Celebrities don’t owe us an explanation of their sexuality

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Celebrities like Harry Styles and Taylor Swift have long been accused of queerbaiting, embracing gender fluidity without being openly queer. While it’s true these celebrities might profit off questions surrounding their sexuality, we must avoid policing people’s sexuality.

Harry Styles is known for his fluid style and sexual ambiguity, stating openly that he’s unwilling to define his sexuality, a statement that drew accusations of queerbaiting. More recently, Noah Beck received similar accusations after posting pictures from VMA magazine, where he dons high heels, fishnet stockings, and eyeliner.

These accusations are problematic. Suggesting that wearing feminine clothing is queerbaiting only perpetuates stereotypes that men who dress this way are queer, an assumption that’s both untrue and damaging.

Harry Styles and Noah Beck openly wearing feminine clothing isn’t queerbaiting; it’s an embrace of gender fluidity and a breaking down of gendered stereotypes that dictate how one should dress.

In reality, the clothes someone wears have no bearing on their sexuality. The sooner we realize that, the better.

That said, it’s frustrating that white artists who aren’t openly queer receive praise for their gender fluidity, while other artists who are open about their sexualities—especially people of colour—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 came out; quite the opposite is true.

While the term “queerbaiting” is appropriate in certain situations, it’s important we don’t use the word to police people’s sexualities. Everyone—even celebrities—are entitled to their privacy, and no one should feel forced to come out of the closet. That said, a queer POC’s frustration with white artists receiving this kind of praise is completely valid anger.

Whether Harry Styles and Noah Beck are queer or not is their business. They don’t owe us a statement or explanation of their sexuality. Celebrities are people too; whether they’re not ready to come out, are unsure of their sexuality, or simply aren’t queer, they don’t need to reveal that unless they want to.

Harry Styles and Noah Beck aren’t completely innocent, though.

Whether intentionally or not, they profit off their perceived queerness—no matter if it’s true or not—simply because fans choose to view them that way. They might not be able to change this, but they can—and should—use their privileged platforms to uplift queer POC who don’t get nearly enough support or recognition.

Instead of criticizing celebrities who are embracing fluid gender expression, we should be encouraging a future without labels. Policing people’s sexualities isn’t the way to do this; instead, we should be embracing both openly queer artists and those simply breaking down gender barriers.

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