For gaylors, Taylor Swift's Eras Tour hits different | Pittsburgh City Paper

For gaylors, Taylor Swift's Eras Tour hits different

click to enlarge For gaylors, Taylor Swift's Eras Tour hits different
CP Original Photo: Kaycee Orwig

The topic is bridges: those that criss-cross Pittsburgh's rivers, and those that serve as a passageway between parts of a song. Taylor Swift, the unofficial queen of bangin' bridges, is set to hit the City of Bridges on June 16 and 17 when her Eras Tour stops in Pittsburgh. At every show, Swift performs two surprise songs, some of which are catered in some way to the setting. It would make sense, then, if she sets aside a few selections from her discography with especially celebrated bridges for her Pittsburgh shows.

"Ooo, maybe we'll get 'Hits Different,'" MP tells Pittsburgh City Paper, her eyes suddenly lighting up, a sly smile crossing her face.

We probably won't, since, after this conversation, Swift scratched that one off the list in Chicago, and she doesn't do repeats. (Unless she messes up on the first try, which she did! So who knows?)

It would be fitting in so many ways, specifically for MP, 22, who's attending night one in Pittsburgh. "Hits Different" is a buried B-side from Swift's latest album, Midnights, that contains a pretty much irrefutable queer lyric, with Swift addressing her muse as an "argumentative, antithetical dream girl" at the end of the bridge. MP used this part of the song underneath a TikTok video in which she tries on a haul of Midnights merch. It received a highly-coveted "Taylor like," meaning that Taylor Swift herself (or at least Taylor Swift's account) gave it a "heart."

"Cool, Taylor Swift saw me in my boxers," MP quipped in a response video. "Definitely wasn't on my 2023 bingo card but, can't say that I'm complaining."

MP is a gaylor, so that "Taylor like" was kind of a big deal. Some see it as one of many signals Swift has sent out that she's aware of the gaylor subculture, and doesn't mind it.

Gaylor refers both to a theory and an online community of people who believe Taylor Swift is queer in some form, and that she's been intentionally — and increasingly loudly — flagging that in her lyrics, music videos, and performances. The gaylor community is made up of predominantly queer folks, and within that, it's majority sapphic people. Viewing Swift's art through a queer lens, gaylors have identified queer themes as well as queer references in her work. And via TikTok, Twitter, and various other online forums, they have traded ideas, decoded messages, and shared interpretations. In doing so, this group has gone far beyond simple analysis of Swift's artistry; they've taught each other the history of queer coding and lesbian culture, and fostered a sense of queer, feminist pride.

MP is one of a handful of leaders in this sphere, frequently hosting Twitter Spaces for the gaylor community, and increasingly meeting up with other gaylors in real life. She's attending six Eras Tour performances this year (maybe more), frequently bringing gaylors together along the way.

That connection is, in MP's words, the most important part.

"People think that gaylorism is about us proving that Taylor Swift is queer that's actually the last thing on our agenda," she tells City Paper. Instead, she says, Swift is merely a vehicle to a greater understanding of queer culture, and potentially a stepping stone to changing how the concept of "coming out" is viewed.

"We're not trying to get Taylor Swift to come out, or out her, or anything," MP says. "It's saying, 'We have a person who hasn't verbally said that they're queer, but they've done all this [flagging], and why can't we accept this as a statement of queerness?' Why does it always have to be 'I'm gay' or 'I'm queer' or 'I'm lesbian' to be able to recognize queerness?"

So, what are some of these queer flags gaylors observe Swift waving? The list is extensive, fascinating, sometimes a little unhinged, but largely compelling.

Gaylors have documented countless moments in which Swift has insinuated her queerness, from screenshots of Swift's mid-aughts Myspace page, to the infamous "eye theory," to the predominance of lesbian and bi Pride colors seen throughout her Eras Tour performance.

Probably the most frequently cited piece of standalone gaylor evidence is Swift's manipulating turns of phrase to include the word "hairpin" where it otherwise wouldn't appear. Evermore's bonus track "Right Where You Left Me" includes the line, "I swear, you could hear a hairpin drop," instead of "pin drop," which is significant because the phrase "hairpin drop" historically means to drop hints that you're gay. Swift doubled down on this in a Midnights bonus track, "The Great War," in which she sings, "Your finger on my hairpin triggers," instead of "hair triggers." It's hard to see this word play as accidental, especially when "Mastermind" Swift has told us explicitly that none of it is accidental.
The popularity of gaylorism has risen sharply in recent months, when the rollout of the Midnights album began late last summer. But it's been a theory since almost the beginning of her career, picking up significant steam during her 1989 era. Shortly after that album's release in 2014, Swift was allegedly caught kissing her then-best friend Karlie Kloss during a performance by The 1975 in New York City. The incident became known as "Kissgate," and fueled rumors that the two were dating.

It's a pivotal piece of gaylor lore that led to an unexpected encounter for MP.

At an Eras Tour show she attended last month in Philadelphia, "two very brave girls," she says, threw caution to the wind.

"Behind me, I hear someone go, 'Kissgate? Kissgate?'" MP tells City Paper. She wanted to respond, "but part of me hesitated," she says. "This sounds so dramatic, but I thought, 'What if I'm being baited?'"

Some gaylors have been covert at Swift's concerts for fear of homophobia and harassment.

MP took a chance, though, turned around, and said "Yeah, Kissgate!" back, and one of the girls responded, "Oh my God, want to trade bracelets?"

Trading friendship bracelets is a big thing at the Eras Tour, and it's yet another way gaylors find each other, albeit carefully.

One of the "Kissgate" girls pulled out a stashed-away bag of bracelets and said, "Here are all my gay ones."
MP has traded plenty of gay ones, too, including one that says, "Me Out Now," a reference to the way Swift announced her lead single from the Lover album via Instagram in 2019 with a caption stating, "Me! Out now!" It just so happened to be posted on Lesbian Visibility Day.

"ME!" is MP's favorite Taylor Swift song  one of her six Taylor Swift tattoos is an ode to it which is odd only because it's pretty much no one else's. It's a universally panned single, but "I love bubble gum pop that sounds like it's written for 5-year-olds," she says.

MP channeled her dedication to "ME!" into a one-woman campaign for Swift to play it as a surprise song at the Pittsburgh show.

"I had this genius parasocial idea to convince Taylor Swift to play 'ME!' on June 16th, and it's so perfect: It's Pride month, no one else is asking for this song ... This has been my number one surprise song since I found out she was doing surprise songs. I'm 100 percent serious about it."
@myhairpintriggers taylor swift im pleading im begging im on my knees #swifttok #me #theerastour #loverera ♬ ME! (feat. Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco) - Taylor Swift
When "ME!" premiered, MP hadn't fully come out yet. As time went on and she listened to it more, "I feel like the song has been there for me in my journey of queerness," she says, "and so every time I listen to it at a different time in my life, I have a new understanding of that song ... When I found queer community and found my identity, I was like, 'I am the only one of me! This song is so good!' And the music video is obviously rainbows and sunshine, so it is really just a queer bop, whether she intended it to be or not."

Ultimately, MP reiterates, gaylorism isn't actually about whether or not Taylor Swift is gay, at least anymore. "It started that way," she says, "but it's grown to so much past that." She's been told by people she's met, both online and in person, some of whom aren't out in their personal lives, that the gaylor circle is one of the few places in which they can express themselves freely.

"Gaylor gives them this opportunity to exist in a space where they can be themselves — that's what it's really about," MP says. "It's about showing the world that we can come out however we please."