The main goal of any underground culture is to become mainstream. But what happens when suddenly a political movement turns into a marketing strategy? Several LGBT+ activists have shown their anger towards this situation during pride month for example, when brands seem to care about sexual dissidence. However, pinkwashing isn’t the only violent mechanism for the LGBT+ community.
Let’s talk about queerbaiting, this term was invented by author Joseph Brennan and has been used in several articles & academic papers. Yet, it is basically when a non-heterosexual identity trade is used in order to sell by straight people. This could be male straight celebs wearing dresses on red carpets or actors interpreting queer roles without being part of the LGBT+ community.
However, this is a really complex topic because there’s a fine line between cultural appropriation/exploitation to making something common. Speaking of fine lines Harry Styles is one of the most known queerbaiting male examples with actor Timothee Chalamet, but he’s definitely not the only one. Here’s a list of celebs that have been signaled of committing queerbaiting. Here’s all you need to know.
Harry Styles is known for that James Dean daydream look in his eyes, also for his colorful knitted sweater, and for having a camp feminine style. He’s been constantly compared with Elton John due to the similarity of textures and colors his extravagant outfits hold, but why tho? Is it because he is an Aquarius, or is he somehow queer? Is it queerbaiting or does he simply like to dress that way?
Unlike Harry Styles, Elton John is openly gay and used those elements in a moment when masculinity was even more delimited and femininity was punished. Harry Styles has only publicly dated women, however, that hasn’t stopped him from waving LGBT+ flags at his concerts and selling pride merch. According to Styles he does all this to show his queer fans’ support, but he’s growing his bank account at par.
Having lucrative activities with a political cause you’re not part of is highly irresponsible and should be signaled. This is why LGBT+ audiences should always stay critical and not just buy something because it has a rainbow on it. Nevertheless, Styles’ case is way more complex, because apparently, he does use feminine clothing on a daily basis, unlike Bad Bunny who wore a dress for a magazine cover.
Depriving straight men of wearing feminine clothing or having a queer style if it comes from a real taste, could keep binarising. In the end, we should understand there’s nothing wrong with who wears which cloth, but the intentions behind it. Remember clothing always holds a lot of political meanings and we should always be aware of that, from mini skirts to hijabs.
Kit Connor the protagonist of the Netflix series launched in the summer Heartstopper was the victim of several attacks claiming for him to be replying to queerbaiting. Yet, he was barely 18 years old when that happened and the pressure was so unbearable that had to actually get out of the closet. But all is peaches & cream when we talk about Cate Blanchet & Timothee Chalamet.
This lets us see how uncritical some signalings can be and how not all celebs go through the same scrutiny. In the end Kit Connor ended up saying he is bisexual, but he went through a month of being accused of being queerbaiting. Nevertheless, he was then attacked again when he began to be seen with Maia Reficco as if only gay identities were valid.
Queerbaiting is definitely a complex topic, which is why it’s always important to do good research before pointing fingers. It’s also vital to understand, this term goes further than clothing and diverse sexual orientation representations, but the intentions behind it, which sometimes have nothing to do with actors.