With out-of-the-box red-carpet looks and energetic performances, Harry Styles finds himself the center of attention at most music award shows. This year at the Grammys though, a comment Styles made had many fans making assumptions about the artist’s gender identity and sexual orientation, which are, frankly, nobody’s businesses.
In his acceptance speech for Album of the Year, Styles said, “This doesn’t happen to people like me very often.” What exactly does this mean? As it turns out, even the most dedicated “Harries” can’t answer that, but they sure did speculate.
Some Twitter users assumed Styles was referring to the immense success he has had as a solo artist following his boyband years. Others guessed Styles was referencing his humble beginnings, pointing out how other nominated artists have grown up with connections, while Styles was discovered on The X Factor UK.
But perhaps the most widely believed fan theory is that the comment was meant to be a confirmation that Styles is part of the LGBTQ+ community, a rumor that has circulated for several years.
The fascination with Styles’s sexuality and gender is an unusual aspect of the artist’s fan following, but unfortunately, an increasingly large number of fans seem to feel that Styles owes them some sort of explanation.
Regardless of Styles’s sexual orientation or gender identity, it is harmful to imply that he must be “out” for his experiences to be valid. And no matter what kind of platform someone has, they do not deserve to be pressured to come out.
In recent years, Styles has rejected gender stereotypes in fashion, donning traditionally feminine clothing for performances, red carpets and magazine covers.
Styles has been accused on multiple occasions of “queerbaiting,” or using the suggestion of being part of the LGBTQ+ community in his work despite not openly identifying as a member.
Calling someone’s behavior “queerbaiting” implies a belief that people must label themselves in a way to be able to express their sexuality, which just isn’t true. People’s experiences and the way they choose to express themselves should be valid regardless of labels.
What fans might not know is that, in labeling Styles and other artists as “queerbaiters,” they are potentially causing harm to people outside of the public eye who do not feel ready, safe or comfortable coming out.
It is entirely possible that Styles is a member of the LGBTQ+ community and he does not feel comfortable coming out, or he doesn’t really know how he identifies. Maybe he just wants to keep this aspect of his life private. That’s okay too.
Aside from the “queerbaiting” accusations, a lot of the dialogue surrounding Styles’s gender identity and sexual orientation is actually quite supportive, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessary.
Fans have to respect that, no matter how connected they may feel with Styles through his art, they don’t have a right to know details about his personal life, including his gender identity and sexual orientation.
So, if Styles does someday come out, in a public, formal way (probably not with a vague comment at the Grammy’s), we should absolutely support and celebrate that. But until then, let’s just let him do his thing. He doesn’t owe us a label or an explanation.