Hayley Kiyoko
The singer Hayley Kiyoko’s tribute to her lesbian fans goes viral.

The singer Hayley Kiyoko’s tribute to her lesbian fans goes viral.

—Who doesn’t have a girl crush on Hayley Kiyoko?

It doesn’t have to be #WomanCrushWednesday to fall into one of the performer’s music videos or film and TV forays. She and gonzo feminist Patty Arquette were the only reasons to watch CSI: Cyber. There are many reasons to watch The Fosters and the spinoff, The Fosters: Girls United, but Kiyoko is definitely a major excuse for yet another guilty series of pleasure.

And now the star has a new surprise for us, dropping on MTV on October 19.

In anticipation of “Feelings,” it’s been #GayleyKiyokoWeek and we are so here for it. The singer kicked things off on Oct. 16 with some Instagram teasing – and we do mean teasing – Blake, that cute girl with the headphones in Gravel to Tempo. Gifs of the two kissings went viral on IG and Twitter.

A couple of days of girl play made us remember what life was like before Trump took over the universe. We could just spend time being happily lesbian and not have to put on a pussy hat just to buy some tampons because everything is a political statement now.

Especially kissing other women.

So we took some time off from fighting the orange menace and his increasingly vile actions against LGBTQ folks. (Trump just rolled back more of our rights last week and on Oct. 14 was at Value Voters Summit telling evangelicals he would make sure none of them ever had to bake a wedding cake for us, while Jane Mayer wrote in the New Yorker that VP Mike Pence would like to “hang gays.”)

Who doesn’t need to just fall into her own #GayleyKiyokoWeek? We sure needed to.

We revisited the music videos of the 26-year-old actress, singer, songwriter, director and, as some call her on social media, Lesbian Jesus. The trip down memory lane reminded us that being a lesbian is nothing like what the Trump folks claim.

We started with “Girls Like Girls,” which always reminds us of our first girlfriend in high school. Tearing pages from our notebook, signing it with an un-ironic heart and sticking it through the slot in her locker. Riding our bike to her house just so we could talk in person for a few minutes before she got called back inside for dinner and we had to go back home. But that “see ya tomorrow” hug was so worth it.

“Saw your face, heard your name
Gotta get with you
Girls like girls like boys do
Nothing new”

Kiyoko always got it – how it feels, how it’s different, how it’s no phase – or whatever they try and tell you it is.

“We will be everything that we’d ever need (oh oh)
Don’t tell me, tell me what I feel
I’m real and I don’t feel like boys
I’m real and I don’t feel like boys”

In an interview with Refinery 29 in 2016, Kiyoko said of her self-directed video “Gravel to Tempo,” “From the beginning of writing that song, I envisioned myself in front of all the girls I had crushes on in high school. I remember so well what it was like to idolize other people and look for validation from them. But then I grew up, and I realized: The only validation I need is from myself.”

“Gravel to Tempo” is an FU to the haters—we see Kiyoko looking longingly down the crowded high school hallway as she stands at her locker, the cool girls in a clique, talking and not seeing her. Her fantasy takes her in front of their gauntlet, where she sings and dances before of a line of those same perfectly dressed and coiffed girls.

Then the high school cafeteria—the most hated place for all beleaguered and bullied teens. What happens next is what takes us to the new Instagrams with Blake, the headphones girl in the cafeteria scene in “Gravel to Tempo.”

Kiyoko’s journey has been the journey many of us have experienced. The first girlfriend. The reality of your sexual identity hitting you. The bullying (because there is always bullying). The denial. The acceptance. The hard road ahead, because homophobia—especially lesbophobia—is everywhere.

Hayley Kiyoko directing her own videos is such a huge thing for lesbians. These videos tell real stories that we’ve lived. And having a woman of color tell these stories means they won’t all be white-on-white. She mixes it up for us–”Girls Like Girls” was a white couple. “Sleepover,” which debuted in March 2017, was Kiyoko herself and a black woman. “Cliff’s Edge” stars Kiyoko and a white woman.

One reason Kiyoko has been making her own videos for the past two years is that she wants the stories told right. But she’s had to fight for her vision as a lesbian director.

In August 2017 Kiyoko told Elle magazine about the struggle to get her music videos made with their lesbian themes. Think about how many millions of lesbians and bisexual women there are who are eager to see women together in music videos and you have to wonder how it could still be a fight in 2017. But then there’s that guy in the White House leading the backlash against LGBTQ people, so perhaps it’s not that surprising after all.

Kiyoko said, “For me, every music video is a hurdle. Every time I do a music video, I’m constantly fighting to get my point across. As a gay woman, that’s also a big hurdle. I remember when I did my last music video for “Sleepover,” I had pitched the concept and someone said, ‘Is it gonna be another music video about two girls?’

And I was like, ‘Well, yeah, it is, because that’s my life!’ There’s only allowed to be one? All these other artists are singing about guys in every single video. Why can’t I sing about girls more than once? Why is that a special thing? Obviously, every video is gonna be different, but why is that something that I can’t do?”

Kiyoko has also faced the issue that all lesbian directors have had to deal with: how straight society conflates lesbian sexuality with pornography. (Maybe if men hadn’t used the tiresome threesome construct so much to advance a porn storyline, this wouldn’t be the case. Or maybe if lesbians got to direct more, we could tell our own stories?)

In both “Sleepover” and “Cliff’s Edge,” there are scenes with Kiyoko and another woman in bed, kissing. How many music videos have we seen with a woman and a man in bed kissing?



Yet Kiyoko explained to Elle how her stories of lesbian lovers are perceived quite differently from those of straight directors and videos with heterosexual love stories. “That’s a great example of me having to drive my point of trying to normalize girl-on-girl relationships, because people just think that’s obscene. Literally, they go, ‘That’s obscene.’ It’s not obscene! It’s my life!”

It’s also our lives – because Hayley Kiyoko gets us.

As Kiyoko told Refinery 29, “My goal is to inspire my fans to find happiness in themselves earlier on, so they don’t have such a tough time growing up. The world is a hard, difficult place right now. But it can feel a little bit easier if you believe in yourself.”

It’s a message of love and hope that we can all embrace. That it comes with great music and swoon-worthy videos is all icing.