Swifties — the fans of country singer turned electropop queen Taylor Swift — might have the most polarizing reputation in pop music. When the 2017 album Reputation dropped, they spammed comment sections of Swift’s competitors (and Kim Kardashian) with snake emojis. They staunchly supported Swift’s refusal to be political and later her questionable activism. They’re known to be nothing less than omnipresent online. And they’re often painted as a homogenous group of young white women and gay men.
But that reputation isn’t fully accurate. “That’s the picture the public paints,” says Joe, 17, who is straight, black and living in Columbus, Ohio. “It’s hard to acknowledge it.”
Besides, he says, “you’d be surprised how many straight male Swifties are out there.”
‘It’s Not a Secret Shame’
On Thursday night, Swift released Lover, her seventh album. Drew, a 22-year-old straight man from Pennsylvania, spent the night absorbing it with no distractions. “I’m gonna down two beers and sit in my room almost still while listening to the songs.”
More than anything, Drew values Swift’s songwriting. “When she shines, the lyrics do too,” he says. “It was ‘Mean’ that [first] got stuck in my head. Then I just went down YouTube recommendations.” The album is worth a close and full listen, Drew argues, because Swift’s “strategy in recent years is to hide the excellent songs as deeper cuts while her singles are of a much lower quality.”
Like Joe, Drew thinks the Swiftie stigma is holding people back from publicly embracing her artistry. “I don’t think you really have to act like a walking billboard to be considered her fan,” he says. “In fact, that practice honestly makes me really uneasy because it’s unabashedly capitalist, specifically American capitalist.” Being a straight male Swiftie is “not a secret shame, lol. I’m just listening to music that I enjoy.”
‘My Dad’s Loved Taylor Swift Since “Love Story”’
On Wednesday, Bill, 40, came out as a straight male Swiftie in the Taylor Swift subreddit. The New Yorker found Swift in 2017 while grieving his mom’s death. Swift performed the song ”New Year’s Day” on The Tonight Show that September to honor Jimmy Fallon’s recently deceased mother. “The whole song is basically about starting over on New Year’s Day,” Bill explains. “My mother always said after she died that I would be free to start over again. She always felt she was holding me back. I never felt that way.”
A slew of other straight men joined Bill in the comments. One user replied, “I’m a 33-year-old straight male and have no shame about what I like. I have seen her live six times, have a T. Swift tattoo and truly love her music.”
Another commenter said Swift’s songs helped her connect with her Japanese father who doesn’t speak English. “My dad is Japanese and a little bit older than you are and he doesn’t understand English very well but he loved Taylor Swift since ‘Love Story’!” she wrote. “He’s such a fan of older songs of hers and he’s so excited about Lover because of how it’s giving Speak Now/Red vibes. Also, since my dad doesn’t speak English much, we used this as a way to bond … I’d translate lyrics [for] him lol.”
Evan, a 21-year-old Swiftie from Singapore, has grown more self-assured through Swift. “Through her songs, she inspired me to be myself and stand up against my enemies,” he tells MEL.
Nudes for Preorders
Still, there’s no denying Swift has grown a strong LGBTQ fanbase. My friend Michael, a 23-year-old Brooklyn gay, came up with a makeshift marketing idea for Swift’s new album: He changed his name on Grindr, where he averages 400 daily views, to “Preorder Lover.” When guys messaged him about it, he’d tell them to “go to iTunes and buy Lover by Taylor Swift,” he says. “If they did it and sent me a screenshot, I’d send them nudes.”
By Wednesday, Lover sales were already close to $1 million. “My young body has selling power,” Michael says, adding, “Swifties have a reputation for being crazy.”
Kyle, a 25-year-old from New York, fell for Swift in 2010 during the Speak Now era. Each album represents a time in his life, from high school bliss with Red (2012), coming out in college around 1989 (2014) and, three years later, struggling with post-grad around Reputation. For Lover, he’s hoping for “a whole new beginning in the sense of maturity and moving on from a past.” Sounds like Swift’s recent butterfly motif.
Nick, a 21-year-old student at Ohio State University, changed his Grindr name to “Stream Lover,” but he admits he hasn’t gotten anyone to order the album yet. “I guess everyone on Grindr associates stream with pee fetishes,” he says.
‘They Couldn’t Deny It’s a Bop’
in April, Nick brought his headphones to the local gay bar and made random people listen to the single “Me!” the day it was released. “It was great exposure. They couldn’t deny it’s a bop.” To celebrate Lover, he and his roommates are throwing a good old-fashioned college party. “I’m really excited,” he says. “We painted our walls to fit the theme of the album, and we’re going to deck the house out.”
Others are celebrating with more laid-back approaches. When Lover finally landed, John, a 23-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia, got wine drunk with his roommate, watched the Netflix Reputation stadium tour film and played the new album on loop. His initial thoughts on the album: “I need more time to digest.” But minutes after we spoke, John responded to a tweet about the best song off Lover, nominating “Cruel Summer.” He also changed his Twitter name to “#1 Cruel Summer Stan.”
As for Michael, he spent his Thursday night listening to Lover by himself at home. Would he ever promote Swift again on Grindr? “I’d do it over and over and over again if I could,” he says proudly. “TS8, we’re coming for you!”
And Joe has never regretted being a proud Swiftie — even around an album release with the hype of Lover. “It’s been a rollercoaster,” he says. “There’s highs and lows. But the friends you make definitely make it fun.”