For those Swifties who can't stop listening to "You Need To Calm Down" on repeat, it might be time to send a thank you note to Todrick Hall. In her Vogue cover story, Taylor Swift revealed that her LGBTQ activism was actually kickstarted by a pivotal conversation with Todrick Hall, all of which eventually lead to "You Need To Calm Down."
As anyone who has heard or seen the video for "You Need To Calm Down" knows, the single is intended to be, in part, an LGBTQ anthem, whether people like it or not. “The first verse is about trolls and cancel culture,” she explained to Vogue. “The second verse is about homophobes and the people picketing outside our concerts. The third verse is about successful women being pitted against each other.”
It's Swift wearing her LGBTQ allyship on her sleeve with lyrics like, "Why are you mad when you can be GLAAD?" And, while the pop-stance might have surprised some listeners, Swift was more surprised to hear that not everyone already knew she was an ally. Most shocking, she admitted to Vogue, was realizing that not even her close friend Hall quite knew where she stood on the issue.
"Maybe a year or two ago, Todrick and I are in the car, and he asked me, What would you do if your son was gay?" she told Vogue. "The fact that he had to ask me... shocked me and made me realize that I had not made my position clear enough or loud enough."
When it comes to the answer to Hall's query, Swift told Vogue: "If my son was gay, he’d be gay. I don’t understand the question." But, still, she said, it made her realize “if he was thinking that, I can’t imagine what my fans in the LGBTQ community might be thinking. It was kind of devastating to realize that I hadn’t been publicly clear about that."
As for why Swift hadn't been more clear about her stance on LGBTQ issues before, the singer told Vogue that she "didn’t realize until recently that I could advocate for a community that I’m not a part of. It’s hard to know how to do that without being so fearful of making a mistake that you just freeze."
When you're Taylor Swift, a mistake "echoes through the canyons of the world. It’s clickbait, and it’s a part of my life story, and it’s a part of my career arc," she explained. So, why speak now? “Rights are being stripped from basically everyone who isn’t a straight white cisgender male,” Swift added.
Over the past year, the previously non-political Swift has used her voice to encourage those in Nashville to vote against Republican Marsha Blackburn for Senate, calling out her anti-gay record. “She believes businesses have a right to refuse service to gay couples,” Swift wrote on Instagram before the 2018 midterms. “She also believes they should not have the right to marry. These are not MY Tennessee values.” In the end, Blackburn won the race, but Swift's post seemed to correlate to a surge in voter registration.
At the end of the "You Need To Calm Down" video, Swift also asked fans to sign her petition for Senate to support the federal Equality Act, which would expand civil rights protections for those in the LGBTQ community. As of now, the petition has nearly 490,000 signatures out of the 500,000 signatures Swift is looking to get. It will hardly be surprising if this Vogue interview causes another spike in signatures.
Swift is clearly still figuring out how to balance being an ally and activist with being a pop star, and the fact that she has friends to help her along the way can only mean bigger and better things are coming.