the voice and vision of a new generation
Image credit: Hayley Kiyoko

3 ways Hayley Kiyoko earns her fan-dubbed title, Lesbian Jesus

March 27, 2019

Hayley Kiyoko is a trailblazing queer singer, songwriter and actress. Since she publicly came out as a lesbian, she has been an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ community. She has spoken candidly about her sexuality, provided support and advice to LGBTQ youth and has discussed her struggles growing up queer. For all of these reasons—and many more—she is so very deserving of her nomination for the 2019 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Music Artist.

You don’t hear about many queer Asian women in mainstream media, which is why it was such a big deal for me to find someone like Hayley Kiyoko and her music video for “Girls Like Girls.” When I came across the video, I finally felt that my story and identity were being told authentically on screen. When I first saw the music video for Hayley Kiyoko’s queer anthem, “Girls Like Girls,” I experienced many emotions: excitement, joy, anticipation, eagerness—and ultimately hope for a future of queer Asian girl representation.

The music video opens with a girl biking to her friend’s  house and the two warmly embrace. The following scenes depict the two girls sharing intimate moments together; in one scene they share a cigarette over flirtatious glances. Throughout the music video, one of the girl’s boyfriend intrudes on their intimate moments and defuses the romantic tension.  In the end however, the girls finally give in to their feelings and they share a fiery, electric kiss.

One of the girls in the music video is played by Kelsey Chow, who is an Asian American, so we finally get to see what happens when a queer Asian American woman is allowed to explore, navigate, and come to terms with her sexuality. With representation severely lacking for this demographic, Hayley Kiyoko’s existence and artistry proves more important than ever.

But why else do I stan for Hayley Kiyoko? These are the top three reasons:

1. She breaks boundaries.

For a community that faces multiple oppressions—homophobia, racism, sexism, among others—it’s hard to define ourselves outside the boxes people place us in. But people like Hayley Kiyoko, who unapologetically embraces all facets of her identity, help erase the stigma that comes with being queer, Asian, and female.

In an interview with Elite Daily, Kiyoko noted, “There's not a lot of Asian pop stars... I'm happy to brave and put my story out there, if I know that it will help younger generations. I hope that my music can help the younger generation gain confidence earlier on, so that they can enjoy their lives more.”

As Kiyoko explains visibility is important for queer Asian youth to gain confidence in their identities, especially because sexuality isn’t a topic that’s usually brought up in the Asian American community. In fact it’s routinely ignored. In an article done with the Human Rights Campaign, Harold Kameya, father to a lesbian identified daughter, notes that “Homosexuality is often very difficult for LGBT Asians (to bring up) because our culture usually treats the subject of homosexuality with the tried and true method of silence." While there aren’t many concrete studies done on the amount of homophobia in the Asian American community, many of us who’re queer within the community know that the subject of sexuality is still very taboo. Thus, Kiyoko’s artistry and work proves to break barriers in more ways than one;she’s also “the first lesbian pop star signed to a major label,” according to Nylon.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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2. She makes rad music about girls who like girls that doesn’t center the male gaze.

When the only stories being told about queer women are portrayed as temporary, hypersexualized for straight male consumption, or end in tragedy, it tells us that our sexuality isn’t valid and that our love lives are made for others enjoyment or inherently doomed.

Through Kiyoko’s lyrics and music videos which tell the stories of realistic same-sex female relationships, she proves that queer women can lead fulfilling lives and have happy endings, too.In “Girls Like Girls” Kiyoko gives us the classic coming of age tale but with a queer twist. We are presented with a story of two girls’ budding romance as one comes to terms with her sexuality while being in a relationship with a male partner, ending with the two girls realizing their shared attraction before coming together and sharing a passionate kiss.

In “Feelings”, Kiyoko herself plays the title character of the music video and can be seen pursuing a tall, dark-haired beauty. After exiting from a nondescript storefront the unnamed woman catches Kiyoko’s eye and, before you can say “Honey let’s call the U-Haul,” the romantic pursuit begins. As they walk side-by-side down the street, Kiyoko almost colliding into her as she is dancing around and practically serenading her, the two seem to grow closer and closer (at least as close as you can get under the span of five minutes) and share a flirtationship of sorts, ultimately leaving us with the warm and fuzzies inside.

3. She isn’t afraid to call in problematic behavior.

When Rita Ora released a song titled “Girls,” Kiyoko was one of the first to call out the lyrics for playing on the usual tropes of queer female sexuality.

In the chorus the song contains the lyrics: “Sometimes, I just wanna kiss girls, girls, girls/Red wine, I just wanna kiss girls, girls, girls.” The reference to alcohol plays on the tired trope of straight-identified women who typically reject the label of queer, that kiss other women only when there’s alcohol involved. The implicit message being spread through lyrics like these is that being intoxicated is a prerequisite to having same-sex relations between women, and that these relations are never serious. The song at one point even makes a reference to scissors (which speaks for itself) and eludes to one night stands.

In response, Kiyoko put out a statement saying that the song “Girls” “does more harm than good for the LGBTQIA+ community. A song like ["Girls”] just fuels the male gaze while marginalizing the idea of women loving women.”

She continues by saying “I don’t need to drink wine to kiss girls; I’ve loved women my entire life,” and that “This type of message is dangerous because it completely belittles and invalidates the very pure feelings of an entire community,” concluding with “We can and should do better.”

In order for progress to be made, harmful stereotypes about the LGBTQIA+ community must be called in (or sometimes called out) and critically analyzed—which Kiyoko did here.

Kiyoko is becoming a legend not only because she isn’t afraid to call people in for perpetuating damaging stereotypes about queer women, but for providing positive, multidimensional representation for the queer Asian female community, through her songs like “Girls Like Girls” and “What I Need” featuring Kehlani, another one of pop’s queer female icons.

In the year of 2019 (or what has been affectionately dubbed by the internet as “20BiTeen”), let us make this the year that we unapologetically celebrate queerness in all of its glory.

Christine Miyazato is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and senior at UC Santa Barbara. She is a queer blogger, writer, and advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community with a passion for dissecting the intersection between queer and Asian American identity. Christine currently serves as a Junior Editor for amp.

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