In a new interview with Cosmopolitan, pansexual French singer Héloïse Letissier (better known as Chris of Christine and the Queens) says she’s tired of queer aesthetics being used by cis, straight people to sell things. She specifically addressed Taylor Swift and her latest album and music videos.
“I’m conflicted,” she told the magazine, when asked about Swift’s very gay video for “You Need to Calm Down.” “I guess somewhere, young gay men might watch that Taylor Swift video and feel a sense of relief.”
“You can tell that being queer has been glossed out as this super-fancy accessory,” the singer added. “You can tell that the queer aesthetic is being used to sell things. The mainstream needs that life because it’s so vibrant. But I think the core of the queer aesthetic cannot be sold.”
Letissier also says her own life and music have been impacted by this trend.
“When I changed my name from Christine to Chris on the second album, some people said, ‘That’s a cool marketing thing you did,’” she recalled. “It was so painful.”
Letissier told Cosmo that she’d been singing her song “iT” for years, a song which she says is about “wanting to have a dick in order to have an easy life.” She continued, “It’s never been marketing for me. It’s about jumping into the unknown and saying things loudly.”
While Letisser makes a really good point about the exploitation of queerness for capitalism, I think she also misses several marks, including some big ones.
In saying “somewhere young gay men” might get something out of Swift’s music, she’s erasing the singer’s very large and very vocal fandom among queer women. A lot of those women find a lot of inspiration and strength from listening to her music and watching her videos. I have six years experience writing for a queer women’s website, and I have seen firsthand how much Swift’s music means to lesbians and queer women.
Swift herself has admitted that she’s growing and learning how to be a better ally to the LGBTQ+ community.
“I didn’t realize until recently that I could advocate for a community that I’m not a part of,” she said in a cover story for Vogue's prestigious September issue. Swift added that a conversation with friend and collaborator Todrick Hall made her realize she needed to actually be explicit about supporting the LGBTQ+ community.
While Swift is far from perfect, she’s learning and she’s doing better than many other straight, cis artists.
As for Letissier’s explanation of her song, “iT,” I respect that she’s questioning and challenging her identity and her gender, but as a woman who has one, I can definitely tell you that having a dick does not make your life easier. It also definitely isn’t what makes you a man.
Christine and the Queens continues to make excellent — and extremely queer — French Pop, and I suspport Letisser in her push to be as loudly herself as she can be, butshe should be more judicious in choosing her battles.