Cutie patootie pop star, Taylor Swift, dropped a new song earlier this month called “You Need to Calm Down,” and it promptly — and pretty ironically — riled the seething complainternet.
The video for the song is gayer than Megan Rapinoe sashaying through a glitter storm and calls out homophobia with colorful, inclusive, subtext-packed and star-studded scenes.
Everyone from RuPaul to Ellen is in it and it celebrates same-sex marriage, drag culture, proud bigger bodies, people of color, athletes, Stonewall and even Ryan Reynolds, for some reason.
It ends with a plea to sign her petition to support the Equality Act, which would bar discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. At the time of this writing, that petition has about 500,000 signatures.
You can imagine the ire of the conservative and religious right, and you’ll have to because their beef is being drowned out by progressive folks critiquing Taylor, her video and her way of being an ally to the queer movement.
Someone at USA Today compiled a list of the grievances that include everything from notions that she’s exploiting the cause for her own gain to cries that she’s inappropriately stereotyping homophobes by portraying them as uneducated hillbillies.
Respectfully, friends, we need to get a collective grip.
It’s a pretty privileged position to take that we can be selective in our cause’s membership, and I worry that it’s illuminating how many of us don’t still feel the urgency of our movement because our personal needs have been largely met.
But people who are struggling to understand their value because of conversion therapy, and our trans friends and siblings who often can’t even find safe places to pee in public (let alone serve in the military, have their legal documents reflect their humanity, walk down the streets in safety, etc.) probably aren’t as concerned about perfect action as they are about powerful action.
So, while I appreciate how refined we’ve become at sensitive and accommodating activism, it’s probably important to remember that we’re a movement aimed at protecting a relatively small minority of the population — allies are vital, even if their efforts aren’t perfectly woke.
For example, there are 535 members of Congress, and 10 of them are out queer people. Without allies, the Equality Act is more of an equality ain’t. In fact, it’s probably the least familiar or informed allies (that glorious moveable middle) who could ultimately tip the scales in our favor.
But if they’re afraid to speak out for fear of doing it wrong (after already overcoming the fear of being ostracized for supporting us queers), we’re going to lose their support. And if that happens, we deny ourselves the chance at keeping them engaged long enough to gently teach them how to champion our issues perfectly.
There’s a line in the song that goes, “And control your urges to scream about all the people you hate / ’Cause shade never made anybody less gay.” Well, I’d argue that shade never made anybody more inclined to support our cause, either.
I mean, is it actually bad if she makes money off of promoting equality? Because I see it as a fab win-win that might encourage other influential allies to do the same.
And the truth is, equality has a price tag (for better or for worse), and Taylor just offered to chip in on the bill.
So, I’d say, let’s lead the charge for compassion with compassion. Let’s fight for understanding with understanding. And let’s celebrate that someone in the ears of millions of Americans is using her voice to amplify ours.
Marina Gomberg is a communications professional and lives in Salt Lake City with her wife, Elenor Gomberg, and their son, Harvey. You can reach Marina at firstname.lastname@example.org.