Taylor Swift, Gaylors, Hetlors Explained

Why Are People Hating on the Gaylors?

OK, what I’m about to explain, if you’re not already in the Swiftie culture-war trenches, is going to sound completely unhinged, out of left field, and yet oddly fascinating because I’m about to unveil a section of the internet that was most likely hidden to you until now: the ongoing war between the “Gaylors” and the “Hetlors.” If that sounded like gibberish, good news: It kind of is, but you’re in the right place. The words are made up, but the sentiment behind them is raw and real.

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See, there is a subculture among the Swiftie community that emphatically believes that Taylor Swift is queer, and much of her music and some public appearances are queer-coded. They are called “Gaylors,” and we’ll get into their reasons in a second. On the other side are the “Hetlors,” which is mainly a term used by the Gaylors. In my experience, Hetlors don’t usually identify as “Hetlors,” just as “Swifties” who immensely dislike “Gaylors,” but this is not definitive. Hetlors believe Taylor Swift’s sexuality is not on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, and she is straight unless she announces otherwise. (They do not think she will ever announce otherwise, by the way.)

This all came to a head over the weekend because Swift was seen out with Travis Kelce at his football game and left with him afterward, after weeks of Kelce talking publicly about how much he likes Swift and wants to hang out with her. Most took this to be a public declaration of a relationship. Even the NFL got in on the action:

So, naturally, after Swift and Kelce were seen definitively not social distancing, some people took this as proof that Swift was not queer, and wanted to do a victory lap around the Gaylors publicly. (Yes, bisexuality frequently gets overlooked in this scrum, in case you were wondering.) Here are some examples:

Not gonna lie, they picked some great music to accompany their gloat.

I cannot stress to you how real this fight is to some people.

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Now, look: To be very clear, Taylor Swift has never said publicly weighed in on this issue. However, as the Gaylors will point out, there are many queer-coded aspects to Swift’s music. She switches the gender to a female recipient during live performances more than could be considered a fluke:

The lyrics to the song “New Year’s Day” typically go, “I want your midnights.” In the above clip, it sure does sound like she’s singing “her midnights”—at least to me.

Here’s another example where “she” was subbed in for “he”:

Then, there’s the vault track “The Very First Night” from Red (Taylor’s Version).

When it was released, Slate did a write-up of its curious (non) rhyming pattern:

Say what you will about her—though not to me, I don’t want to hear it—but the woman knows how to write exactly what she means in her songs.

[…]

The pre-chorus goes like this: “They don’t know about the night in the hotel/ They weren’t ridin’ in the car when we both fell/ Didn’t read the note on the Polaroid picture/ They don’t know how much I miss you.” The way the lyrics scan, my brain immediately wanted them to be a simple AABB rhyme scheme. Even without knowing the words to the song, I wanted that final word to rhyme with “picture.” What pronoun rhymes with “picture” you might ask? “Her.”

Then, of course, there is the very queer-coded music video for “You Need To Calm Down,” which, to Gaylors, is a proclamation of queerness, and to Hetlors, a display of allyship:

Key lyrics, even if you’re ignoring all of the visuals in the video: “shade never made anybody less gay.” Insider has an entire article of Gaylor-approved Swift lyrics if you want to go down that rabbit hole further.

There is also a 400+ page public presentation that gets into every possible queer-coded thing Swift has ever done, and I will admit, I once spent a weekend morning reading it. (I have a very rich and robust social life. Why do you ask?!) Yes, it gets very in the weeds on Karlie Kloss, Swift’s ex-best friend she spent all of 2014 in the press with, had a falling out with and never told the public why—not even a “Nicole knows what she did.”

This, friends, is my white whale. I need answers. I need to know why they stopped talking, and I will die angry if the truth is never revealed. The whole thing is a little out there, but Swift has lived her life in the public eye for a very long time, and nothing the presentation covers (to my knowledge) is anything other than public appearances, lyrics, and social media posts.

The way I look at all of this is pretty black and white: There is some compelling evidence in Swift’s music that how she presents herself to the public may not be who she actually is as a person. Hell, she wrote an entire song about that concept on Midnights, called “Mastermind”:

That said, who she is as a person is really none of my business. (Calm down, Hetlors, before you clap too loudly. I’m not done yet.) I’ve said before that Taylor Swift is my favorite sports team. So, adding a queer lens to her music and public appearances and engaging with it from that angle only adds a different perspective and additional layers to the songs. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Most people agree that sexuality is a spectrum, after all.

I also understand why, to some people, embracing the queerness of Swift’s music, and what they believe to be Swift herself, creates a community and sense of belonging. I don’t see anything wrong with that, either. Swift has fostered a notorious parasocial relationship with her fans, and despite major publications openly talking about the queerness of her music and her relationship with Kloss (Cosmopolitan, Rolling Stone, Teen Vogue, and even The New York Times) she has never commented on “Gaylor.” That, at the very least, should tell you her team doesn’t hate it or see it as a bad thing.

So now that we’ve gotten all of that out of the way, you probably want to know who’s currently winning the eternal war between the Gaylors and the Hetlors and friends? It’s kind of a tie right now, despite all of the Hetlor bragging, because Karlie Kloss showed up to the Eras Tour in Los Angeles in August, so really, being seen out with Kelce evens out the score. The only common ground that either side can agree on is that everyone is just glad she’s not running around with Matty Healy anymore. That genuinely may be the only thing they agree on. That, and that 1989 (Taylor’s Version) is going to be a banger.

(featured image: Taylor Swift/UMG)


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Author
Kate Hudson
Kate Hudson (no, not that one) has been writing about pop culture and reality TV in particular for six years, and is a Contributing Writer at The Mary Sue. With a deep and unwavering love of Twilight and Con Air, she absolutely understands her taste in pop culture is both wonderful and terrible at the same time. She is the co-host of the popular Bravo trivia podcast Bravo Replay, and her favorite Bravolebrity is Kate Chastain, and not because they have the same first name, but it helps.