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Taylor Swift’s love interest in Lavender Haze is huge for trans people like me

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Seeing one of the world’s biggest pop stars include a trans man as the main paramour in the video is incredible (Picture: (L) Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for MTV (R) Vevo/Taylor Swift / BACKGRID)
The camera pans from a close-up of Taylor Swift in bed, but there’s someone lying next to her.

A few moments later, a handsome man is shown to be asleep, with his chest – including faint top surgery scars – on show.

Later, the two are shown intimately holding each other at a crowded party before they erupt into pᴀssionate dancing.

This is the storyline for Swift’s new music video to her song Lavender Haze, which features trans model and singer-songwriter Laith Ashley as her love interest.

Seeing one of the world’s biggest pop stars include a trans man as the main paramour in the video – with other LGBTQ+ people too – is huge. I felt very happy to see Swift use her platform in such a positive way to show that she is an ally to trans people – it’s something I wish I saw more in my childhood.

Growing up, representation like this didn’t exist for me at all.

Thankfully, we have a lot more representation these days – both from LGBTQ+ artists themselves and allies like Taylor Swift – allowing young people to see themselves depicted in popular media. This means they are less likely to develop shame and stigma about who they are, like many of us did previously.

Swift’s groundbreaking song is even more monumental when you look at just the name itself.

It was also wonderful to watch Ashley and Swift interact on social media, where she said she had ‘adored’ working with him.

‘I’m really grateful,’ the model said. ‘She obviously knows she has such a huge reach and platform. So to have someone like me be in a music video with her, she’s essentially given me access to a lot of that platform. It means a lot to me and I’m sure to the LGBT community.’

To me, I didn’t feel like she was looking to ‘score points’ for being inclusive, which was very refreshing. She’s consistently understood the importance of supporting the LGBTQ+ community as an ally and raising awareness of our issues.

There has been some discussion on social media of Swift’s credentials in supporting the queer community – saying she’s featured Ashley in a tokenistic way to boost her image – but I feel that she’s genuine in her support.

This isn’t the first time that Swift has put her money where her mouth is for the LGBTQ+ community, and I doubt that it will be the last.

Swift has actively supported equality, like when she spoke out in favour of the Equality Act in the US, donated money to charities like the Tennessee Equality Project and included queer artists in her work.

But it is worth noting that she has gone from being relatively silent on political issues – like when she was called out for not speaking out during the 2016 US election – to a visible and fervent ally. That is a change I celebrate.

At the end of the day, Swift has given a huge opportunity to a trans man in Lavender Haze and that representation is invaluable given how popular she is.

A ‘lavender haze’ is about being deeply in love with somebody or in the honeymoon phase of a relationship. But actually, the word ‘lavender’ has often historically been used to mean queerness in one way or another.

From Abraham Lincoln’s biographer, Carl Sandburg, describing his early male friendships as having a ‘streak of lavender’ to a symbol of empowerment around the time of the Stonewall riots in 1969, the word has significance for our community.

I was raised on a farm in rural Iceland, with limited access to TV stations and popular media. The first time I remember seeing LGBTQ+ people in a music video was when I travelled to stay with my great aunt in Reykjavík when I was 11, who had a TV channel that ran music videos non-stop.

I remember watching it absentmindedly one night when Christina Aguilera’s music video to her 2002 song Beautiful came on. I was immediately glued to the screen.

It depicted people being bullied for looking different, or being judged for who they were or how they looked – and it included the first gay kiss I’d ever seen on television, featuring two men on a bench in public, not caring about stares or the opinions of those pᴀssing by.

The video also had a trans woman getting ready, showing a transformation from someone deeply unhappy to someone who liked what they saw in the mirror. I was captivated by this entire music video. Looking back, it was because it resonated with me so deeply and I felt seen for the first time in my life.

 

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