The 1975 lead singer Matty Healy has sparked outrage within the local LGBT community and their allies in Malaysia, following a provocative protest stunt during a concert.
The musician’s on-stage outburst, culminating in a kiss with a male band member, was openly targeted at the Malaysian government, sparking significant controversy.
Many have labeled this act as “performative activism”, arguing that such actions could further worsen the obstacles faced by the local LGBT community.
In Malaysia, homosexuality, punishable by up to 20 years in jail, is a crime due to the country’s conservative Islamic values that restrict sexual expression, alcohol, and other perceived threats to “public decency”.
After the concert on Friday, a person closely affiliated with the band revealed that Healy intended to show support for the LGBT community through his actions.
However, local individuals, while understanding his motives, argued that his actions upset the already volatile political situation for LGBT Malaysians, causing more harm than good.
At a Kuala Lumpur music festival last Friday, The 1975 singer Matty Healy protested Malaysia’s anti-LGBT laws by kissing his bandmate on stage.
Known for his controversial comments, Healy had been drinking, damaged a concert drone, and was reported to have spat on fans.
The 34-year-old also verbally assaulted the Malaysian government, expressing “furious” remorse about “a mistake when we were booking shows”.
“I don’t see the [expletive] point, right, I do not see the point of inviting the 1975 to a country and then telling us who we can have sex with,” he exclaimed.
“I’ll take your money, you can ban me, but I’ve done this before and it doesn’t feel good,” he said before he embraced and kissed his bandmate.
The performance was halted shortly after these incidents. “Alright, we just got banned from Kuala Lumpur, see you later,” he shouted to the spectators.
Authorities shut down the Good Vibes festival the next day, disappointing many attendees from Southeast Asia. Shortly after, Healy and his band left, cancelling their Asia tour including shows in Indonesia and Taiwan.
Healy’s comment, “I’m sure a lot of you are gay and progressive and cool”, drew sparse applause, but video footage showed a quiet and uneasy audience.
A viral TikTok video captures a girl saying, “Just sing the damn song,” and criticizing Healy for insulting their country.
Many young LGBT Malaysians have expressed their anger on TikTok. One popular video with over 2 million views denounced Healy’s “white saviour complex” and his ignorance of the local culture.
The individual further criticized Healy’s ignorance about the local culture and the potential consequences of his actions.
“I hate this white saviour complex of people coming to regions like Southeast Asia…and ruining it not for them but for the people who actually live here.”
Many young Malaysians argued that Healy’s actions exemplified a condescending Western perspective towards Asia.
Dhia Rezki, a Malaysian activist, believes that Healy’s protest was well-intended, but fears that such high-profile stunts could heighten LGBT oppression.
Conservative groups have labeled the incident as a breach of “family values”, potentially using it as proof that the LGBT community is “taking things too far, crossing the line”, according to Rezki.
Rezki further said, “They’ll use it to target anything done by LGBT people, be it holding hands, kissing or even posting about relationships online.”
Malaysia has been increasingly leaning towards more conservative parties proposing stricter laws.
Ex-Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who held office from 2020-2021, categorized LGBT individuals as a threat to Islam, backed by “foreign influences”. He labelled their sexuality as a “disorder” that necessitates counseling.
According to global rankings, Malaysia is the second-most hostile country for transgender individuals and studies find that nearly half of the LGBT-identified individuals have encountered threats and harassment.