“If you could wish for anything money can’t buy, what would it be?”
Harry Styles’ response to this question was simple. “Freedom”
You’d think that with a career that puts you on top of the world, you’d have freedom, but it’s been proven time and time again, especially for Harry, Louis, Liam, and Niall – that they’re not living a life where their decisions are solely their own.
Maybe this is why they inspire so many people, maybe this is why they make their fans desire our own freedom so much. There’s an old saying that goes “if you can’t do, teach” perhaps this what motivates them to let us know how important it is to live our own truth, to find freedom for ourselves from the box this world tries to trap us in.
When some people look at One Direction and their legacy this far they see a handful of young men who have lived a dream and made a lot money doing so. They see boys who have been labeled letharios, drug users, cheaters, and womanizers. Some people on the outside don’t know One Direction unless they’re tied to scandal, some people only know the half truths and lack of positivity that is the media driven portrait of who our boys are.
We know better. The fans know better.
If you’ve been in this fandom for any length of time you’ve noticed a clear break in their vocal opinions on certain matters that society labels important, specifically the issue of all love being equal. The boys were free to express themselves at the beginning of their career, but when rumors began to fly about Louis and Harry perhaps being more than just friends it seemed as if an abrupt stop was placed on them, as a group, being able to talk about equality. It was still mentioned, scarcely, in a few interviews, and then it wasn’t. The most “exciting” interview questions our boys are asked as of late is to describe their perfect woman or talk about what they look for in a girl. The image of all Louis, Harry, Niall, and Liam being straight and caring more about girls than anything else is not only an image that is pushed, but one people actually see as true.
The most recent example of this was when the boys were on GMA and then co-hosts from The View were able to ask them questions, these questions focused on pushing a straight narrative on each of the boys and centered around women. Fans who were at the taping say Harry rolled his eyes at the question and the boys said they knew that the “fan questions” sent in did not revolve around figuring out what girls they were interested in. This was not aired, of course.
This is why some people who are not aware of the depth of the boys just brush them off as another teen sensation that’s doomed to make a couple great records and dissipate.
The heart of our boys, their spirit, and their souls are why they will continue to prove outsiders wrong.
Liam, Niall, Louis, and Harry in their own way and as a band, have inspired fans to accept who they are. They have made subtle gestures and nods in the right direction and sometimes honest vocal pledges alongside fans to fight the good fight and to love openly and admirably. The boys have done the best they can with the circumstances that surround them to let us know that we’re worth it.
In recent concerts all of the boys have been noticing rainbows. Fan reports say they’ve done everything from subtly acknowledge them to Harry outright asking fans for their flag and dancing around stage with it. Louis has, on more than one occasion, given smiles and thumbs up to signs that acknowledged equal love, real love. Liam has smiled at fans with rainbows as well as Niall, and both boys have stood aside, with Louis, while Harry spoke about ‘doing whatever it is that makes you happy’ and raised rainbow flags high into the air with smiles. Big, loving, proud smiles.
These gestures do not end when the show is over, in fact, that’s where they begin.
A forty second prance around the stage can be all it takes to make someone feel loved in a world where they’re constantly subjected to hate. A smile and nod at a sign is all it takes to make someone feel brave enough to speak their truth. An interaction by two friends on stage is all it takes to make someone realize that no matter what their love looks like, it matters and it’s worth fighting for.
If you want to know why fans do so much for One Direction, why we put up with bad management, why we spend money on tickets to see similar shows all summer, why we buy their albums not only for ourselves but for friends, family members, even strangers, and why we truly love the boys for who they are; fans could list millions of reasons. We could talk about it for days on end.
They give us hope that even if we’re scared to tell the world who we are, we’re deserving of happiness. They let us know that we aren’t just a fandom, we are individuals and every one of us is loved, truly loved, by them.
The most important reason is true all around the board, it’s that the boys give us hope that who we are, right now, in this moment is enough.
With the way fans have felt accepted lately I wanted to know how they felt inspired by the recent outpour of pride at One Direction shows. How people who brought flags were told they made the boys uncomfortable, and now the flags are a staple to the concert. I wanted to know what fans were feeling, if they were feeling as loved and cared for as I was.
Turns out, they were, and it’s beautiful.
These were some responses:
“I’ve known that I’m bisexual since probably 2008 or so but I’ve always kind of put it to the side and tried to convince myself I wasn’t. I wasn’t really ready to accept myself I guess and they (Harry specifically) have made me feel safe and comfortable. He helped me realize it’s okay to be whoever I am and as long as I’m happy that’s all that matters. They bring me a lot of hope when I’m feeling hopeless and it makes me really happy seeing all of the support they’ve been showing to rainbow direction. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be nearly as comfortable in who I am as I am now. I’ve already come out to 4 people and planning on more very soon. Thanks for listening!” – anonymous
“Louis inspired my wife to come out to her family about being bisexual. She has been a fan of Louis since the beginning. He inspired her just by watching him over the years being more comfortable with who he is and then seeing pain in his eyes when he had to pretend and had to hide who he was. She connected with that and did not want to feel that way anymore so when Louis started to act more confident, she decided to tell her mom and brother. Unfortunately it did not end well and her mother no longer speaks to her. She is relieved that she does not have to hide anymore and hopes that one day Louis will not have to find either.” – anonymous
“I actually think I am Bi but all I can say is that Harry, just by doing whatever it is he’s doing, makes people proud of what they are. You don’t really need to be a member of the LGBT to feel proud just by seeing how open he is in supporting the community. I’m glad that he is becoming an inspiration of sort to young people who might be confused right now. It’s like Harry is silently saying “Hey, it’s OK if you like someone of the same gender. No one’s gonna judge you.” As for myself, I’m really not open about me being Bi and I don’t think I tell people that, buy deep inside, I’m a bit proud that someone like H understands. That he may be thousands of miles away yet he understands. And that I believe is the power Harry possesses. The power, if I may say, to feel for others. He lets himself be an instrument, an inspiration for anyone who feels like needing one. That’s it I guess. It may not be that related but I’m just glad I was able to say that. ?” – C
“All of the boys have helped me through so much, but Harry has helped me with something I will always be greatful for. He helped me to accept myself. I always knew I was bi, however it was really hard to even accept it. I saw all the hatred the lgbt+ community has gone through, and i knew not everyone was accepting. But then there comes Harry Edward Styles, showing his full and outermost support for the community. Simple things like when he tweeted “Despite the company outside, I believe in equal rights for everyone. I think God loves all. Thanks for coming to the show though” , and of course waving the pride flag with all that passion and energy make me so happy. Harry helped me realize that I am who I am and there is nothing wrong with that. He helped me realize that being different isn’t bad. Different is good. Harry is always in the public eye, and I love how he uses it to make a positive impact, spreading awareness, kindness and most of all love. He is such a wonderful person, this world definitely needs more people like him.” – V
“Hi! I’ll tell you my story regarding Harry and the discovery of my true sexuality. I’m almost 30, and for almost 26 years, I thought I was straight, I even got engaged twice with men (awful stories, terrible timings), and Harry helped me to be more comfortable with myself. He showed me that it’s possible to be okay with yourself, to trust in your own feelings and accept who I really am: a proud bisexual woman. He made me feel powerful and loved. He gave me a reason to be proud.” – H
“Alright so I’m not one of the traditional sexualities like lesbian or bisexual that you hear about everyday. I’m asexual, so basically I’m attracted to no one. Sex is as unwelcoming to me as a hostile household, and when I first realized that I was asexual, I wasn’t all too thrilled because I finally figured out why I didn’t fit in with the kids at school, and it only made it harder for me to try and fit in.
That’s where Louis comes in. Louis Tomlinson is probably the kindest person who really doesn’t give a sh*t that I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of my life. Just the way he encourages fans to be brave and to be themselves really helped me to become strong enough to at least come out and tell a few of my friends that I wasn’t like them, that I didn’t want or need sex and anything sex related in my life. They thought it was weird, but some accepted it. Others made fun of me or said I was lying so I decided to stop telling people, but Louis’ bravery and warm spirit, along with his soft smile really helped me to get brave enough to even just come out to the nine people that I told. He helped me to start to accept myself and whenever I start to hate something about myself I remember that he wouldn’t want me to, and I start to feel okay.
I can say the same about Harry but for Harry he helped me in a way that I never thought he would. A lot of people didn’t accept the fact that I wasn’t heterosexual and it wasn’t a good time for me but knowing that I’m fully accepted by Harry, Louis, Liam, and Niall when I’m on Twitter or at a concert just gives me this warm sense of belonging like I had been lost but have finally found my way back home. ??” – A
“I’m Brenden and I’m a 22 year old semi closeted gay man. I have known I was gay since I was like 9 or 10. Probably sooner but I didn’t have a name for it. My parents are southern Baptist and if you know anything about that you know they do not approve of same sex anything. I have always had to act more “manly” around my dad. If I didn’t he’d call me things like “fairy” or say things lie “you’re acting like a girl.” So I have always had to hide my flamboyant side and pretend that I was “normal”. Fast forward to the now, I have not come out to my family, although I am pretty sure they know. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never have acceptance from my father. I will never be able to bring my boyfriend home for dinner or holidays unless I want to pretend that he’s “just a friend”. So laugh at me if you’d like but I look up to Harry Styles for many reasons. Most of all it’s for him being himself without apology. He’s feminine, he’s flamboyant, and he is 100% authentic. I don’t know how he identifies and quite frankly it’s none of my business but he makes it easier to be me and I’m grateful for that. I’m sure he doesn’t realize the impact he has on non-straight people’s lives. The simple gesture of waving a rainbow flag in a stadium of 50,000+ people means so much to me. He’s giving me courage to be myself. Even though my parents may never understand me, I know that someone will. I hope I get to meet him one day just so I can tell him thank you. Thank you for helping me feel worthy and loved and accepted.” – Brenden
“Hi! A little background on me, 17 (turning 18 in a week) year old boy from Los Angeles.
I’ve always been very comfortable with who I am and my sexuality since I never saw it as a big deal, but the boys have taught me that I shouldn’t just accept it but be /proud/ of it.
Every tweet, picture, and thing they boldly do in support of LGBTQ+ fans just feels so genuine and amazing.
Songs like Little Things, Happily and Strong mean so much to not only me, but to countless fans because they feel /represented/ and /part/ of something and accepted and like they’re safe. And I think that’s all people really want out of music. To feel safe.
It doesn’t even have to be about sexuality because the boys encourage you to just be yourself and be happy. To never give up on your dreams and just do what you want to do and love who you want to love and don’t apologise for it, because it’s nothing to be sorry for.
Things like Harry parading around stage with rainbow flags, Louis calling fans their preferred pronouns without even thinking about it, Liam on the cover of a gay magazine and Niall supporting marriage equality make me feel so warm and nice and like everything is going to be okay.
“Not that important,” Louis’ apple shirt and RBB and Sugar Bear are fandom staples and important parts of not only One Direction history but I think mainstream “gay” history as well. Global successful stars showing support and communicating in little subtle ways some wouldn’t think they could.
I admit that I didn’t really have that many rainbows around me, not because I was ashamed but because I didn’t want people to feel like I was shoving it in their faces. But, I realised, through the boys, I’m not shoving it in their faces.
I’m being me, just like others are being them and I’m going to unapologetically hang a rainbow flag in my room and wear rainbow bracelets and have a rainbow flag sticker taking up half the space on my laptop because that’s /me/. And I should be proud of myself.
Honestly, There’s nothing like the feeling of seeing people who you love and admire and look up to show support for who you are, especially when that’s not so easy to find in some places and artists.” – John (@johnprints_)
So for anyone who doesn’t quite understand why it seems that One Direction fans love the boys as much as we love people in our day to day lives, this is just a glimpse into the hope, the light, and the love they provide fans on a daily basis. This is a small fraction of the nurturing hearts the boys have, and this is just a piece of how absolutely incredible it feels to be a fan of One Direction.
Harry, Louis, Niall, Liam – from the bottom of our hearts, thank you. We are forever moved and inspired by you, forever brave because you exist so fearlessly.