Lately I have found people on this website seem to believe that only straight people like Ed Sheeran. It is sorted of taken for granted that all LGBTQ+ people don’t. As a gay (female) Ed Sheeran fan, I would like to offer a counter to this.
I think everyone can have whatever opinions on music that they want to have. I do, however, feel that a lot of the Ed Sheeran hate comes from this alternate version of him that has been constructed by people who just know songs like Shape of You and Perfect, songs which I’m not hugely keen on myself – but my Ed Sheeran is someone different. Growing up, his music was my anchor. And I think that in those early days, it was specifically as a gay kid (not that I knew it at the time), that Ed appealed to me so much.
2011. I was a 14 year old kid in England and I had never been interested in any contemporary music. It just didn’t speak to me. Then all of a sudden this guy ambles onto the scene and he wasn’t doing what everyone else was. He always just wore whatever hoodie he happened pull on that day, had this relatable awkward demeanour, and wrote these strangely quirky songs that weren’t like anything I’d heard before – not just “I miss you”, but “Hey, remember when we found a dead bird on the side of the road and you wanted to help it but it died, and I felt so guilty” or “Remember when we used to watch Shrek and play computer games and take walks on the beach…” Not “I’m blushing” but “she turns my cheeks the colour of my hair”. Not “she looks sad” but “her face seems slowly sinking, wasting, crumbling like pastries…” They weren’t deep lyrics but they were oddly specific, so you’d hear a song and know that only he could’ve written it. He made stories with his songs and they felt real to me in a way that I didn’t know music could.
Ed Sheeran was an acoustic singer-songwriter gradually making his way into the mainstream and even when he began touring with Taylor Swift and playing for the Queen, he wasn’t fitting into this pop star mould.
He was just himself.
And I think, looking back, that was part of the appeal. Those early teenage years were confusing because all of sudden, all the girls around me were growing into a kind of femininity that for me, just didn’t fit. I remember being 12, 13, 14, and seeing all my friends gushing over whatever celebrity crush they had, and it was all these Bieber-esque, Twilight guys (no hate, this is just what it was) who were being marketed in a way to appeal to them. And there was this constant expectation that you had to have a crush on a guy. My friends always assumed I was lying when I said that I didn’t.
When Ed Sheeran came along, it was like a release from all that because he was so far removed from that image. Suddenly it was possible (cool even, the more popular he became) to be a fan of a guy totally separate from any pressure of ‘the celebrity crush’. And when all my friends began taking clothes and make-up very seriously and I felt uncomfortable dressing like they did, Ed would show up to award shows amongst all the slick-haired guys in suits or whatever, just with his messy hair, wearing loose jeans and a sweatshirt.
And when I felt anxiety about everyone my age becoming more and more into boys and parties and everything being sexualised all the time, Ed Sheeran was playing with Lego bricks in interviews and making music videos with cats and playing shows dressed up as a gingerbread man.
And you’d go to these shows in 2011, 2012, and the kids there weren’t the cool kids, the ones who’d go to concerts decked out in make-up and their best clothes (not saying there’s anything wrong with doing that). We were kids who didn’t really fit in. We’d show up in our own hoodies and jeans. We were the teenagers who spent way too much time alone inside and not really going out with friends. The shy kids. The awkward kids. And I remember just feeling that at those shows back then – it was like being at his concert, I was in a safe space. We related to Ed’s awkwardness and how he didn’t fit into the scene that surrounded him. He spoke to the isolated. His music was for us.
As I’ve grown up and have felt myself beginning to understand who and what I am, I can look back to Ed as my kind of icon of individuality. I felt more comfortable being who I am because of him, and who I am is a girl who likes girls. Ed Sheeran, in an odd way, was part of that realisation. I’m not saying Ed represented what it was to be gay, but he represented what it was to be different, and for me those two things were pretty tied up. With his hoodies and plaid shirts and persistence in being himself, even if it went against the flow of what everyone else in the industry was doing, he embodied how I wanted to present myself and who I wanted to be.
(I mean, come on. He has his own signature flannel. And it’s awesome.)