Niall Horan did a nice thing. During a meet and greet at the Clarkston, Michigan stop on his Flicker World Tour, the former One Direction band member posed for a photo with a gay fan. In the photo the fan posted, he and Horan are holding hands.
— garrett ²⁸ ¹ᴰ (@nofeargarrett) August 29, 2018
One look at the fan’s profile — on which his display name has been changed to “Garrett MET NIALL,” and the photo in question now serves as his avatar — tells you that this meeting was a massive deal for him. And it’s a small gesture, but holding the fan’s hand is a sweet action that just years ago would likely have been difficult to fathom coming from a straight male pop star.
Of course, someone had to take a small act of kindness and turn it into a whole production. Breathe Heavy, a pop music site with a decidedly queer bent, tweeted out the story with what could generously be described as an eye-catching bit of copy: “Our newly-crowned LGBTQ king is
@NiallOfficial for holding a gay fan’s hand during a M&G. We salute you.”
— BreatheHeavy (@breatheheavycom) August 30, 2018
This would be exhausting enough as-is, as it quite enthusiastically celebrates a straight celebrity for, effectively, not being a homophobe and doing a nice thing. We as a culture have a tendency to do this; see also, every time Armie Hammer said anything even slightly gay-friendly on the Call Me By Your Name press tour.
But there’s an amplifying factor here: This tweet was posted on Thursday. The very next day, Troye Sivan released his newest album, Bloom. And he wasn’t the only one. For example, genderfluid one-person band Tash Sultana released their critically acclaimed newest album, Flow State, this week as well. So there were multiple options to lift up an artist who actually identifies as some part of the LGBTQ+ spectrum this week. But instead, the “newly-crowned LGBTQ king” is Horan. For doing a nice thing for a gay fan.
None of this is meant to bash Horan — again, he showed someone kindness, and that’s a good thing. But I’d imagine even he’d be embarrassed to be wildly heralded for such a small act, particularly at the expense of queer artists. Because what he did, sweet as it may have been, doesn’t make him an LGBTQ king, and it certainly doesn’t make him one over actual queer people.
There will be plenty of future debate about how much we hold up straight people for being allies, or even just not being our enemies. Some will say we need to encourage such behavior as much as we can. Others will say it’s juvenile to give them gold stars just for showing human decency. But hopefully, we can all agree on this basic point: Elevating straight people as royalty of LGBTQ+ communities over actual queer and trans people is embarrassing. We can, and should, do better than that.
Images via Getty