Feature image of Lizzo and Harry Styles by Kevin Mazur / Contributor
“You can be whoever you want to be in this space…”
Harry Styles says some variation of these words during his intro speech at every one of his concerts. When you look around the arena at the crowd, you can see that everyone at the concert takes those words to heart. I know I certainly do.
When I saw Harry in concert during the summer of 2018, I had just started dating women. I looked for any and all excuses to loudly proclaim my bisexuality in a public way. Over the course of the tour, I had seen pictures and videos of Harry waving a variety of pride flags while he performed the song “What Makes You Beautiful” (the song is the only mainstay of his One Direction days). It wasn’t an occasional incident either; it was pretty much at every show. It became kind of a game for me: I wonder what flag he’s going to wave tonight? My heart swelled when it was a rainbow or trans flag. But when he would run across the stage with a bi flag? I was THRILLED.
Concert outfits are very important to me; they have been since I went to my first concert at 12. I was going to two Harry shows and decided I was really going to lean into my sexuality with my outfits. So I bought two new tank tops from HUMAN: one with a bicorn (a two horned unicorn) and another with a dragon that was the colors of the bi flag. I paired the unicorn tank with a hot pink tutu skirt, but that’s because being ostentatious at a Harry Styles concert just felt right.
At the first show during “What Makes You Beautiful,” I waited with bated breath to see what flag would appear. I had floor seats and was very excited to be able to see it up close. To my absolute delight, he brought out the bi flag and I lost my mind. The only thing that made the moment better was the addition of the Black Lives Matter flag, which was a total surprise. It was the first time I felt seen at a concert by an artist I love. And it was surprisingly emotional. I didn’t cry or anything, but I had one of those moments where I let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding. The ease with which he held that flag, mixed with the way the crowd roared when they saw the flags brought me an immense sense of comfort.
Flying the pride flag has become a staple during Harry’s live shows. Initially, it was during “What Makes You Beautiful,” which is obviously fitting. Seeing the flag at that moment, about halfway through the show, reaffirms what he’s already said. If you can’t be who you are outside of the venue, I want you to feel safe inside. I see you, and I think you’re beautiful. He has now switched to waving it during “Treat People With Kindness,” which sets a different kind of intention, but the sentiment still remains.
“I remember seeing him bring out the pride and bisexual flags and dancing with them, and I felt so welcomed and included. Like the night was made for queers!” my friend Jen Wilde, who I met through mutual friends in the Harry fandom, told me.
The relationship between Harry Styles fandom and queer women is one that is well documented. Almost all of the close friends I have made through this fandom are queer. I fell in love with him during a time where I was very much not leaning into my queer identity, and while my identity changed over time, my love for him did not. In fact, it feels like the queerer I become, the more obsessed with him I am. (He’s always the picture on my phone’s home screen, and my fiancee is completely unbothered by it. In fact, she made me a Harry Styles calendar in 2021.) I really can’t pinpoint exactly what it is about him that I love. He’s the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen, and I would very much like to lay my head against his bare chest, but it’s not just that.
Harry Styles, even though I don’t know him, has a very safe energy. There’s something very calm and approachable about him, which is why I think he makes his concerts safe spaces. It has created a sense of camaraderie amongst the fandom. As much as we’re there to see him, we’re there to see each other, too. There’s nothing I love more than being in the crowd at a Harry show. We hold space for each other, uplift each other. That’s why I think so many women feel safe to come out at one of Harry’s shows.
Coming out as queer at a Harry Styles show has become a fairly common experience. Occasionally one of them will go viral, but if you’re a fan who has been to a lot of shows, they don’t feel newsworthy. Coming out at a Harry show is almost as expected as a pride flag during “Treat People With Kindness.” (I will say that it’s still a big thrill to see him with the lesbian flag during a show. It’s like seeing a unicorn.)
“It was the biggest concert I’ve been to that made me feel like I was an intentional part of the target audience, and not just a queer person who happened to like something that was designed for someone else,” Julia Lanning, a queer Harry fan, told me.
When Harry spots a coming out sign, you can sense a shift in his energy. He understands the importance of the moment, and you can also feel he takes his role in it very seriously. He will ask the person if he can read their sign to the rest of the crowd before double checking to make sure they really want to come out in such a public way. It may feel intimate, but The Forum in LA holds about 17,000 people. And pretty much everyone has a smartphone. I’m sure it’s not a decision people come to lightly. But Harry handles the whole situation with care and his signature cheekiness.
“When I hold this [insert object here] over my head, you will be officially out,” he tells the person before checking one last time this is what they want to do. They usually nod emphatically, and he begins running around the stage, almost raising said object over his head a few times before triumphantly foisting it into the air. The audience bursts into screams and the person in question is a mix of fear, joy and relief.
I have attended my fair share of Harry Styles concerts (12 and counting!) and of the last eight, I think I’ve witnessed at least three people come out. And while they’ve become fairly common, they never become any less special. It’s an honor to be in the room when someone makes that decision. Knowing how fraught coming out can be, it takes a very strong person to do it in front of 17,000 strangers.
“I feel like Harry has a big queer following, and doing things like wearing a dress on the cover of Vogue or dancing with rainbow flags makes me feel very safe,” Montana Buss, a queer fan who has attended multiple shows, including one where someone came out, told me. “I hope it sends a message to the straight fans that everyone is welcome at his shows.”
And I hope Harry never takes it for granted. I know I won’t.
This is absolutely lovely. It’s so nice in these dark times to see him recognized as a ray of light, and I am so glad the author has found peace with their sexuality and has a nice time at these concerts. As a trans man he means a lot to me too. Thank you.
thank you! he really is a ray of light <3 <3
Amazing article! As a queer fan, he means so much to me. His support has been constant since he was what, sixteen? Even in the band he was the one who would raise the pride flag at concerts, and the more he grew the more his support has been evident. He often donates too. But that environment that he creates at his concerts.. it’s really special. It’s a celebration.
it really does feel like a celebration, doesn’t it? so much joy!
Thank you for sharing your perspective! My personal outlook on him has been kind of cynical but after reading this I can better appreciate that what he’s doing is resonating in a positive way for a lot of people. I can’t think of any other straight (?) musicians who are both massively popular right now and also iconic to gay fans in this type of way.