Behind the music

Harry Styles’ sexuality: Everything you need to know

Harry Styles attends the Brit Awards at the 02 Arena in London, UK

Harry Styles’ sexuality has been a subject of speculation for years. Even before he had adopted a dandyish, gender-fluid style throughout his solo career, the pop star already had to face gay rumors and allegations of being in love with another former One Direction member. And the fact that he’s been so coy about answering questions about his sexuality doesn’t help!

So, is Harry Styles gay? Or, is Harry Styles bisexual? Or, is he just expressing himself in his own unique way?

Here, we take a deep dive into some of the big moments and trends that have fueled the gay rumors – and try to answer whether they’re just that.

Harry Styles From One Direction Play the Apollo in London on the January 23, 2012 in London, UK

Larry Stylinson

The ship that launched a thousand fics, “Larry Stylinson” is a long-standing conspiracy theory among fans that former One Direction members Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson are very much gay and very much in love with each other. The ship name is a combination of their names – “Harry” and “Louis” make Larry, and you know the rest. 

Larries – or Directioners who ship Larry – exist in places like YouTube and Tumblr, where conspiracy videos/posts seeking “clues” abound; and Wattpad and Archive of Our Own, self-publishing websites where people have written pages upon pages of fanfiction. 

And yes, Louis and Harry are aware of this theory…and have repeatedly disputed it. In fact, they’ve gone on record about how much the ship has negatively impacted them. In 2012, Louis opened up about the effect the theory has had on their relationship. He stated that, while he found it funny at first, it has become hard to deal with. In 2019, he also called out a UK tabloid for igniting their “gay sex rumors” calling it “typical unprovoked venom” from the media that “couldn’t be farther from the truth”.

In 2019, years after One Direction went on hiatus and the Larry theory had seemingly quieted down, the HBO show Euphoria ignited the flames once more by including an animated sex scene between the two pop stars in an episode about fanfiction. The scene was pure fiction, of course, but it brought attention to the ship once more. Interestingly, a lot of fans came to the stars’ defense, especially after Louis tweeted “I can categorically say that I was not contacted nor did I approve” the episode. 

In a later interview with the Guardian, Louis said “I know, culturally, it’s interesting, but I’m just a bit tired of it” and admitted that it had “pissed him off”. 

Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan and Harry Styles of One Direction at the 2015 American Music Awards held at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on November 22, 2015

Much has been written about the “Watermelon Sugar” singer “normalizing gender-fluid fashion”. Since he launched his solo career, he’s become more and more experimental with his clothing choices, donning flower-printed suits, lacy shirts, feather boas, painted nails, and even the occasional Gucci dress – like the one he wore on his Vogue December 2020 cover story. In 2019, he made headlines for turning up to the camp-themed Met Gala in a black sheer blouse, heels, and a single pearl earring.

All this should come as no surprise, however. Harry is a big fan of big and bold personalities like Prince, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, and Elton John, and this is evident in the way he dresses. Plus, he’s a frequent collaborator of the ultra-stylish Alessandro Michele, Gucci’s creative director. 

In the interview with Vogue magazine, Harry opened up about his “flamboyant” choice of clothing, saying “I think if you get something that you feel amazing in, it’s like a superhero outfit. Clothes are there to have fun with and experiment with and play with.”

In another interview with the Guardian, he spoke about the matter again, saying, “What women wear. What men wear. For me, it’s not a question of that. If I see a nice shirt and get told, ‘But it’s for ladies.’ I think: ‘Okaaaay? Doesn’t make me want to wear it less though.’ I think the moment you feel more comfortable with yourself, it all becomes a lot easier.”

In the same interview, he addresses questions about his sexuality, albeit vaguely. “It’s not like I’m sitting on an answer, and protecting it, and holding it back. 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,” he comments. 

But when prodded for more information, his response is “Who cares? Does that make sense? It’s just: who cares?” 

When the interviewer proposed that perhaps the way he dresses and the way he designs his album art (the pink and blue stripes on Fine Line resemble the trans and bisexual pride flags) may look to some like hints about his sexuality, Harry responds by saying, “Am I sprinkling in nuggets of sexual ambiguity to try and be more interesting? No.”

He adds that he doesn’t choose something like a photo or an album sleeve because “It makes me look gay or makes me look straight”, but simply because “I think it looks cool”. “In terms of how I wanna dress, and what the album sleeve’s gonna be, I tend to make decisions in terms of collaborators I want to work with. I want things to look a certain way”, he says.

“​​I dunno, I just think sexuality’s something that’s fun, honestly” he concludes. “Honestly? I can’t say I’ve given it any more thought than that.”

Harry Styles at London Fashion Week in 2014

Allegations Of Queerbaiting

When that Guardian article came out, Twitter was abuzz with fans and detractors alike criticizing the pop star for “queerbaiting”.

Queerbaiting is a term that, in recent years, has been used to describe straight actors and artists in the music industry who “appropriate” queer aesthetics to gain an LGBT fandom. A lot of the criticism hurled at these stars is the fact that, while many openly queer actors and musicians face discrimination and lose opportunities for being honest about who they are, those who queerbait can get all the benefits without having to deal with all the repercussions of being out. 

Outside of his fashion and his coy “maybe, maybe not” answers, his detractors also pointed to things like Harry Styles’ gay kiss with James Corden, his ambiguous song lyrics, his habit of waving the pride flag at his shows, and his “We’re all a little bit gay, aren’t we?” comment as evidence of his queerbaiting. 

But are they really? Or is he just a man who isn’t afraid to make risque fashion choices, wants to make fans of all genders and sexual orientations feel welcome at his concerts, and who is, ultimately, just confident in his masculinity? 

At the end of the day, we’ll never really know for sure. That is, until Harry himself says so. While those who like to keep a watchful eye on celebrities who pander to LGBT audiences have their hearts in the right place, there is a case to be made for the harmful of queerbaiting accusations, too. 

After all, we don’t know whether these celebrities actually are queer or even questioning, and to insist that they either admit it or drop the ambiguity robs them of the chance at self-reflection and self-acceptance, as well as the agency to own it for themselves when they feel the time is right. And in some cases, like Cardi B and Lady Gaga, they actually are – but their sexuality is ignored because of who they date (hello, biphobia). 

Besides, as queer people, we’re constantly yearning for a world where self-expression isn’t limited to outdated gender norms. So why gate-keep nonconformity?

So, Is Harry Styles Gay?

There is no definitive answer – at this moment at least. We just have to wait and see what the superstar reveals about himself next!

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