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a woman looking at the camera: Taylor Swift's "Folklore" has found an eager audience of queer listeners. Screenshot YouTube/Taylor Swift

© Screenshot YouTube/Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift’s “Folklore” has discovered an keen viewers of queer listeners. Screenshot YouTube/Taylor Swift

  • Taylor Swift’s new album “Folklore” blends fantasy and actuality collectively for a masterclass in storytelling that may resonate with a various set of listeners. 
  • For me, “Folklore” is a tribute to the experiences I’ve had as a homosexual lady, from my childhood to my first lesbian relationship and my present-day battle with femininity. 
  • I interpret the lyrics on songs like “Seven,” “August,” and “Mirrorball” with queer experiences like past love, being closeted, and gender presentation. 
  • Go to Insider’s homepage for extra tales.

Launched final week, Taylor Swift’s shock studio album “Folklore” has already grow to be among the best collections of her profession, if not the outright winner. It is a winding, melancholy journey that Swift says blends collectively fantasy and actuality. 

It is nicely documented that Swift’s energy lies in her lyrical storytelling, and her greatest deep cuts are inclined to revolve across the trials and tragedies of her romantic relationships. I have been a fan of her music since I used to be 10, and as a child, I assumed the love songs on “Fearless” and “Communicate Now” foretold what my future relationships with boys could be like. But it surely did not end up that means. 

Taylor Swift shared behind-the-scenes clips from her album cover shoot in a video for the "Cabin in Candlelight" version of "Cardigan." Taylor Swift/YouTube

© Taylor Swift/YouTube
Taylor Swift shared behind-the-scenes clips from her album cowl shoot in a video for the “Cabin in Candlelight” model of “Cardigan.” Taylor Swift/YouTube

When “Folklore” all of the sudden crashed into Swift’s discography late final week, the album overwhelmed me. In it, I see bits and items of my homosexual reckoning. There’s an ode to already understanding who I used to be as a 7-year-old lady; there are songs that get to the guts of the ache that comes with being closeted all this time; there are tracks that replicate the inner wrestling over my very own femininity. 

The album’s queer undertones — and Swift’s personal sexuality — have already been dissected at size. However as I listened to every gauzy, beautiful observe, I solely noticed myself.

Swift’s lyrics about youth and innocence recall my very first lesbian expertise, though I did not comprehend it on the time

On the primary “Folklore” single, “Cardigan,” Swift states plainly that “I knew every little thing once I was younger.” It contrasts with the concept that folks “assume nothing,” and it slots neatly into the expectation positioned on younger queer folks, together with myself.

Like many different homosexual folks, I had recognized there was one thing totally different about me for a very long time, ever since I had my first playdates with different ladies in elementary college. I did not know I used to be a lesbian, after all, as a result of I did not know lesbians existed. 

I did know, nonetheless, that I pretended to marry my greatest pal in her dad or mum’s walk-in closet. I knew that we kissed through the play ceremony. 

On “Seven,” Swift captures that feeling of being a queer baby completely. She says her pal with blonde braids would “disguise within the closet,” then follows up with “cross my coronary heart, will not inform no different.”


I lastly discovered what a lesbian was by means of Ellen DeGeneres. (There was a journey at Disney World by which DeGeneres and Invoice Nye guided you thru prehistoric instances. There was one thing about her that made an enduring impression on me, I suppose.)

Later, I needed to decide somebody well-known to speak about in entrance of my class. I picked DeGeneres. After which I used to be instructed I could not decide her, as a result of she was married to a different lady and a few folks did not like that. 

Cue the primary actual sense of tension I ever skilled, pondering again to my wedding ceremony within the closet. I could not watch two folks kiss with out feeling overwhelming disgrace, concern, and a pit in my abdomen, for years to come back. 

After I had my first actual relationship with one other lady, I used to be instructed that I did not have all of it found out but; that I used to be mistaken. I wasn’t homosexual, as a result of I had dated boys earlier than. I wasn’t homosexual, as a result of girls are at all times at the least just a little bit straight. I wasn’t homosexual, as a result of I appreciated sporting make-up.

I heard each justification for why I did not know myself, they usually had been all mistaken. 

Themes of infidelity all through ‘Folklore’ resemble the feelings related to being closeted and having relationships that are not allowed

Taylor Swift shared behind-the-scenes clips from her album cover shoot in a video for the "Cabin in Candlelight" version of "Cardigan." Taylor Swift/YouTube

© Taylor Swift/YouTube
Taylor Swift shared behind-the-scenes clips from her album cowl shoot in a video for the “Cabin in Candlelight” model of “Cardigan.” Taylor Swift/YouTube

On the halfway mark is “August,” one nook of the fictional highschool love triangle — “Cardigan” and “Betty” make up the opposite two — Swift sings about from every social gathering’s perspective. “August” performs out from the viewpoint of an unnamed character who we later be taught “James” cheated on “Betty” with.

It is the primary music on the album about infidelity, and the language Swift makes use of to elucidate unfaithfulness echoed my first queer relationship, which was trademarked by secrecy and guilt. 

Listening to “August” yanked me proper again to once I was 16, falling asleep in my first girlfriend’s childhood bed room, feeling the indescrible pleasure and aid of studying about your personal sexual identification. 

For the protagonist of “August,” the fleeting summer season love is one thing she “by no means wanted extra.” She remembers “whispers of ‘Are you certain?'” and “livin’ for the hope all of it.”


There was a lot hope in lastly placing the items collectively. That is why I would at all times been just a little totally different from different ladies — why I needed to power myself to care about impressing boys or deciding which of them had been cute. That is why I cried and felt my abdomen twist after my first kiss with a boy, and why I solely had crushes on those who turned out to be homosexual. 

However we additionally dated in secret. Firstly of our relationship, I had no thought what the folks round me would suppose if I got here out. I wished to, however I used to be afraid of how the conversations would go.

My girlfriend knew that her mother and father had been homophobic. They might by no means enable their daughter to be in a lesbian relationship. So we saved it a secret, utilizing the veneer of friendship up to now for nearly a 12 months. 

When our relationship ended, it wasn’t by alternative. There was a file of every little thing saved on our telephones and computer systems — by means of texts, emails, and Tumblr posts. All it took was the mistaken particular person catching a suspicious textual content floating throughout a display screen for every little thing to be uncovered, and finally, we obtained caught. 

Secret relationships are explored even additional on ‘Illicit Affairs’

On “Illicit Affairs,” the concept of assembly a liked one in “lovely rooms,” solely to finish with “conferences in parking heaps” was a pointy reminder of the mechanism of sneaking round. Even after I wasn’t allowed to see my girlfriend anymore, I had temporary moments in my automobile together with her in our highschool car parking zone. 

a person standing on top of a grass covered field: Beth Garrabrant

© Beth Garrabrant
Beth Garrabrant

Being closeted is among the most melancholy states of being, particularly as a younger queer particular person, surrounded by non-queer people who find themselves in a position to specific their blossoming relationships with out concern of scrutiny. Being punished on your “clandestine conferences” is even worse, and instills long-lasting anxieties and insecurities. 

It is a weary feeling to have to cover the issues that make you happiest from overly vital eyes and closed minds. Whereas Swift hides from an unforgiving media and perpetual critics relatively than homophobia, the substance of her songs and the darkness in “Folklore” provide a comforting sense of familiarity. 

Whilst I grew older, went to school, and had relationships that had been just a little extra public, I nonetheless struggled — and proceed to battle — with hiding components of my relationships and sexuality. I am out now — however none of my girlfriends have been.

In a single previous relationship, my girlfriend was so afraid her conservative, homophobic mother and father would discover out that she made up a faux ex-boyfriend for me and instructed them about him. 

It goes with out saying that I’ve by no means been in a position to publish about my relationships on-line, as a result of that might have outed my girlfriends. I’ve at all times performed the function of a greatest pal in entrance of their households.

Queer identities prolong past relationships, and ‘Folklore’ additionally captures the complexities and contradictions of femininity

Taylor Swift shared behind-the-scenes clips from her album cover shoot in a video for the "Cabin in Candlelight" version of "Cardigan." Taylor Swift/YouTube

© Taylor Swift/YouTube
Taylor Swift shared behind-the-scenes clips from her album cowl shoot in a video for the “Cabin in Candlelight” model of “Cardigan.” Taylor Swift/YouTube

On “Mirrorball,” Swift talks concerning the role-playing inherent in being a girl. She talks about having to vary every little thing about herself to slot in, which resonated with the informal performing I’ve educated myself to carry out within the closet. 

Past pretending to be straight, although, being a homosexual lady means current on the contrary of conventional concepts of femininity. Ladies have lengthy been outlined by their proximity to males, and being a girl has typically been moored to the idea of males as romantic and sexual companions. 

My historically female gender presentation — I put on make-up and attire, and sometimes have lengthy hair and nails — has typically felt incompatible with my sexuality. Whilst a teen, I used to be uncomfortable with the way in which I used to be perceived by males.



With out the prospect of ever courting a person or needing to enchantment to a person, there is a sense of freedom that may additionally really feel like uncharted territory. I am nonetheless mapping that no man’s land out. 

I’ve by no means felt assured about how I current myself to the world, whether or not I am mendacity about who I’m to guard the particular person I like, passing as a straight lady with my female gender presentation, or struggling to establish myself to different queer lady with out feeling pressured. 

“Mirrorball” particularly emphasizes the way in which Swift chooses to embrace femininity. It is a music written for different girls, and it would not care about whether or not males will get pleasure from it or not. 

Swift singing “I’ve by no means been a pure/All I do is attempt, attempt, attempt” could be the purpose the place I see myself clearest — it is no marvel she describes herself as a reflective floor. 

It is extremely gratifying to really feel just a little seen, and really feel just a little understood, by an artist whose presence has guided you from adolescence to maturity, like Swift’s has for me. In “Folklore,” Swift rolled out a moody blue carpet that chronicles all of the nuances of my life to date, and all of the reward of getting lived by means of them.

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