Taylor Swift does exercise a considerable amount of cultural influence, but this context paired with her activism for LGBTQIA+ rights does not make her a “gay icon.”
In an interview with Independent, Beth Ditto explains that she is largely unphased by Taylor Swift’s song and music video “You need to Calm Down.” While she is thrilled that Swift has used both her platform to draw attention to social injustice (lyrical prowess and an open letter to a republican senator on social media) and her financial privilege to donate to the cause, she explains her suspicions that Swift was using the “pink pound” strategy. In other words, Ditto wonders if this is a clever marketing tool on Swift’s part; she is targeting gay men and benefitting from their appreciation of her including LGBTQIA+ issues in her music. She also notices that Swift employs stereotypes in her music video (that of a rural and uneducated crowd protesting gay rights). That narrative is overly simplified and untrue, explains Ditto. Swift’s massive fanbase really just gives her more responsibility rather than the title of “gay icon.”
Unfortunately, Swift’s fame might actually get in the way of her activism. According to a 2019 article in The Atlantic, Swift’s music video actually implies that she sees a connection between the undeniable criticism she has experienced as a woman in the music industry with violence against the queer community. Both can exist, but these issues are two entirely different mountains. The song, according to The Atlantic, is a powerful demonstration of ally-ship, but does not exalt Swift to anything other than that.