10 Taylor Swift songs which sound like they are about being LGBTQ+
Gaylors assemble – it’s time to take a deep-dive into all the Taylor Swift songs that sound like they’re about being gay, but actually aren’t.
As all Swifties will know, Taylor’s songs are laced with intricate detail. From red wine splashed onto a t-shirt to a scarf that reminds Jake Gyllenhaal of innocence, Ms Swift is skilled at weaving hyper-specific tapestries that rope you in and help you build a story all of your own.
For Taylor Swift fans, that means we do a lot of projecting ourselves into her songs. By the end of “Dear John”, I feel like I’ve been personally wronged by John Mayer, and when I listen to “Anti-Hero”, I firmly feel that it is, in fact, me that’s the problem.
As a queer Taylor Swift fan, and a burgeoning Gaylor, I also spend a lot of time agonising over lyrics and wondering if they could be read through a queer lens. As Swifties sit back and wait even longer for her to announce Reputation (Taylor’s Version), we take a look at a handful of her songs that, in an alternative reality, could actually be queer.
When Taylor Swift surprise-released Folklore in the depths of COVID, queers immediately made “Betty” an integral part of their personalities – and for good reason. If you ignore the fact this song is actually about a teenage boy and a teenage girl falling in love, it’s very Sapphic.
In this song, Taylor sings from the perspective of a teenage boy called James who destroys his relationship with Betty when he runs off with another girl. They spend the summer apart, but James can’t stop thinking about her, and the utterly infectious love song culminates with James begging Betty to take him back.
Yes, we know; this song is technically about as straight as it gets, but if you ignore the fact that Taylor is singing from the perspective of a teenage boy, you can imagine it’s Taylor herself singing about a long lost teenage love who just happened to be a girl.
It helps that “Betty” sounds like Taylor Swift Googled “how to write a song that will appeal to queer people” – it’s got everything we love wrapped up in one song, and we love her for it.
If you’re queer, is it even possible to listen to Taylor Swift’s ode to coming-of-age without relating to the lyrics?
“It’s your freshman year / And you’re gonna be here for the next four years / In this town / Hoping one of those senior boys / Will wink at you and say / ‘You know I haven’t seen you around, before,” Ms Swift sings, encapsulating the school journey of queer boys everywhere in one fell swoop.
When we weren’t hanging around after class talking to our English teachers about how much we loved Oscar Wilde, we were conjuring our ultimate “pick me” fantasies. Taylor knows this, and with “Fifteen”, she made us all feel seen.
We’re sticking around in our Fearless era for few more moments to explain how this gorgeous album track is actually, secretly, about coming out.
If you’ve ever gone through the process of coming out, you’ll probably have seen your life change in ways you might not have expected. Sometimes, friendships or family relationships can fall to the wayside as you realise that the people you grew up surrounded by might not be the kind of people who really understand you or have your back.
“Breathe” is probably about the end of a relationship or a friendship, but for queer listeners, we can dream that it’s actually about our own journeys of moving on from a relationship that we know no longer serves us in that post-coming out haze.
“I see your face in my mind as I drive away / ‘Cause none of us thought it was gonna end that way / People are people / And sometimes we change our minds / But it’s killing me to see you go after all this time,” Swift sings.
The song perfectly captures the experience of leaving a chapter behind and facing into an uncertain but thrilling future.
Pretty much everyone can relate to the lyrics of “Sparks Fly”, but we’re going to claim it as yet another gay song, because why not?
So often, queer people grow up without any hint of romance. Coming out feels impossible, and truly connecting with other LGBTQ+ people feels out of reach because nobody can verbalise who they are or how they’re feeling.
And then comes that moment where you finally do find your first love, and all of those pent up feelings come bursting out. “Sparks Fly” feels like it was written about that moment – “The way you move is like a full on rainstorm / And I’m a house of cards” is a sentiment plenty of queer people will find themselves relating to when they look back on their formative years.
Basically everybody knows that “Style” is about Harry Styles – the clue is in the name – but the lyrics could just as easily paint a picture of a lesbian couple, one femme, one butch, as they fall in love.
“You got that long hair, slicked back, white T-shirt / And I got that good girl faith and a tight little skirt,” Swift sings. Yes, in reality, we know she’s describing how perfect she and Harry Styles look together (even if things weren’t perfect behind the scenes), but we can pretend she’s singing about yet another Sapphic relationship.
‘Welcome to New York’
1989‘s opening track represented the first time Taylor Swift overtly referenced queerness, which means it’s absolutely deserving of a place on this list.
“Welcome to New York” sees Swift singing about the joy and the freedom of finding herself in Manhattan, where you can be whoever you want to be and wipe the slate clean. That’s a sentiment queer people will be able to relate to – it’s all about finding a space where you can be yourself, where you no longer have to hide.
New York is also a place where you can be “want who you want / Boys and boys and girls and girls”, Swift sings. In a fairly simple reference, Swift made sure she would be dogged for the rest of her career by rumours about her own alleged queerness (in case you missed it, she pretty much shut down those rumours in the notes for 1989 (Taylor’s Version).
‘All Too Well’
If we didn’t know Taylor Swift’s best song (yes, we’re calling it) was about Jake Gyllenhaal, we’d absolutely think this was written for the soundtrack of a lesbian version of Brokeback Mountain.
“Oh, your sweet disposition / And my wide-eyed gaze / We’re singing in the car, getting lost upstate / Autumn leaves falling down like pieces into place / And I can picture it after all these days,” Swift sings, easily conjuring an image of a doomed lesbian couple.
It’s one of Swift’s most heartwrenching songs, and its story flows like an arthouse queer romantic drama with two straight actresses playing lesbians in a desperate bid for Oscars recognition – which is why it’s made this list.
Fans quickly started speculating that “Ivy” was inspired by Emily Dickinson and her love for Sue Gilbert when Swift surprise-released Evermore at the tail-end of 2020, which gives the song an automatic spot on this list.
“Ivy” is another Swiftian love affair filled with evocative imagery, but it also crucially sounds like it could be about a pair of queer lovers who are doing everything in their power to avoid getting caught.
“Clover blooms in the fields / Spring breaks loose, the time is near / What would he do if he found us out?” Swift sings.
The song quickly took on a life of its own among fans of the Apple TV+ series Dickinson, and the song even ended up being used in the show, which helped cement the song’s position as a queer Swift classic.
There’s plenty of room for queer readings of Taylor Swift songs on both Evermore and Folklore as both albums are largely populated with songs about fictional characters.
One that jumps out is “Champagne Problems”, a heartwrenching ballad about somebody dealing with the fallout after they turn down a proposal from their significant other. They know that they risk losing friends and the life they’ve built for themselves in the process.
You won’t have to jump through too many mental hoops to find a queer reading of “Champagne Problems” – the song sounds like it could be about a queer character in a relationship with a person they know is wrong for them. They know they have to say no when the time comes or they risk living out their days in a loveless marriage.
“You had a speech, you’re speechless / Love slipped beyond your reaches / And I couldn’t give a reason / Champagne problems,” Swift sings in this queer-coded song.
‘You’re On Your Own, Kid’
The fifth track on Midnights is pretty obviously a personal song about growing up, moving on and finding your own confidence – but it’s also possible to look at it through a queer lens.
“You’re On Your Own, Kid” might be about Swift’s own coming-of-age, but if you suspend your disbelief for a minute it could also be about dealing with the crushing defeat of unrequited love as a queer teenager and trying to find your place in a world where you so often feel alone.
“I wait patiently / He’s gonna notice me / It’s okay, we’re the best of friends / Anyway,” Swift sings. It’s a song full of self-doubt and yearning, but it ends with our protagonist building a life for themselves they could once only imagine.
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