Harry Styles is one of the biggest artists of our current time, but he is not the LGBTQ+ icon people make him out to be.
Styles has earned a reputation in recent years for being a queer icon, especially in the way he dresses. In December of 2020, the British pop star graced the cover of Vogue in a dress as the first solo male cover star.
The image garnered lots of praise on the internet, especially from Styles’ fans, however many in the LGBTQ+ community, like Billy Porter, felt that the praise wasn’t warranted as queer men, specifically queer Black men, have been dressing outside of the gender binary long before Styles.
This high level of praise for low-effort shows of support is a pattern with Styles. In June of 2021, Insider released an article titled, “9 times Harry Styles was a champion for the LGBTQ+ community.” This list included him waving pride flags at concerts, wearing a jersey from an openly gay NFL player, and saying once, “we are all a little bit gay.”
While these small demonstrations of support are welcomed, many of these instances have very little to do with being a true ally of the community.
On top of these surface-level acts, Styles actively queerbaits his fans and can profit off queerness without having to go through the struggles that most people in the community have.
Recently, a trailer was released for Styles’ upcoming film “My Policeman,” where he plays a queer character. Straight actors playing LGBTQ+ characters and being able to profit off the exploitation of these stories have been a large debate in Hollywood for years.
While Styles doesn’t owe people information about his personal life, if he is using the ambiguity surrounding his sexuality to get roles in movies and have people buy his alternative beauty brand, Pleasing, he could be profiting off an identity that isn’t his.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Styles spoke about “My Policeman” and received lots of backlash after saying, “So much of gay sex in film is two guys going at it, and it kind of removes the tenderness from it.”
Many felt that statement was tone deaf coming from a supposedly straight actor given that recent films like “Moonlight” and shows like “Young Royals” told stories of gay men without exploiting or over-sexualizing them.
Twitter user @mochatotheunkn1 put it best tweeting, “I don’t think Harry Styles should have to publicly divulge his sexuality but I do think he deserves criticism for tone deaf statements about a community he refuses to fully align himself with except when it gets him press.”
That is exactly the point. Being private and not sharing personal details or relationships with the public is perfectly fine for celebrities, but when they use curiosity around their sexuality for press or financial gain they actively are exploiting a marginalized community’s want for representation.
Liking Styles’ music and enjoying his message of treating people with kindness isn’t wrong. All I ask is that people think critically and understand that as queerness becomes more acceptable, more people will align themselves with the community to gain fandom and money from young queer people.