This morning, Harry Styles was a trending topic on Google. The singer performed a slew of hits at Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Coventry last night, from One Direction classics to new singles from his latest album, Harry’s House. Then, this morning, he announced his partnership with gun safety organisation Everytown, following the devastating Texas school shooting last week, to which he is donating $1million (£790m). It’s no wonder he’s making the news then… except it's not this that people seem to be interested in.
According to Google Trends, the top breakout search term for the 28-year-old is ‘Harry Styles coming out’. That’s followed by ‘Has Harry Styles come out?’, ‘Is Harry Styles bisexual?’ and ‘Is Harry Styles gay?’. Of 25 search queries about the star, 15 are about Harry Styles's sexuality and dating life. And it happens every time he’s in the news.
I’ve watched Harry dodge questions about his sexuality ever since his launch to stardom. Every single time he’s asked to clarify or ‘open up’, he gives the same answer: 'Who cares?' In 2017, he told Bizarre he didn’t feel the need to publicly label himself at all, saying, ‘I don't feel like it's something I've ever felt like I have to explain about myself.’
In 2019, he defended his decision to remain ambiguous publicly when asked if he’s bisexual by The Guardian. ‘It's not like I'm sitting on an answer, and protecting it, and holding it back,’ he said. ‘It's not a case of: I'm not telling you cos I don't want to tell you. It's not: ooh this is mine and it's not yours. It's: who cares? Does that make sense? It's just: who cares… Am I sprinkling in nuggets of sexual ambiguity to try and be more interesting? No.’
And just this year in an interview with Better Homes & Gardens, he reiterated his stance on not using labels publicly. ‘I've been really open with it with my friends, but that's my personal experience; it's mine,’ he explained. ‘The whole point of where we should be heading, which is toward accepting everybody and being more open, is that it doesn't matter, and it's about not having to label everything, not having to clarify what boxes you're checking.’
For me, watching the way Harry handles these relentless questions is eerily familiar. If asked, I would label myself bisexual. But for a long time, and still now to some degree, I have felt no overwhelming need to declare my sexuality to anyone. I date everyone, that’s just what it is. Why does it really matter whether people know that or don't when they’re not the one I’m dating?
Like Harry, I have some people in my life that would love to know either way. Don’t get me wrong, it’s come up in conversation naturally enough times that many already do. But from time to time I’ll field subtle questions from family members. Maybe a joke about which way I swing with the intention for me to confirm or deny. And on those occasions I never do. It’s not that I’m ashamed to answer at all, I just find it intriguing that some are so desperate to know, to be so forced as to pry for no reason other than their own curiosity. So, to be honest, it’s quite funny watching the interaction play out when you refuse to answer in the way expected of you.
For someone like Harry, who has only ever publicly dated women, being ambiguous about sexuality means a lot more than for me – but that’s why I can appreciate it so much. In his refusal to declare either way (despite the endless public commentary) he’s carving a path for all of those who either don’t want to answer, or might not be ready to. He often makes sweeping comments that imply gender isn’t important to him (when it comes to dating), he writes songs dubbed ‘bisexual anthems’ due to their sexual references to both men and women – and of course, his personal style blends the masculine and feminine in a way that confuses people in the best way (but shouldn’t, I might add, since gender expression has no bearing on sexuality).
Harry Styles is carving a new path for those of us who don't want to answer or might not be ready to.
He does all of this while still refusing to declare his sexuality – and for those like me, that reiterates that we needn't bow to pressure to check a certain box if we don’t feel comfortable doing so... or simply don't want to. Because, make no mistake, it is still dangerous to be LGBTQ+ in today’s society. In December last year, homophobic and transphobic hate crimes reached record highs. Of course, Harry experiences a certain level of privilege because he's white, male and famous – but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t fall foul of vile homophobic attacks were he to publicly label himself queer. Of course, that’s not to say he’s not defining himself for that reason – but to point out to those that argue he has no reason not to ‘come out’ that avoiding relentless abuse is also a valid reason to remain ambiguous.
Some argue that a man in Harry’s position should declare either way for the greater good of queer people. He would be another LGBTQ+ icon millions of young people could look up to, particularly in a society in which bisexual erasure continues to prevail. But is it really morally acceptable to ask that of anyone? Harry is already an incredible supporter of the queer community through his shows and music – as well as his own self-expression where he has undoubtedly changed the way we perceive masculinity in regards to sexuality. Must we ask more from him when he clearly wants to set a new precedent, one where sexuality needn’t even come up?
Rather than forcing him to identify, we should be celebrating Harry’s intention to live in a world where your sexuality has no bearing on your value. A world where we can reference our dating lives casually without the gender we choose to date becoming the main conversation – just like straight people can. And ultimately, regardless of what Harry Styles's sexuality means for anyone, no one should face such intense public pressure to define themselves either way – whether you’re asking the question or publicly commenting online, it all amounts to forcing someone to speak of something they clearly don’t want to. Let Harry be ambiguous if that’s where he is in his journey, it’s no one’s business but his own who he chooses to date.