Taylor Swift’s Sherman-like march through Pride Month continues! After kicking things off by appearing at Wango Tango and urging the Senate to pass the Equality Act, then releasing “You Need to Calm Down,” a song whose awkward attempts at allyship Christina Cauterucci compared to “watching a straight bachelorette party go nuts at a drag show,” Swift has completed her hat trick by making a surprise appearance at the Stonewall Inn, the Greenwich Village bar where the gay rights movement was born in 1969. As Variety reports, Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson introduced her after a performance from singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles.
Critics will be debating for months whether or not Swift was making an earnest attempt to be an ally, queerbaiting as part of her album launch, or slow-walking her way to coming out. So let’s talk about the money. The event was sponsored by AEG, the live-event promotion company that produced and promoted the North American leg of Swift’s Reputation world tour. As you may recall from the Boycott Coachella controversy, AEG is owned and operated by Philip Anschutz, a Colorado billionaire who started his journey into the 1% by selling oil leases to Mobil. He’s also a heavy Republican donor whose foundation gave more than $100,000 to the Alliance Defending Freedom between 2011 and 2013, an organization that argued European countries should be allowed to sterilize transgender citizens and filed an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas with section titles like “Same-sex Sodomy is More Harmful to the Public Health than is Opposite-Sex Sodomy.” He also contributed to Charles Dobson’s Family Research Council and the National Christian Foundation! When news broke of Anschutz’s donations to anti-LGBT groups, he issued a statement calling the reports “fake news,” and emphasized that he personally “unequivocally support[ed] the rights of all people without regard to sexual orientation,” no matter what sorts of political programs he was bankrolling. He also wrote this:
Both the Anschutz Foundation and I contribute to numerous organizations that pursue a wide range of causes. Neither I nor the Foundation fund any organization with the purpose or expectation that it would finance anti-LGBTQ initiatives, and when it has come to my attention or the attention of the Anschutz Foundation that certain organizations either the Foundation or I have funded have been supporting such causes, we have immediately ceased all contributions to such groups.
With all due respect to the complex process of managing a fortune the size of Mr. Anschutz’s, it’s kind of wild that he didn’t expect the Alliance Defending Freedom to spend the money he gave them financing anti-LGBTQ initiatives during the period of his donations, when the ADF was very publicly fighting to defend California’s anti-LGBTQ Prop 8 through the appeals process and its president Alan Sears was railing about “the homosexual agenda” anytime anyone handed him a microphone. Anyway, after news of his donations broke, Anschutz said he’d stopped all funding to anti-LGBTQ organizations, unless you counted the $770,000 he was still giving to groups like Focus on the Family and the Heritage Foundation, or his continued donations to Republican candidates. On the other hand, in 2018 he gave $1 million to the Elton John AIDS Foundation’s LGBT Fund, which is battling AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, so who’s to say what’s right or wrong anymore, really? And now he’s produced an event where Taylor Swift performs at the Stonewall Inn, so, rehabilitation complete? Here’s video of her acoustic performance of “Shake It Off,” which also serves as a preemptive response to any criticism she might face over making symbolic gestures towards equality while helping enrich a man who has used his money to harm LGBTQ people in very non-symbolic ways:
It’s true what Swift sings: Haters are going to hate. But you don’t have to donate money to them, like Anschutz did. There’s no ethical employment under capitalism, but if you have the kind of power and wealth Taylor Swift has, you don’t have to keep helping haters get richer if you don’t want to. And if all else fails, you don’t have to sing about it at the Stonewall Inn during Pride Month.