Taylor Swift: Why the transgender representation in her music video for “Lavender Haze” is so important
Taylor Swift makes a statement for transgender representation in the music video "Lavender Haze".
On 27 January 2023, Taylor Swift released the music video for her song "Lavender Haze" from her new album "Midnights", which she wrote and directed herself. She was celebrated on the internet especially for the visuals of the music video. But fans quickly figured out who was playing her love interest and rejoiced at the representation of the transgender community, at a time when trans people in the United States have to fight for their rights. Laith Ashley De La Cruz is a transgender model, actor and activist and plays Taylor Swift's lover in the music video. As part of the release of the "Lavender Haze" music video, Laith Ashley conducted interviews with online magazines "Bustle" and "Buzzfeed", among others, about the importance of representation in mainstream media.
This is what the collaboration between Laith Ashley and Taylor Swift was like
When Laith Ashley first heard about Taylor Swift wanting to collaborate with him, he thought it was a joke. "I didn't think anyone that big knew who I was," he tells Bustle magazine. Taylor Swift is a huge fan of secrets and mysteries, which is why the filming of the music video was kept under wraps, and Laith Ashley didn't hear a note of "Lavender Haze" during the video shoot. During the video shoot, Taylor Swift had headphones and was the only one who could hear the music.
Nevertheless, working with Taylor Swift was an incredible experience, she said. "I had to rely on her 100 per cent," Laith Ashley tells Bustle. "She was so nice and open and friendly. I just felt comfortable with her." He also shared his love for Taylor Swift in a post on Instagram, "You are brilliant and this was an experience I will never forget," he wrote under his Instagram post. "Thank you for being an Ally and continuing to use your platform to do some good." Taylor Swift returns the love in a post of her own on Twitter, describing him as "an incredible costar who I have loved working with".
Here's why Taylor Swift's sign is so timely for the trans community right now
Being in a Taylor Swift music video may be reason enough for some to be proud. But for Laith Ashley and many young trans people, his role in "Lavender Haze" means much more than that. At a time when trans hate and transphobia has reached an all-time high, not just online, and anti-LGBTQIA+ laws are being introduced almost daily in the United States - such as in Oklahoma, where as of this year anyone under 26 will be denied gender reassignment care - this representation makes a powerful statement.
This is not a small indie music video, but a Taylor Swift video that already has over ten million views on YouTube. This gives the trans community a huge stage. "A trans person simply being portrayed on screen in love humanises trans people," Laith Ashley explains. "We deserve to exist. We deserve to have a place in society. We will always exist, regardless of anti-trans propaganda." This simple method of portraying trans people as they live and love helps normalise their existence.
Especially since the love story in Taylor Swift's music video is such a beautiful and pure representation of love, representation is so important. "Because I'm playing Taylor Swift's love interest in this video, it seems so simple because it's two people who love each other, and one of the people happens to be trans. It doesn't matter," Laith Ashley elaborates. "Because in the end, I always say love always wins." Trans hate is incomprehensible to him, especially from women: "Why do people even care so much? Our existence suddenly becomes so threatening when it's just not."
Laith Ashley talks about the importance of representation in Taylor Swift's music video
Since his modelling career, Laith Ashley has also been a trans activist, advocating for representation in all media. His big goal for 2023 is to raise his voice even more and talk about the issues and hurdles trans people face. Especially, but not only, in the United States, the number of hatecrimes regarding LGBTQIA+ people has risen sharply. Transphobic language on the internet has increased, especially by radical feminists who do not accept trans women as women. "I think we need to raise our voices more against this kind of language," Laith Ashley tells Bustle.
Laith Ashley continues: "People don't see the real consequences their language has for us. People are dying, people are arming themselves and wanting to - quote - 'cleanse' Safe Spaces. Any:r who:hates LGBTQIA+ people can just turn up and decide they want to see people suffer, and that's just not right. That's not what America stands for." By siding with trans people and emphasising their humanity in her videos, a singer like Taylor Swift, who is heavily mainstream, is also bringing trans people into the mainstream.
Through something called the "mere-exposure effect", repeated perception of something contributes to it being valued more positively and coming into the realm of the "everyday". Apart from the fact that people naturally recognise themselves in representation and feel seen, representation is also important for the general view of the transgender community.