First of all, can you tell us what Takemehomefromnarnia and Rainbow Direction are and how they came about?
I founded Takemehomefromnarnia in May 2013 as an online action platform against homophobia and LGBTQ+ related cyberbullying and developed it with a team of ten others in the following months. Through TMHFN I met Li and Ellis and the three of us developed the Rainbow Direction campaign which we launched through TMHFN in February 2014. At the time it was just “one of our campaigns” aside our petitions, today’s actions, etc, but it quickly became the most well known – our “parade horse” so to speak.
What has been your proudest moment as the founder of this campaign so far?
Difficult choice! Of course as a team we’re proud of every single person who went out there dressed up in rainbows, because it can take a lot of courage to do that, particularly in certain countries.
But I think, as founder of Takemehomefromnarnia, and co-founder of its Rainbow Direction campaign, some my proudest moments have been those where we got serious press attention for those initiatives, like MTV, Attitude and the Independent which allowed us to broadcast our message – that you don’t have to be a straight cis girl to like a boyband, and that music doesn’t care about labels, that it is for everyone, whatever their gender identification or sexuality – to the world.
And then of course the fact that by the end of their last tour, you couldn’t have filmed a One Direction concert without catching a rainbow on camera. Rainbows became something you’d expect to see at a 1D concert, and that’s something I never could have imagined when I started Takemehomefromnarnia to combat homophobic bullying in the fandom more than three years ago. And thanks to TMHFN’s Rainbow Direction campaign, every LGBTQ+ person who attended a concert during the last tour will have seen a sign that said “you are welcome, you are at home here”, and that’s priceless, that’s what we did it all for.
What is the biggest misconception about One Direction fans?
That we are all straight cis girls, who like this band because of our hormones, not because of the music, or because we enjoy the genuine chemistry between the boys. We’re a much more intelligent, genuinely music loving and diverse bunch than a lot of people give us credit for. And I put diverse last in that row deliberately because the straight cis girls are as intelligent and music loving as the rest of us.
Could you share a story about how One Direction have changed someone’s life in the LGBT community?
Tough choice again. We hear many of these as becoming part of a this LGBTQ fan community through the campaign meant a lot to many people. But I’d like to pick a story someone shared with me before the campaign, from a guy who had known he was gay since he was twelve. He got into One Direction in 2012 and saw Harry wear a “Love is Equal” shirt. That was the moment he realized “I’m okay. It’s just love.” He stopped hating himself, and found the courage to come out to his homophobic family. That made me realize the impact wearing a T shirt with a simple, inclusive message can have. And you don’t have to be famous to do that. When a famous person does it, it impacts a lot of people and we’re grateful for every instance in which one of the guys has shown their support. But we can all be that person for a fellow fan, someone at school, at work, at a festival we attend. Making our LGBTQ+ support visible is so important.
How do the members of Rainbow Direction feel about the 1D fans who are convinced certain band members are secretly gay?
Individually we all have different opinions, but we are united in our dislike of ship wars and bullying within the fandom. There’s nothing wrong with thinking someone could be gay, because there’s nothing wrong with being gay and that’s why we welcome anyone in Rainbow Direction, whatever they think about the sexuality of certain band members. There IS something wrong with bullying someone because they have a different opinion, though. This is being done both by a small number of the fans who believe all band members are straight and by a small number of the fans who are convinced certain band members are gay or bi and closeted, and these subgroups ruin the atmosphere for all of us. That’s why we ask people to leave their “ships” at home when they represent Rainbow Direction so we can focus on the messages that unites us: no homophobia and no bullying here.
What do you think the reaction would be from One Direction fans if one of the band really was to come out as gay?
Hard to predict, but I hope that Takemehomefromnarnia and its Rainbow Direction campaign would have contributed to an LGBTQ+ friendly fandom whose reaction would be largely positive, should that happen. When Harry said that gender was “not that important” for him in a potential romantic partner – with which he questioned traditional norms – a very big number of fans put the rainbow heart badge, that we developed to show our support, on their social media profiles. So I am confident that, by and large, we’d be supportive as fans if someone took it a step further and said “I’m not straight.” We should be!
How did you feel when Harry picked up a rainbow flag and wore it on stage during the OTRA tour?
What an incredible moment that was. Of course we all knew Harry is very supportive of the LGBTQ+ community. He’d slammed the homophobic Westboro Baptist church when they protested outside of a 1D concert, he’d wished us “happy pride”, had worn Michael Sam’s jersey on stage after Sam became the first out NFL player, and – like other band members – he’d consistently been giving thumbs up to people wearing rainbows and waving flags. But nothing could have prepared me for the feeling of validation, and liberation, when he picked up one of those rainbow flags and ran across the stage with it. It wasn’t just an answer to the critics who’d said that rainbows had no place at a music concert, that this was not the place for us to “parade” and that we were “embarrassing the boys”. With that gesture, Harry made it known to all of One Direction’s LGBTQ+ fans, in and out of the closet: “this band is okay with you being here, you are welcome here, we want you here, you’re at home.” Such a powerful message to the entire community.
What should fans expect if they’re joining Rainbow Direction at one of this summer’s Pride events around the world?
Rainbow Direction goes to Pride with the message that music knows no limitations, and no gender or sexuality. It doesn’t condemn or discriminate. It is there to offer each of us a home, because in music we are all equal. Each of us can contribute to open this home to everyone, regardless of who they love or who they are. People can expect fans of different ages, genders, sexualities and nationalities who bring a huge diversity of pride colours and flags. We’ll hand out more than 1300 crafted rainbow hearts, some in special pride colours (genders, sexualities, asexual and aromantic), for people to show their pride and feel part of this community. Overall people can expect a safe space within a cheerful, colourful crowd with lots of love to give.
— nevy❄️ (@smallinfinityxx) July 26, 2016
Which One Direction track would you choose as an anthem for Rainbow Direction?
Another tough one! Two years ago we chose “You make me strong” for our slogan because that song brings a powerful message about how showing your love can make you strong. We felt this was particularly so when that love doesn’t come in the form that’s socially accepted.
‘Through the Dark’ and ‘Ready to Run’ are also very popular with the LGBTQ+ crowd. But if I have to choose one, I think “Home” is probably the one. As soon as it came out, it became an instant favourite with the Takemehomefromnarnia team that runs the campaign. We felt that this song perfectly described our experiences of finally allowing ourselves to enjoy that feeling of complete happiness with someone of the same gender. It also beautifully describes what it feels like to find acceptance after having felt like you were alone for so long.
And that’s what we are here for. To show people who are still figuring things out, who are feeling completely and utterly alone, that they are not the only ones, that we’re here for them, and that we want to make this fandom a safe place for them, a home.