Being bisexual in Dubai is difficult. Sodomy is punishable by up to ten years in prison in the country.
So making the decision to wear a rainbow, to celebrate your LGBTI identity is a bold move. Especially for a woman.
‘I’m bisexual and that can be really difficult in this part of the world. Most people are forced to stay closeted so you feel very alone. Homosexuality is super illegal here, if you are LGBTI you can get arrested or deported.’
We’ve protected her identity, we’ll call her Nadine, but she is a member of Rainbow Direction – the One Direction pride group. Nadine tells GSN why she wore rainbow accessories to see Liam Payne play in Dubai anyway:
‘Rainbow Direction played a huge role in allowing me to feel a sense of community and belonging.
They are a global group of One Direction fans whose rainbow activism have been taking the headlines by storm.
Most recently they turned the entire audience, at a Harry Styles concert, into a rainbow by coordinating thousands of fans to hold up their smartphones at the same time.
So for Digital Pride, at Gay Star News have been speaking to the group about creating a community of LGBTI people – connected entirely digitally, before they meet up IRL.
Connecting One Direction LGBTI fans and allies all around the world
The group’s power goes beyond turning up at concerts with rainbow flags. Their actions send messages of pride to places where its difficult to be openly LGBTI.
‘Rainbow Direction played a huge role in allowing me to feel a sense of community and belonging,’ Nadine tells GSN.
‘Even though I wasn’t actually at any of these concerts, seeing so many people display support for LGBTI people made me feel really connected.’
Unable to take part in rainbow activities during the One Direction ‘On the Road Again Tour’ in 2015, she was determined to do something when one of the boys returned.
‘I was adamant that I want to definitely take some element of pride with me but I also knew if I showed up with a flag no matter how small, I’d definitely get in trouble’
‘I felt if I wore this rainbow as a bracelet, that’s definitely a pride statement. But at the same time I can play it off as just part of my outfit so I didn’t get into any trouble.’
Five years of the Tumblr blog that started Rainbow Direction
Today marks the fifth anniversary of the ‘takemehomefromnarnia’ Tumblr blog that started the global movement.
Katryn Lewis, who founded the blog, tells us the whole point of Rainbow Direction is to increase the visibility of LGBTQ+ people in the One Direction fandom.
‘It began with a group of LGBTQ+ fans that had been fighting homophobia under the name “Takemehomefromnarnia.”
Though it was originally tied to One Direction, they now run it for all of the band’s (former) members. Their first action was for IDAHOT in 2013. It was so successful when 1D’s Where We Are tour came around with sexuality rumors in the press, they had even more reason to take action:
‘Gay rumors surrounding some of the band members had been met with an attitude that it was “only normal to defend X or Y against the accusations;” As if being gay was something bad and shameful. This was hurting LGBTQ+ fans, like me.’
And so the group began to make the fandom more LGBTI inclusive. Whilst also sending a message to the 1D boys; no matter what they’d be accepted for whoever they are.
Thousands have taken part in Rainbow Direction’s actions
Rachael Skidmore has been taking part in rainbow actions since One Direction’s last tour. Most recently she used her own money to buy rainbow flags, which she gave out to other fans at a Harry Styles concert:
‘I ended up ordering 500 miniature rainbow flags on Amazon, but that was all I could personally afford. I did it completely on my own. But I wanted to to be a surprise to both the fans, the crowd, and Harry. So I assembled the flags, put the labels on them, and brought them to the show to distribute myself.
And since the group began, thousands have taken part in their actions.
To give you a sense of the size of support the group has from One Direction fans, for Harry Styles most recent tour, over 1500 fans took part. And that’s just the ones they know about.
And the boys, though they have never spoken about the group, are definitely noticing.
Styles in particular who is known for his remarks about his sexuality, where gender is ‘not that important’ to him and he has ‘never felt the need to label it.’
And in Helsinki, Katryn says he told the audience: ‘You are looking very colorful tonight. And for a lot of you, I know why, and it’s great.’
Even Harry has been waving the rainbow flags
Styles has also been waving rainbow and bisexual flags thrown up to him for years. And after he teased the song ‘Medicine,’ which didn’t make it onto his first solo album, with lyrics the internet went into a ‘is this about being bisexual storm’ – so perhaps more is to come from the singer.
However, Rainbow Direction founder Katryn doesn’t see it as a coming out song. But she is happy to have a song that expresses her own identity as a queer person:
‘I’d hate to think it didn’t make it onto the album because of the “less than straight lyrics.” But I’m so happy we’re blessed with it now.
‘Everything considered, it seems likely that he does not identify as straight. But no matter how he does identify its for him to know and for us to support – if and when he decides to share.’