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What Is Queerbaiting?

From Harry Styles to Bad Bunny, several celebrities have been accused on social media for queer-baiting. But before you join the conversation, here's what it means.

From Harry Styles, Kit Connor to Bad Bunny, several celebrities have been accused on social media for queer-baiting. But before you join the conversation, here's what the term queer-baiting means and we explore what celebrities are queerbaiters.
Photo: Them

In recent weeks, this word "Queerbaiting" has stolen the attention of Gen-Z through TikTok and most recently Twitter. Before we give you the dictionary definition, imagine you're obsessed with two characters in a show, and ship them because of their on-going flirtatious relationship. Longing looks, touches that linger for a little bit too long, sexual tension that is clearly there. All these signs and more are present when these two characters interact. But as the show is reaching its conclusion, the realization that these two characters will not get together, let alone be defined as LGBTQIA+, dawns on you.

So, if the example before wasn't enough clarification, queerbaiting refers to a marketing gimmick that hints at something being related to queer culture, but in fact it isn't. In this case, the two characters are hinted at being queer, but they are never defined as such.

Now, there is a difference between being unlabeled and queerbaiting. Sometimes, celebrities or influential people who refuse to discuss their sexuality or adopt a label are considered queerbaiters. But that's not always the case.

Kit Connor from Heartstopper Deletes Twitter After Being Accused of Queerbaiting

Most recently the lead actor of queer show, Heartstopper, Kit Connor, announced he'd be deleting his Twitter. While the actor has received plenty of hate in the past from people accusing him of queerbaiting, this came after a video that saw him and current co-star, Mia Reficco (Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin), holding hands. Kit Connor brings the iconic queer character, Nick Nelson from the Heartstopper series, to life. Even though the show was a global success and Kit Connor became an overnight sensation for his portrayal of Nick, he's been at the receiving end of queerbaiting accusations since the release of the Netflix original series.

Here's where the difference between not being labeled and queerbaiting kicks in. Kit Connor is a teenager. He's eighteen years old and an international sensation. Outside of the pressures of being famous, Kit, as all teenagers do, has to deal with things like relationships, family pressure, and figuring out who he is. While the actor hasn't explicitly come out or labeled himself, he has hinted at different occasions that he is not straight.

Harry Styles and Bad Bunny Are Accused of Exploiting "Queer Aesthetics and Expression" for their Benefit

Other celebrities that have been at the face of these accusations in recent weeks are Harry Styles and Bad Bunny. The former, who's currently in a relationship with actress and producer Olivia Wilde, has never publicly labeled his sexuality. But between his fashion moments and expression, fans and people on social media have accused the artist and actor of using "queer aesthetics" for his own personal gain.

Wrapping up his performance at the MTV Music Video Awards, Bad Bunny kissed both a female and a male dancer. While not to the degree of Harry Styles, Bad Bunny has also been accused on social media for queerbaiting with people citing his exploitation of "queer aesthetics and expression" to create his brand.

It's hard to say if a celebrity is queerbaiting or simply not in a place where they want to label their queerness. As important as it is to make sure queerbaiters meet a stop, it can also be a dangerous practice to assume someone's queerbaiting. The best example is Becky Albertalli, the author of Simon vs the Homosapiens Agenda. After her novel became a huge success and got optioned for a movie, Albertalli was accused of profiting off queer culture as a married straight woman. Due to societal pressure from people on social media calling the author out, she was forced to reveal she was actually bisexual. This opened a conversation on social media about the dangers of assuming someone's sexuality, especially when those people try to be a part of or interact with queer spaces.


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