Sometimes, the bond between an artist and their fan base goes far beyond their talent, that is definitely the case with Harry, Louis, Liam, and Niall of One Direction. From the very beginning, it was clear that their fans meant more to them than they could ever say and to the fans, the boys were not just an overnight sensation, but overnight heroes.
The compassion and kind hearts of One Direction set them apart early on and it’s what’s driven them to have such a special presence in the industry today. From using their circumstance to strive for equality, donating themselves in time and funds to charity, and taking the time to really appreciate the hearts of their fans – Niall, Liam, Louis, and Harry are more than a band, they’re more than four talented and handsome young men, they are heroes in their own sense, and they’ve provided safety to fans who couldn’t find it elsewhere.
If you asked fans of One Direction to describe the band, you’d hear words like talented, giving, passionate, funny, outgoing, and strong – but the word you’d hear used the most, the one that describes what they mean to their fans most perfectly? Home. And to Harry, Louis, Liam, and Niall, well, their fans have become a version of the word to them as well.
By definition, home means the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household. ‘The place where one lives permanently’ for fans of One Direction doesn’t apply to a building, it’s not a structure with four walls and a roof, it’s the feeling when the lights go out before the boys take stage, it’s the lyrics of songs like ‘Fireproof’ and ‘Home’, it’s watching concert clips on social media because you can’t be there in person and sharing happiness when your friends meet their favorite. Home is the way it feels when Harry thanks the fans for coming to their show, when Louis and Liam banter on stage, when Niall sings little things and does his signature ‘grab’ in ‘Better Than Words’. Home is the feeling that erupts when a One Direction song comes on shuffle, it’s the way an update from the lads feels like finding out what your best friends have been up to, it’s the way fans have met their soulmates because they’ve been lucky enough to be fans of Liam, Niall, Louis, and Harry.
Home also means, to fans of One Direction, a sense of belonging and safety. In a world where headlines too frequently speak of hate, discrimination, and a lack of basic human rights for people just because of who they are, a sense of safety is more necessary than ever.
Just last week, 49 lives were taken in Orlando, Florida; the result of a hate crime and it only served as a reminder that this world can still be cruel to people who “aren’t the same”. Instead of appreciating the beautiful and unique light each soul brings into this life, some people are still ostracized for the way they love, who they are, and how they identify. For One Direction fans in the LGBTQ+ community, they found a place to peacefully be who they are, and not only find friends in the fan base, but feel love and acceptance from Niall, Louis, Harry, and Liam themselves.
In ways both small and large; there are gestures of acceptance, compassion, and love shown to fans of One Direction and while the media often discredits them, and perhaps even sometimes the fans discredit each other – there’s something beautiful when you not only see but experience what it means to find home in association with the band.
One Direction concerts are a safe haven, they’re a place that they can exist for hours in nothing but a state of joy. Sometimes, it’s the only comfort those fans experience before going home to families and friends who don’t understand them, going back to reality where they’re made to feel less because of who they are. Sometimes all these fans get are moments where they hear their idols sing lyrics of songs that made them feel alive again before they go home and struggle to get out bed the next morning.
One Direction songs are testaments for some fans, they’re all the words fans want to say but can’t. They’re 3 minutes of hearing a voice say that someone understands you, that they’ve been where you are, and that sometimes life hurts, but other times it’s so beautiful that it’s worth it. They’re arranged on CD’s and put into stereos, on iPods, and computers and they’re memorized. They’re sang quietly when fans are weak and loudly when they’re strong. They’re the reason people believe in love, in friendship, in soul mates. These songs are the reason some One Direction fans are still alive.
Home has also been found thanks to the simple gestures, like the lads saying they accept all of their fans regardless of their sexuality to tweets and Instagram support for equal rights. It’s been Harry tweeting against the WBC who picketed a concert of theirs and wearing a Michael Sam jersey on stage. It’s lyrics to some of their most popular songs leaving out gender specific pronouns and the way they Harry reminds fans to do whatever makes them happiest in the world. It’s the way fans never feel like who they are is wrong, or not important enough to be cared about.
The fans themselves also come together to perpetuate the compassion from the lads too, which reinforces the freedom to be whoever you are. From Rainbow Direction, part of the fan base that serves to make LGBTQ+ fans of One Direction have a safe space to be themselves (and plan some beautiful, colorful fan projects during their concerts) to One Direction NDA, another fan-driven initiative that strives to keep people safe and feeling comfortable in their own skin as fans of Harry, Louis, Liam, and Niall – there’s a sense of unity for fans of One Direction that you don’t see with other fan bases. The reason behind it is simple, there would be no Rainbow Direction, no One Direction NDA, no rainbow flags on stage or hearts in the crowd if it weren’t for the boys themselves.
If their kind hearts and compassion didn’t create a platform where fans felt comfortable enough to show off their unique light and their bright colors – fans might not feel safe enough to truly embrace who they are.
There are young men who feel comfortable loving other young men, young women who embrace their relationships with other young women, there are transgender young adults who feel safe being a fan of One Direction and bisexuals who have found a place to feel understood in the lyrics, in the songs, and in the presence of the boys. We’ve shared stories on sexuality and ones where young adults credited Louis, Harry, Liam, and Niall for helping them accept who they are, and if you’re on social media at all, you’ve likely seen some of these stories yourself, some of them may even be your own. These stories are beautiful, they’re brave, and they’re such an important part of what takes a band like One Direction from everyday superstars to heroes.
Have Harry, Louis, Niall, and Liam helped you come to terms with who you are? Have they made you feel safe and loved as fans? Tweet us your stories at @CelebMix1D and we’ll share them this month for LGBTQ+ Pride.