Reid Arthur had a moment. Last week, the college student went viral after putting on a lip sync to Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down” at George Fox University, where he attends school. The performance served up two reveals: one, where his outfit pulled away to reveal rainbow fringe arm detailing, and two, his identity as a gay man.
“This was my official coming out,” Arthur tells Out, saying that he was only out to his family and close friends prior to the performance which he put together in five days. But now, he’s out to not only his conservative Christian college campus, but the world — Taylor Swift included.
This just made me SO emotional. @reidoburrito95 I can’t tell you how honored I am that my song has been even a small part in your journey. You did the brave thing and stood up for your truth
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) November 23, 2019
"This just made me so emotional," Swift tweeted about the video. "I can't tel you how honored I am that my song has been even a small part of your journey. You did the brave thing and stood up for your truth:
Working with eight of his closest girl friends, creating the choreography himself after bingeing YouTube performances to the song, Arthur’s moment was not only special for him, but apparently pivotal for his college’s campus. While he won the lip sync and donated his cash prize to GLAAD and the Trevor Project, he says the show caused a bit of a chain reaction in the community.
“We have received two letters, one from the president of the school and one from the student body government,” Arthur says. “The student body President, Lexi Hamaker and Vice President, Kevin Tshilombo reached out to me to offer support and protection. Student Government then issued an open letter to the student body saying they support and affirm LGBTQ+ students and are pushing towards being more welcoming and dedicated to creating space for diversity.”
Here, Arthur details why he decided to do the performance and the extent of the reaction.
Can you tell me why you decided to do this?:
This past year I’ve been in the process of coming out to my family and friends. That process has been extremely exhausting and simultaneously the most important work I could be doing. My university has something they call the ‘Be Known’ promise, which is a hope that every student will be known in their community and as an individual. For 3 years now I’ve been at Fox knowing that the majority of my peers believe my existence as a queer person is un-Christian, and that the way to love queer people is to tell them they are sinning and to repent. For those last 3 years I’ve been living in fear that if they ever knew I was gay they would act differently around me, that they would distance themselves from me.
After coming out to my close friends I realized the most important people in my life have my back and love me for who I am. That gave me the courage to come out to my school. I wanted to put a face to the ‘LGBTQ+ issue.’ When my classmates are having a bible study, or are discussing gender in class I want it to no longer be a vague them, but instead it’s ‘Reid! I know that kid, I have HUMA 290 with him!’
Had you done a lip sync before? Are you a Swiftie?
I am a HUGE Swiftie. I was converted to Swiftdom by two of my roommates back in 2015 — shout out to Toph and Maloney! — and I’ve been OBSESSED ever since. I was a sophomore when Taylor began her Reputation era. That year was the first year I competed in lip sync where I recreated the “Look What You Made Me Do” music video.
I was also living on campus over the summer when she released ‘You Need to Calm Down,’ I was out for a walk and immediately played it; I was laughing crying, jumping and skipping, I called all my friends, made them listen to it. I just kept thinking Taylor Swift, my queen, my icon, the person whose music has seen me through years of being in the closet, is fighting for ME! Starting the petition to get the Equality Act to the Senate floor! We have no choice but to stan. It wasn’t a coincidence that the year I really started to love myself for exactly who I am, and planning how I would come out to my family and friends, that my queen would affirm me directly through her music and actions. The Lord truly works in mysterious and oftentimes Swift ways. It was that day and there that planted the idea for my lip sync reveal.
What has the on campus reaction been like?
We opened Pandora’s Box! Campus is ablaze with conversation. My lip sync was like a release valve for people to finally break a barrier of silence at George Fox. It has given other queer students the opportunity to share their experiences with their friends and faculty and for non queer students to really start looking around. One queer student shared with me that they’ve overheard people say things like ‘wow, it must be really hard to gay on campus,’ tandthey were able to respond, ‘YES. Yes it is hard.’ But that's what needs to happen! I’m so proud to have created an opportunity for us as a community to re-examine beliefs and traditional views. As time has proven over and over again, just because something is that way it’s always been doesn't mean it is right and good.
What was one crazy/cool/surprising response, tweet or thing you've seen since going viral?
Honestly, that random people from all over the world are saying things like my reveal was Rupaul’s Drag Race worthy. GAGGED. SHOOK. Kory Desoto shared it on his Instagram Story which was awesome; I’ve been a fan of his through his appearances on Todrick’s and Miranda’s videos.
But the coolest part of all of this, is how many people have been touched or moved by a silly lip sync. One post I saw said that FUN is the best form of activism, and I kinda like that alot!
What's life like at George Fox University in general for queer students?
It’s hard for me to speak into the queer experience of all LGBTQ+ students. I’m a white cis-gendered male, so my experience is going to differ drastically from queer women’s, queer poc’s or trans/non-binary students. I can tell you my experience. Fox is my home.
It has made me who I am today. I chose to come to Fox. I was deeply closeted when I arrived here, but it was my education, my teachers, and my community, that have given me the space and courage to face who I am and live boldly, and lead with love. That’s why
I wanted to to do this. I love Fox, and I want to see them be better at supporting their queer students, because my experience is not every queer kid at fox’s experience.
What's one thing you think the school could/should do for LGBTQ+ students?
Students just recently made a pretty awesome list at an LGBTQ+ advocacy subcommittee (organized by student government) after the lip sync. It includes protection for LGBTQ+ affirming faculty, LGBTQ+ resources, recognition of an LGBTQ+ club on campus, and partner with affirming churches in the area, amongst other things.