18-year-old actor Kit Connor announced he was bisexual this week, claiming that pressure from fans and the media had forced him out of the closet.
Are we forcing celebrities out of the closet? It sounds like a bizarre question. Just a few years ago, being queer in the public eye was considered career ending.
Now, fans of stars like Harry Styles and Taylor Swift are so desperate for their idols to announce they’re queer that any suggestion to the contrary signals accusations of ‘queerbaiting’.
Queerbaiting is a relatively new term, describing a Hollywood marketing tactic in which LGBTQ+ culture is co-opted to boost fanfare.
This process often entails hinting at queerness just enough that a celebrity or film’s appeal widens, but not so much that the queerbaiter in question has to deal with any of the negative experiences of actually being queer.
back for a minute. i’m bi. congrats for forcing an 18 year old to out himself. i think some of you missed the point of the show. bye
— Kit Connor (@kit_connor) October 31, 2022
While queerbaiting certainly exists (and is nothing new), the discourse surrounding it has reached fever-pitch in the past few years.
As celebrities and popular media become more diverse and inclusive, fans are more critical of authenticity.
Take Harry Styles as a prime example. The singer has eschewed normative constructs of masculinity for the majority of his career.
Styles wears skirts, feather boas, paints his nails, and even launched a makeup line in 2021. His music often uses genderless terminology, and he has refused to disclose his sexual identity for as long as he’s been in the public eye.
In the era of #MeToo and toxic masculinity, you would expect this subversive attitude toward sexuality to be celebrated. And it is, for the most part.