Yesterday, a friend of mine posted that Billie Eilish had put out a new track titled “Wish You Were Gay”. As a queer woman, my immediate reaction to the name was, “Did she just come out?” I’m not one to speculate on other people’s sexual orientation (at least not out loud), but any queer person who’s ever had an unrequited crush on a straight person has likely, at some point or another, thought the words “Ugh, if only you weren’t hetero!”, and this was the direction my brain auto-piloted.
Upon further investigation, I found out that while the song is indeed about an unrequited crush, it is by no means a coming out anthem.
“I wrote this song about a guy that really was not interested in me and it made me feel horrible,” 17-year-old Eilish has said. “At least if they were gay, I’d have a valid reason for their rejection and lack of interest in being with me.”
Semi-ironically, her love interest in the song did, in fact, turn out to be gay. “He just came out to me like a couple weeks ago. So I wrote the song and made him fuck a dude. I’m fucking proud, bro! Except not really though because I was really into him, like so into him, he’s so hot oh my god, he’s so attractive.”
I mean…that entire paragraph (on top of the song itself and everything else she’s said about it) is problematic, but as I say, Eilish is 17. Should I, a 31-year-old, really feel like ranting about a song written by a teenager? I asked myself that question yesterday, and came to the conclusion that if it was still bothering me today, then it was worth exploring.
Turns out, I’m not the only one who felt like the song was exploitative. Over at Pride, Taylor Henderson wrote a great piece asking whether or not Eilish was queer-baiting her audience. For those of you (presumably straight) folks who don’t know what queer-baiting is, it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like – clickbait, but specifically geared towards queer audiences. It’s by no means a new trend, which is why it’s extra frustrating that the practice hasn’t been retired by now.
Eilish has additionally said, “I wrote the song when I was 14 and madly in love with a boy. It’s supposed to be fun and playful way at dealing with rejection.”
Girl. Please, please, PLEASE do not use the words “fun and playful” to try and explain why you’ve chosen to co-opt queer culture to benefit your musical career. I spent roughly two-thirds of my life wishing I wasn’t queer before I finally came out of the closet, so to hear that this is all just a big LOL for you kind of makes my blood boil. It extra makes my blood boil that, again, I am a 31-year-old giving a fuck about what a 17-year-old chooses to put out into the world, but seriously, how is it 2019 and this is still what people bafflingly believe is okay?
I actually think the thing that bothers me most about all of this is the fact that Eilish (or, more likely, someone from her PR team) decided to use the 48 hours after the song dropped to donate a portion of proceeds from her apparel line, Blohsh, “to the Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide and crisis prevention program for at-risk LGBTQ youth.”
I’m all for supporting the Trevor Project, so at least there is some semblance of a silver lining here.
But my feeling is that this was mainly a security measure, because someone had the foresight to think there could likely be backlash against the narrative. Even if it was a sign of genuine good will toward the LGBTQ+ community, how and why in the actual fuck did this song get made in the first place? If there was any iota of consideration or empathy at work here, why would you release a song that more or less makes a punchline of the LGBTQ+ community, and then turn around and throw money at a cause which still needs to exist because LGBTQ+ people, especially LGBTQ+ youth, are at risk?!
Look, I genuinely think all of this was a classic case of misguidance (shame on her team), because at the end of the day, she’s writing a song about an instance from when she was 14. Clearly she doesn’t have a ton of life experience to draw on yet if this is what’s making the final lyrical cut.
But dear straight people (or at least people who have not officially come out as anything other than straight) of all ages – can you just do us all a favor by trying (even a little bit, like the tiniest effort) to stay in your goddamn lane? Especially if you’re peddling messages to an enormous audience?
Alright, I think I’ve covered all the bases re: why this grinds my flipping gears. Just one last thing before we wrap up, Billie – I hate to break it to you, but much like your new track, wishing is a total waste of time. (You’d be better off working on improving your songwriting instead.)