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Matty Healy defends Malaysia kiss in speech

"To appease the Malaysian authorities’ bigoted views of LGBTQ people would be a passive endorsement of those politics"

By Lisa Henderson on 11 Oct 2023

Matty Healy, The 1975

image © Wikimedia Commons/Markus Hillgärtner

The 1975’s Matty Healy has defended kissing his bandmate onstage in Malaysia during a 10-minute speech delivered at their concert in Dallas, Texas.

The British band’s opening night headline set at Good Vibes Festival was cut short by officials on 21 July after Healy criticised Malaysia’s strict anti-LGBT laws and kissed a male bandmate on stage.

The Malaysian government subsequently cancelled the rest of the event and the organisers of Good Vibes Festival demanded £2 million in compensation from The 1975, a settlement which IQ understands is still in progress.

During The 1975’s performance in Dallas on Monday (9 October), Healy delivered a 10-minute pre-written speech about the incident, alleging that “the Malaysian authorities… briefly imprisoned us” and criticised the backlash against the band.

“It was the liberal outrage against our band for remaining consistent with our pro-LGBTQ stage show which was the most puzzling thing,” Healy said, according to Pitchfork. “Lots of people, who appear to be liberal people, contended that the performance was an insensitive display of hostility against the cultural customs of the Malaysian government and that the kiss was a performative gesture of allyship.”

“In fact, it was the Malaysian authorities who briefly imprisoned us”

In response to those calling the kiss “performative,” Healy said, “The idea of calling out a performer for being performative is mind-numbingly redundant as an exercise. Performing is a performer’s job.”

Healy also addressed criticism from Julian Casablancas, who was scheduled to perform at the Good Vibes Festival with The Strokes and said the frontman did not respect the country’s customs.

“For performers like Julian Casablancas, who took to Twitter to criticize us, this bizarre mangling of colonial identity politics merely served as an expedient way to express their own disappointment with the festival’s cancellation,” Healy said.

He also clarified that the kiss was “not a stunt simply meant to provoke the government.” The frontman had kissed the same bandmate, bassist Ross MacDonald, during many of the 1975’s American concerts.

“We chose to not change our set that night to play pro-freedom of speech, pro-gay songs,” Healy said. “To eliminate any routine part of the show in an effort to appease the Malaysian authorities’ bigoted views of LGBTQ people would be a passive endorsement of those politics. As liberals are so fond of saying, ‘Silence equals violence. Use your platform.’ So we did that. And that’s where things got complicated.”

“As liberals are so fond of saying, ‘Silence equals violence. Use your platform.’ So we did that”

Healy continued: “Naturally, the Malaysian authorities were irate because homosexuality is criminalized and punishable by death in their authoritarian theocracy. That is the violent reality obscured by the more friendly term of ‘cultural customs’.”

Healy previously defied Dubai’s anti-LGBTQ rules by kissing a male audience member during a concert in 2019. He wrote on Twitter at the time: “I don’t think we’ll be allowed back [in the UAE] due to my ‘behaviour’ but know that I love you and I wouldn’t have done anything differently given the chance again.”

Healy said on Monday: “If you truly believe that artists have a responsibility to uphold their liberal virtues by using their massive platforms, then those artists should be judged by the danger and inconvenience that they face for doing so, not by the rewards they receive for parroting consensus. There’s nothing particularly stunning or brave about changing your fucking profile picture whilst your sat in your house in Los Angeles.”

Toward the end of his speech, Healy compared “Malaysia’s militarised enforcement of laws” to other politicised issues in the US. “Even here in America, there are loads of states which uphold illiberal laws that restrict people’s bodily autonomy and gender expression,” Healy said. “But I suspect, I’ve got an inkling, that those who took to Twitter to voice their outrage over the 1975’s unwillingness to cater to Malaysian customs would find it abhorrent if the 1975 were to acquiesce to, let’s say, Mississippi’s perspective on abortion or trans rights.”

He concluded: “It should be expected that if you invite dozens of Western performers into your country, they’ll bring their Western values with them. If the very same things which made you aware of them could land them in jail in your country, you’re not actually inviting them to perform. You’re indirectly commanding them to reflect your country’s policies by omission.”


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