August has officially slipped away, which means Taylor Swift fans are now counting down the days until the release of her 10th studio album, Midnights — but stans are already using the time, and subsequent new content, to re-earth some of their most beloved conspiracy theories.
From what Swift has released, the album concept is focused on music written at night that grapples with fears, worries, and other things that keep you from peaceful sleep. Swift called the album the “stories of 13 sleepless nights” throughout her life, and encouraged her fans to meet her at midnight — which immediately sent fans scurrying to see all the clues leading up to the announcement they had missed.
One stan that remains year after year is #Gaylor. An ever-growing contingent of fans believe that Taylor Alison Swift is secretly gay. And after seeing the concept for Midnights, they’re convinced this might be the album where she finally admits it to the world.
Swift has long been a vocal LGBTQ ally, and was awarded a GLAAD award for her activism. Yet #Gaylor has remained a steadfast theory among some small segments of her fandom. The theory seems to have begun with the pop star’s rumored relationship and subsequent breakup with Glee alum Diana Agron. Agron and Swift were spotted together on outings and at birthday parties, making the gossip so mainstream that Jimmy Kimmel asked Agron if she was dating Swift during a 2012 appearance on his late-night show. She replied “No, but wouldn’t that be juicy,” before saying “Hi, Taylor” and blowing the pop star a kiss into the camera. Following the release of 1989, fans linked lyrics from the song “Wonderland” to Agron’s Alice in Wonderland themed tattoo.
The theory gained an even bigger foothold during the pop star’s 2015 “Girl Squad” era, when she was often surrounded by a plethora of leggy, mostly-blonde, famous best friends like Cara Delevigne, Gigi Hadid, Hailee Steinfeld, and Karlie Kloss. In 2015, a Vogue spread of Kloss and Swift gave fans a decidedly not best friends vibe which sparked rumors of a whirlwind but secret love story. Around 2017’s Reputation, the most prevalent theory was that a collaged photos of eyes used in promotional material and on the album’s physical CD contained a singular photo of Kloss’ eye instead of Swift’s. After Swift debuted Folklore‘s Betty, fans went wild over the song’s premise, which is a love song full of hope sung to a girl named Betty — an energy that couldn’t be dissuaded even after Swift said it was written from the perspective of a male narrator.
Now it’s Midnights’ turn. The prevailing theory is linked to clips of Swift singing her 2017 track “New Year’s Day.” The song includes the lyrics, “But I stay when you’re lost and I’m scared and you’re turning away/I want your midnights.” Besides the heavily implied clock references in the song, which depicts lovers who stay together even after the party ends when the clock strikes midnight, fans are focusing on live clips of the song’s performance, where they claim Swift is using the words “I want her midnights.”
Pronoun game aside, fans have also pointed out that this song matches the vibe of recent promotional material, in which Taylor speaks about self imprisonment and mistakes that could have the possibility to either end her fate or help her find herself.
“We lie awake in love and in fear, in turmoil and in tears,” she wrote in her album announcement. “We stare at walls and drink until they speak back. We twist in our self-made cages and pray that we aren’t — right in this minute — about to make some fate altering mistake.”
For any other artists, such specific theories might seem a little far-fetched, but T-Swift is notorious for indulging her fans’ most intense detective urges. In past projects, easter eggs have been as large as placing her album title and next single in the music video for “ME”! and as small as including a 1989 Mercedes-Benz S-Class in All Too Well: The Short Film, as a reference to her 1989 album.
Given that Swift’s career has been marked by public reaction to her relationships with very famous men, most Swift fans discount the theory with interviews of her with male partners, or lyrics they believe are dedicated to Swift’s longtime boyfriend Joe Alwyn. Some even say it’s rude to equate Gaylor theories to the good fun of finding references and hidden secrets in Swift’s body of work.
But underneath the fan edits, compilations, and conspiracy theories is the genuine desire Swift fans have to understand her music as thoroughly as possible. The defining factor of Gaylor — which fans have remained attached to, year after year, project after project — is that the pop star has been there for them.
Swift engages with her fandom in a way that is extremely unusual — and borderline terrifying — for her level of fame. She still hosts meet-and-greets, she’s hand-delivered merch to fans’ houses, and she even threw away a years long strategy of being apolitical when her fans asked her to speak out on what she believed in. So even if Midnights isn’t the gay album of their dreams, they won’t give up the theory. They’ll play it, then pick out small bits and references they think Swift is giving them, all to let her know they’re listening.