Far from helping, local LGBT activists say The 1975’s Matt Healy only made things worse | Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, July 25 — English rock band The 1975’s vandalism against Putrajaya that cut short the Good Vibes Festival has sparked fresh concern within Malaysia’s queer community, with several lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activists expressing dismay at the fallout.

Speaking to Malay Mailactivists said they were dismayed by the band’s frontman Matt Healy for his stunt that put the community’s hard-earned development at risk, and fueled renewed hostility and potential violence among them.

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“We have to go into damage control following Healy’s actions to break the laws he said he would follow earlier. [Now] many are angry in the gay community because of Healy,” said Dhia Rezki Rohaizad, the deputy president of the gay rights advocacy group Jejaka.

Dhia said the situation has also polarized the Malaysian public. While those with prejudices are using this incident to fuel more hatred, those who were once seen as neutral have also expressed their anger towards the LGBT community.

“We seem to be losing support from these neutrals who were neither for nor against us before, all because we were put under an unwanted microscope,” Dhia explained.

Commenting on the stunt, S. Thilaga of transgender advocacy group Justice for Sisters said the situation has worsened due to its proximity to state elections due next month.

In six state elections on August 12, coalitions in the national unity government will face the challenge of Perikatan Nasional which is riding a so-called “green wave” of support for religious conservatism.

“Sometimes with more restrictions, you see more outrageous reactions. So I feel it’s a cause-and-effect situation. Healy’s actions are raising panic within the LGBT community, which has been deeply traumatized by recent events,” Thilaga said when contacted.

“We are currently in an election season and the community is often used as a punching bag or scapegoat and we generally expect higher anti-LGBT sentiments during the election. This will further alienate young, close-minded individuals who are afraid to express themselves.”

On the first night of Good Vibes last week, the band’s performance was interrupted after frontman Healy launched into an expletive-ridden tirade against Malaysia’s anti-LGBT laws followed by a deep mouth-to-mouth kiss with bassist Ross MacDonald.

The stunt was widely shared on social media by concertgoers who captured the moment on their smartphones and sparked a heated debate that went international.

The music festival, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, was canceled by Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil based on a letter from organizer Future Sound Asia guaranteeing the band’s performance.

The band was also blacklisted by local authorities. Then, it also canceled its headlining dates in Jakarta and Taipei.

Speaking to British broadcaster BBC World Service, local drag queen Carmen Rose condemned Healy as having a “white-savior complex”, denouncing the stunt as performative and devoid of conviction or sincerity.

Carmen said Healy appeared to have delivered his message while drunk, and called his action to destroy the organizers’ equipment smack of “white privilege.”

“There’s a right place and time to do it and he delivered it while drunk and uncalled for. Based on the video, the way he delivered it was very performative. It gives a ‘white-savior complex’ and he’s not doing it for our community.

“If he’s doing this for our community, he’ll know the consequences we have to go through. I don’t think he cares about us, but himself. I get the message he’s trying to send but it’s not a very good message,” he said.

Like Thilaga, Carmen highlighted how the community has become an easy target for the stunt, especially with crucial state elections coming up.

While both Thilaga and Dhia acknowledged the seriousness of the band’s actions, they viewed punishing the vendors for the band’s behavior by early canceling the three-day event as cruel and counterproductive, potentially exacerbating the blame on the LGBT community.

The incident happened following several public outcries against LGBT-related issues, such as the seizure of nearly RM65,000 worth of watches from Swatch outlets deemed to promote or have LGBT “elements” in May. The Swatch Group sued the Home Ministry over the action.

In the same month, two MPs from the Islamist party PAS called for the LGBT community to be classified as suffering from mental health disorders, while Islamic affairs minister Datuk Mohd Na’im Mokhtar said the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (Jakim) has established a special committee to address LGBT Muslims as the country rejects the community.

As the country grapples with the negative aftermath of these incidents, Thilaga urged a realistic approach to criticisms against the government while stressing the importance of understanding the context and issues at hand.

“We appreciate solidarity with the community and wanting to fight for the cause, but there needs to be some understanding of the context and issues. You may mean well, but the outcome won’t be what you wish until you learn your lesson, which is that you cannot act in unity without talking and consulting with other people,” she added.

With some LGBT advocates abroad using the issue to discredit the country, Dhia also urged better communication and understanding of the local context.

“If there’s going to be any publicity, it better come from someone in the country or if Healy wants to do something, at least try to understand the laws of the country, its context, and how strange people live here,” Dhia said.

In the latest LGBT Global Acceptance Index released in 2021, Malaysia was ranked 115 out of 175 countries with a score of just 3.48 out of 10.

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