With Pride month – which takes place every June – currently in full swing, it’s easy to spot the usual culprits wafting tiny rainbow flags and giving themselves giant pats on the back for being enthusiastic supporters of the LGBTQ+ community. Whether it’s supermarket brands like Tesco cheerfully adopting their annual multi-coloured logos (just a few years after a gay couple was forced out of one of their stores by a homophobic cashier, no less) or Kim Kardashian West flogging rainbow glitter make-up with no obvious plans to donate any of the profits to a relevant charity, the limelight loving ‘allies’ are here there and everywhere. A fair few high profile figures posting unicorn gifs and ‘YASS BITCH!’ stickers across social media this month could do with piping down and learning a few things from The 1975.
Last week, as an online crowdfunder neared its final few days, the Manchester band quietly donated a considerable sum of money to help set up London’s only LGBTQ+ Community Centre, helping it to smash its 50k fundraising target in the process. Speaking to The Observer after the band’s donation was made public by project organisers, Matty Healy kept it short and sweet. “I am a bit wary of talking about it because I don’t want to appear to be virtue-signalling, but me and the others in the band all felt it was obviously a good thing to put our money towards.” The frontman also pointed out the lack of queer spaces that exist in the UK, and expressed surprise that London does not have an existing centre of this kind already.
?ANNOUNCEMENT?: on Wednesday, I got a call from @Truman_Black – lead singer of The 1975. he called to say how important he and the band thought the @LdnLGBTQCentre project is, and asked how to help. he offered to take crowdfunder to £50k there and then! https://t.co/XvZOIGcl59
— michael segalov (@MikeSegalov) June 10, 2018
As it happens, London needs a safe environment like the LGBTQ+ Community Centre more than ever. TheGayUK estimates that 116 LGBTQ+ venues in the capital have been forced to close since the turn of the millenium, and London’s Gay and Lesbian Centre – formerly located in Farringdon – was closed down in 1999. “You might wonder why it is needed, and even ask yourself what exactly is everyone still scared of,” Matty added of the new project, “but sadly, I think stigma still exists even in London and we still have some way to go.”
By donating valuable resources to an organisation that needs financial assistance, The 1975 have helped to action tangible progress which directly benefits their LGBTQ+ fans. When it comes to stars striving to be good allies to the communities that support their careers, the Manchester band have nailed it.
The visibility that comes from chart toppers like Taylor Swift speaking up in support of Pride month has clear benefits, sure, but to be blunt, there’s no substitute for wealthy artists putting their money where their mouth is. In the wake of the tragic Orlando terror attacks which took place in 2016, The 1975 adopted the rainbow flag, dedicating ‘Loving Someone’ to the queer community. Then they went a step further, and partnered with the It Gets Better project for a merch range. The funds they raised went directly to the organisation, which aims to empower young LGBTQ+ people through sharing stories and experiences.
“I want to say thank you to Matty, and the band, for their allyship to the LGBTQ+ community. it means the world,” tweeted Michael Segalov, a journalist and activist who also volunteers with the project. “During Pride month, when brands / public figures use our community for their own ends, this was an act of pure generosity. they didn’t ask us to tell the world they had done it – how we dealt with the donation was entirely up to us. This wasn’t for recognition. It’s cos they care. To all the corporations, celebrities and public figures who pay lip service to supporting our community – who’ll print pride tees or make millions from us – follow this lead,” he added. “We can see when we’re co-opted.”
After The 1975’s donation to the LGBTQ+ Community Centre spurred on a significant last-minute boost in public interest, the project smashed their initial target total of £50k, and have since added a new stretch target. With two days to go, they look set to raise a staggering £75k. The funds will help them to set up a brand new space in East London, which will be equipped with workspaces, advice and clinical rooms, a cafe, a garden area, and a day-to-day office, providing a safe place for queer people to seek out advice and community in the capital. Hugely vital progress.
You can donate to the London LGBTQ+ Community Centre’s fundraiser here.