At Harry Styles concerts, young gender-nonconforming fans celebrate the freedom to be themselves. In a world where being themselves sometimes means dressing like a person of the opposite sex, I want to take a moment to celebrate these brave and courageous fans.
They love Harry Styles, and they love Harry Styles.
Photo courtesy of Ben Hecker
Harry Styles may have started his career as a singer in the boyband One Direction, but when it comes to his own identity, he may be the only person of color that truly knows himself in the “traditional” way. While his gender was often a topic of conversation on the pop-music shows that he performed on, Harry never really allowed himself to be publicly identified as anything but himself—a white, cis, straight, able-bodied boy who loves music and loves being a Harry Styles fan. He is a queer singer, a performer, and a fan. And while he may look the way that he looks, he is also a man who knows himself in ways that some never learn, and, for many, is one of the few openly gay people in mainstream pop culture.
I think of Harry Styles as a queer icon, because the way he has navigated his identity in the music industry is so emblematic of the kind of queer-positive, intersectional, multidimensional sexuality that we need. Many people of color are afraid to claim their identity because they’re afraid of being labeled as “queer” and, as a result, they create and maintain a life of hyper-visible sexual privilege. Similarly, Harry’s life is an example to all of us in that he is a talented, powerful musician—one of a handful of people of the same race, gender, and sexuality who can claim his heritage. He has the freedom to dress as himself, and in doing so, he is challenging the narrative of who he is and how he should be known, particularly because of his queer identity. And he is doing so not only because he is an important figure in music, but also because he is a loving and kind person.
There is a reason why he is an influential figure in the world of popular music, and it’s because he is an artist that values his authenticity and his ability to be himself.
If anyone can be gay, anyone can be any gender, anyone can