“You Could Hear a Hair Pin Drop”: Queer Utopianism and Informal Knowledge Production in the Gaylor Closeting Conspiracy Theory

Yvonne M. Eadon

Social Media + Society


Research summary by Katherine Furl 

The “Gaylor” online subculture has long speculated about Taylor Swift’s sexuality, speculations bolstered on the highly participartory TikTok platform. In “‘You Could Hear a Hair Pin Drop’: Queer Utopianism and Informal Knowledge Production in the Gaylor Closeting Conspiracy Theory,” recently published in Social Media + Society, Yvonne Eadon analyzes TikTok videos to understand how Gaylor community members parse evidence and collectively develop community lore. The TikTok Gaylor community exhibits phenomena prominent in both conspiracy and fandom online communities with a distinctly feminized character, ultimately pushing back against heterosexist consensus. 

Gaylor as a theory can be considered a “Closeting Conspiracy Theory” or CCT, theories focused on speculation toward a public figure’s sexuality in online spaces. CCT believers gather evidence and produce knowledges across several online platforms, though the capabilities of video-sharing platform TikTok are especially suited to the sorts of multi-layered discussions, challenges, and boundary-setting work conducted by CCT believers. Eadon notes that in past research, conspiracy theories have often been homogenized, and are frequently masculinized such that conspiracy theories more popular among women are considered inconsequential. Taking a queer feminist approach to her research, Eadon urges researchers to consider the specific contexts in which different conspiracy theories and communities engaging with them form and develop.  

Analyzing 200 TikTok videos with hashtags related to the Gaylor conspiracy, Eadon finds TikTokers participating in the Gaylor community frequently engage in boundary work: self-identified Gaylors frequently work to distinguish themselves from “Hetlors,” who avow Swift’s heterosexuality, while self-identified Hetlers work to distinguish themselves from Gaylor in turn. Further, Gaylor TikTokers collectively analyze various media produced by Swift—from Instagram reels to song lyrics and liner notes—to parse supposed clues related to Swift’s sexuality in ways mirroring other conspiratorial communities. Gaylor TikTokers, for example, repeatedly predict precise dates at which Swift will reveal her sexuality, with multiple album release dates put forward as dates when this will occur. Eadon refers to the as the “doomsday coming-out,” capturing how Gaylor TikTokers merge tropes from both conspiratorial and queer online communities.  

Working together to interpret fandom media, set themselves apart, and develop valued knowledges, the Gaylor TikTok community inspires members to think toward queer futures, and to value their own social positions and subjectivities. Eadon notes Swift’s own thin, white womanhood potentially confines how fans imagine queerness. Conversely, Eadon asserts that considering the Gaylor TikTok community as a space in which only fans whose racialized and other social identities align with Swift’s as capable of developing meaningful, impactful community lore is not just limiting—it misrepresents the Gaylor community. A diverse group of Gaylor TikTokers find meaning and legitimacy through imagining queer possibilities on TikTok.