it.
Why do people care?
Rachel: Harry has been making headlines and gaining popularity for wearing dresses on the covers of high fashion magazines, using the vernacular of the (Black and) queer community and making subtle suggestions he’s not straight for years. But when it comes to actually identifying as a member of the queer community…?
Yaz: The argument on one side goes: why does this celebrity owe us anything? Should he not just be able to dress how he wants, sleep with who he wants, etc. etc.?
Rachel: Similar pressure was placed on artists like David Bowie and Prince … have we not moved past that?
Yaz: Yeah, people on that side of things point out not everyone wants to, or can, come out. For many it’s about coming “in”. Plus what are labels, anyway? And who decided gatekeeping was ever OK?
And the other is like: Harry has a great deal of privilege. He is celebrated off the back of his palatable “transgressiveness” and proximity to queerness. But does he have the right to be?
That’s the gist of the “is he/isn’t he and the why-won’t-he-just-say” discussion that’s been swirling about online for years now. But it’s escalated recently. Why?
Rachel: I feel like it’s partly happening again because there is literally no escape from Harry right now. He is everything, everywhere, all at once (if that everything was a pretty pop star who likes wearing nail polish and feather boas).
Yaz: And now he’s starring in an upcoming queer film (My Policeman), playing a queer character, and talking about queerness more than ever.
Rachel: Yep and he’s said things on the press trail that people do not like given all the historic queerbaiting accusations. Some ~ quotes ~ from his Rolling Stone interview:
“So much of gay sex in film is two guys going at it, and it kind of removes the tenderness from it.”
Um, hasn’t he seen recent queer movies like Moonlight, or Holding the Man?? Both super tender and romantic and sad.
Yaz: So some queer people online are upset because they feel like “this person apparently speaking on behalf of us maybe shouldn’t be, if he isn’t queer”. But no one knows if he is or isn’t, so it’s this endless cycle …
Rachel: Yeah his comments feel almost like he’s OK with positioning himself as this authority on queer representation in film? But wait! There’s more from Harry who said …
“It’s obviously pretty unfathomable now to think, ‘Oh, you couldn’t be gay. That was illegal.'”
I’d like to point out that it’s still illegal in many parts of the world. And queer people still face daily discrimination. For many people in the queer community, having to fight for acceptance and rights definitely isn’t “unfathomable”.
Yaz: No words, just this tweet with zero likes:
Rachel: So … yeah. It’s got a lot of people wondering what kind of connection he has to the LGBTQIA+ community.
Yaz: He also used the interview to say he wasn’t going to respond to any of these queerbaiting discussions.
So, I don’t think people can expect an answer anytime soon. Cue a lot more screaming into the void AKA why Harry and the whole queerbaiting debate are trending again.
Should you care?
Rachel: Look, maybe some of his comments have been taken out of context. And if Harry wants to wear fun clothes, let him! No one owes it to anyone else to come out. But as one critic on TikTok put itthe more he avoids questions about his sexuality, the more he’s going to be asked about queer issues. It’s all about that clickbait.
Yaz: Harry isn’t the first person to be accused of this, and won’t be the last. I have to be honest and say I don’t think this is one of those things that can be wrapped up with a neat little bow. It’s just one of those impossible issues. And that’s why the internet is obsessed with it.
ABC Everyday in your inbox
Get our newsletter for the best of ABC Everyday each week