Saturday, 22 August 2015

Is it time to wave Larry Stylinson goodbye?

I'm a male 1D fan.

I know it's terrible. All my sophisticated music loving friends will pour derision on me. Who cares? My play list still has the Beatles and Bowie in it, but it also has Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, 5sos and a few others, but no one features as much as those five tattooed ex-teens with their cheesy songs.

Yes I'm gay and yes they are good looking young guys, but no, that's not what's going on. In some strange way I feel like I have watched Liam, Harry, Louis, Nail and the now, 'normal lifed', Zayn grow up. I think they've managed that part of their lives incredibly well. I like the fact that I saw real loss and despair in all five band members when they were tossed out of X-Factor UK.

Those poor hopeful kids were in tears. Then they got a reprieve and for me, that's the moment that made them; not the reprieve, but the failure. There's a great quote that as a person you don't learn much from success - I don't think this is always true, but you certainly learn less from it. It allows indulgent, self satisfying thoughts that dampen drive and determination. When the dreams of the 1D guys ended so early, or so they thought, that moment seems to have been seared into their minds and it has lasted until very recently. I think more than anything else it has kept them level headed as they've grown.

They know only too well how lucky they are. Lucky to have been selected at all, let alone as a band of five. Lucky to have the hits. The fans that love them and now careers of five years taking them around the world four times over with no sign of the first class flights being grounded anytime soon.

They also work hard. Count the shows. Time and effort has tempered them so even their harshest critic has to begrudgingly admit they are competent singers. Have a listen to Torn from the XFactor and compare it to some of the vocals going on in Best Song Ever. These guys have come a long way.

And they have the best conspiracy theory bubbling along beside them since the Beatles with 'Paul is Dead'. Larry Stylinson is not as grand as the 'Paul is Dead' mystery, but it's got twice the clues to be sleuthed out. The fans dubbed their conspiracy Larry Stylinson right from the start. I've written about Larry before because it's just so damn cute - true or not.

The saga goes, according to some fans, Harry and Louis are in love, together, possibly married and having their passion filled tryst hidden away by everyone from their management to Obama. Other fans are equally adamant they're just two guys who like each other - a lot.

The anti Larry shippers place the conspiracy as nothing more than coincidence and happenstance that add up to two very close and supportive friends. Even if this is the case, what a wonderful friendship it is and how great to see two guys showing obvious affection towards each other. The other band members show affection towards one another as well, but Harry and Louis seem to go that little bit further.

I've thought about whether I want these two to be together or not, the conspiracy to be true or not, the Larry ship to be sailing or sunk. To be honest, I'm torn.

I came out very young at a time before the internet. I just couldn't see how I could keep living a lie. I was too broken and screwed up inside by trying, so coming out became my only healthy option.

As a side note, people like Tom Daley are bravely risking all they've built up to be honest and open and prove just how far we've come - especially as he was able to keep his privacy intact with some ambiguity left to his sexuality. He simply told the world he was in love and, to his surprise, the person he loved was a man. Now Caitlin Kenner has further exposed how complicated and confused human sexuality can be with her transition from the world's greatest athlete to Caitlin - a journey that took her decades to accept.

So what's that got to do with Shipping Larry - well part of me hates to think of the pressure being applied if Larry is true. I think of Australia's Ian Thorpe who was hounded until he finally outed himself and every commentator added, "See, we told you," and all I could feel was the pain of a young man who was never allowed to chart his journey in his own time and in his own way.

Coming out is personal. It has nothing to do with anyone else, it's about accepting yourself and being ready to stand up and live your life as you are and face the narrow minded throng who can't conceive or empathize with difference.

It's not fair or wise to push someone towards coming out, nor is it fair to reject someone's denial's about being gay. But the fans have gathered so much evidence around Louis and Harry that place the two of them in the land of, "Don't ask, don't tell." They seem to sit on the fence when confronted and it's hard to read if this is support from a new open minded generation or a hint they have secrets they're not ready to be open about.

The guys of 1D are so successful and still very young. They haven't put a foot wrong as far as role models go. Maybe having each other helps, whereas Beiber and others stumble because of the pressure of shouldering their fame alone. But in every interview, at every turn, One Direction members seem mature, level headed and wise beyond their years.

Honestly, ask yourself where you would be with all that power, influence and wealth at twenty one? I would be on the front page of the scandal sheets well ahead of Beiber - I would make him look like a saint. Peeing in a bucket? Most drunk 20 year old's would call that restraint.

One Direction are successful enough that if any of them are gay and came out and then lost fans, they would still have enough left supporting them to remain relevant for years to come. And they are, over and over again, supportive of all LGBTQ+ people, advances and issues.

The cynic in me notes they are getting a secondary benefit by being vague and questioning their sexuality as it fuels the ongoing Larry conspiracy and that keeps people guessing and gaining publicity. I would hope this isn't premeditated on the band's part, but I'd be naive to think it couldn't be on the agenda of a management whose primary aim is to maximise profits.

If a band member or members are simply not ready to come out then I have nothing but praise for the way they're handling themselves, even their outright denials. Look at Connor Franta - who has shown incredible bravery by leaving up his earlier post where he denies being gay, clearly demonstrating how hard it is to make the journey towards accepting yourself, let alone telling others. If someone needs more time they should have it.

But if a member of 1D is gay and ready to come out and being stopped by outside forces trying to protect the income being produced, I'd be disappointed for the first time. These guys seem stronger than that and smart enough to realise they'd make a life and death difference to so many questioning, mixed up girls and boys who are feeling trapped and need successful role models to show them they are more than okay being themselves; to show them they are every bit as good and as worthwhile as any other person on this planet, regardless of who they fall in love with.

We need high profile people with feted careers to show leadership and help others who don't have the power and influence to sway public opinion. People need to see public figures, like Tom and Connor, and many others leading the way like Troye Sivan, the Ellens - Degeneres and Page, athletes Derrick Gordan and Michael Sam, who are all leading by example and showing how important it is to be true to who you are.

Bravery is needed by all, and the most bravery is needed by those who are young and in the spotlight, because those coming to terms with their sexuality, those hiding away in the teenage angst of sorting out who they are, will relate to leaders close to their own age more than any others.

If someone in the band is gay and not ready to come out they should be left to chart their own course without the constant pressure of Larry being linked to every move or comment they make. If they are ready to come out they should join the throng and stand up to be counted. If not, they should make their support of the LGBTQ+ community crystal clear and stop teasing their fans with their vague responses to direct questions.

Either way I'm feeling, as fun as it's been, Larry has run it's course and should now become a footnote in the band's ongoing history.

As much as the GLBTQ+ community needs high profile people to be brave enough to come out and lead, allowing straight people to show support and empathy for the community is just as important - and their sexuality shouldn't be continually questioned because of of it.


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