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Rainbow Direction is a controversial LGBT One Direction fan project. It was started by thisiskatsblog, dieinthewinter, and ellistheelephant and is a project of the activist fan group takemehomefromnarnia (founded by Kat). Their mission statement:
We want all fans to feel safe, welcome, and supported. The One Direction fandom can often be unwelcoming to LGBTQIA+ fans. At TakeMeHomeFromNarnia we want to change that. We want to speak out to show support, and stand up proudly to make ourselves known. Because we aren’t just one in a million! We want to show who we are and how much support there is for the LGBTQIA+ members of our community, all around the globe.
Before Rainbow Direction
The takemehomefromnarnia tumblr account was started a year before the Rainbow Direction project, but their earlier efforts did not get the same amount of attention from 1D fandom at large. An early campaign was called "Real Eyes Realize Real Lies".
takemehomefromnarnia's 2013 mission statement is more industry-focused than the RD statement. Notably, although it contains no direct reference to Larry Stylinson, the 2013 statement also reflects Larrie tinhat theories about why Harry and Louis were forcibly kept in the closet:
The entertainment industry is a very homophobic place, reigned by the fear that an LGBT celebrity will not sell as a leading romantic role/the face of a band/etc. Too many people in the entertainment industry are closeted, willingly, or unwillingly, for fear of homophobic backlash from fans and media. Indeed, too many media reports on the industry treat being gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender/… as a scandal to be exploited.
These practices are extremely harmful, not only to the celebrities involved, but also to their, often very young, fans who are members of the LGBT community. Through closeting, public outing against one’s will and reporting in the sphere of scandal, a message is being spread that being gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender/… is wrong, shameful, something best hidden.All of these practices rest on the presumption that the market for this industry itself is homophobic. And this is where we come in.
2014-2015 Concert Tour Projects
Rainbow Direction started as a project for fans attending 1D concerts during the Where We Are tour in 2014 and continued through the 2015 On the Road Again tour. To participate, fans could wear "anything rainbow" and/or carry rainbow signs or flags to their 1D concerts. Suggested banner designs were provided, along with a rainbow heart "safe spaces for all" badge for fans to add to their user icon on social media as a sign that their blogs are queer-friendly spaces. Fans were also encouraged to take pictures and submit them to the takemehomefromnarnia tumblr. In addition, for each concert, Rainbow Directioners might arrange a fan meet-up at the venue or carry out a special project, such as the Rainbow Light project at OTRA Boston.
The group published some participation rates based on fans who register themselves as participants: for the OTRA tour, the highest number of Rainbow Directioners at a single concert was 307. In August 2015 it was reported that 3000 fans had signed up to participate at some point during the OTRA tour.
It is likely as a result of the Rainbow Direction project that fans threw rainbow flags on stage at several concerts in 2015 and Harry Styles picked them up and ran around waving them. Fanart and gifs commemorating these moments circulate on tumblr.
1D went on hiatus in early 2016, but the takemehomefromnarnia blog has organized or promoted other activities since then. In October 2016 they were organizing for a Rainbow Direction showing at Niall Horan's solo tour. As of April 2017, the tumblr account was making plans for people to bring pride regalia to Harry Styles' solo tour shows; in May the blog reported that the number of fans who had signed up to participate (515) "exceeded the final number of participants for the WWA tour by more than 100 people already!" They have also blogged about various current events and non-1D-related social justice activism.
The group has an official "No Shipping" policy, meaning that it is not affiliated with and does not support any particular ship. However, according to the project's many detractors, this policy is a sham: they contend that Rainbow Direction was actually started by Larries, the only people who support Rainbow Direction are Larries, and that the entire project is offensive to the queer fans it claims to support.
The founders do, in fact, appear to be Larries. An anti-larry blog argued that the No Shipping policy could not reasonably be expected to be followed when the founders wouldn't even follow it:
They might mention their policy yes but what good does it do when they’re tinhatting Larry in their blogs? Do you think people are going to follow the rules if the founders don’t do that? No. There is so much they could do to put certain Larries in order but you know what they do instead. They interact with thos Larries and never point a finger towards their behaviour.
However, most fans may not know who the project's founders are; consequently, some fans argue that Rainbow Direction was coopted by Larries, rather than being started by Larries. Often the only contact that non-Larrie, non-concert-going fans have with Rainbow Direction is via the rainbow badges they see on tumblr and twitter icons. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the rainbow badges are used exclusively by Larry shippers, although without digging it would be difficult to know whether everyone who uses the badge participates in the concert portion of the project or is even aware of it. Larry also happens to be the most popular ship in the fandom, and people can ship Larry without subscribing to conspiracy theories (tinhatting). Queer fans also ship Larry, and some of them both believe Larry is real and participate in Rainbow Direction, so the exact relationship between Rainbow Directioners and Larries is difficult to untangle.
For some critics, this ambiguity may be enough to damn the whole project in that it fails to present itself publicly as genuine queer activism instead of shipping. However, the involvement of so many Larries in Rainbow Direction may have had some real consequences beyond public image.
One of the reasons that Rainbow Direction looks like a Larry project from the outside is its very premise that homophobia is rampant in 1D fandom and that therefore an antidote is needed. Larries talk a lot about 1D's management and fandom being homophobic:
I think that 1DHQ has done a lot to create a homophobic atmosphere in the fandom, and to make the 1D fandom a highly unwelcoming place for queer fans, out of a desire to keep their brand free of ‘the taint of the gay’. I think that an initiative like rainbow direction is a powerful thing we can do to fight against that.
Others are skeptical about this assessment of the fandom:
I think the thing that I have never understood about this fandom is how larries say “your homophobia is why we need rainbow direction” but yet I haven’t seen a more accepting fandom.
The reason for this disconnect appears to be two-fold: First, real homophobic behavior seems to be more of a problem within Larry fandom specifically. Second, larries seem to have redefined homophobia to mean "disagreeing with me":
Larries taught me that, if you don't ship Larry it means you're homophobic, and if Louis denies being gay it means he's homophobic. And that they don't actually know what homophobia is, and they use it as a crutch for their delusional arguments.
Larries have long claimed that they are supporting LGBT rights through their devotion to Larry. Other fans have argued that forcing people out of the closet is in no way supportive and that much of the Larries' behavior is incredibly homophobic, from relying on gay stereotypes to "prove" that Harry and Louis are gay to harassing an out gay man whose existence they believe disrupts their ship. Larries also claim that arguing against Larry being real is homophobic. By some strange coincidence, Rainbow Directioners likewise accuse people who argue against the project of homophobic bullying. Meanwhile, fans have reported bullying by people who display the safe spaces rainbow badge on their accounts.
In September 2015, Liam Payne made some comments about the Larry Stylinson ship in an interview with Attitude magazine that had fandom in an uproar, different parts of fandom for different reasons. In it, Liam indicated that he thought the uptick in rainbow flags at 1D concerts was down to Larries. It is unclear if the band was even aware of the Rainbow Direction campaign specifically, but Rainbow Directioners were outraged that he was dismissing their efforts as a Larry thing. Rainbow flags containing the phrase "Not About Larry" soon appeared. Meanwhile, Larries were outraged that Liam was denying Larry was real. (Still others were outraged that Liam seemed to disapprove of shipping or making explicit fanart as a hobby, though some acknowledged that he had a right to be upset when fans showed him the explicit fanart.)
Liam's interpretation of the rainbow flags is supported by some reports from fans attending concerts:
anyway I went to 3 otra shows and every time I saw tons of people with rainbow painted signs with shit about Larry on it specifically and at one point a huge group walked by with Larry signs chanting “LARRY” through the stadium like it’s them who give ppl a bad name it’s not the people doing it for themselves and other queer ppl but Liam isn’t just pulling this out of his ass these ppl are real and there’s a huge # of them
Many Rainbow Directioners counter these arguments by quoting the No Shipping policy and/or stating that Larries mixing their rainbow signs with their shipping signs should not be counted against Rainbow Direction:
if you’d actually read through rainbow direction’s website you will find NOTHING about any ships within one direction.
especially their non-shipping policy should be interesting to you: “It is our policy that we keep our shipping and our rainbows separate. We want all fans to feel welcome and included, regardless of what they do or don’t ship. More importantly, rainbow signs without a specific mention of a ship extend support to all LGBTQ+ fans and that is what this project is about.” (x)so if you see any signs with anyting Larry related on it; that’s not rainbow direction and that’s not what rainbow direction stands for.
But some queer fans have expressed discomfort over Rainbow Direction's version of queer activism:
It’s seriously annoyingly Larry centric. Like participants only really showing up with rainbows to events that involve Harry or Louis, or only making an effort to show RD signs to Harry/Louis during concerts, often having messages that reference Larry in particular and not so much anyone else in the band, let alone the queer fans they’re supposed to be supporting. No fan-only meetups anywhere up until like a few days ago. There’s also an alarming number of people who fetishize queer people, especially Larry to no one’s surprise. I mean the whole point of Rainbow Direction was to be a safe space for queer fans, and for a long time that felt off to me and, because I’m an idiot, I wasn’t able to figure out why. No matter how nice they seemed to be I just felt out of place until I saw the posts going around pointing this stuff out. And then it all clicked, cause it never felt like a celebration for me and other queer fans. Felt more like bragging rights, tbh.
@larries get the fuck over yourselves. ain’t nobody talking about legitimate support that the boys have given to any nonstraight peoples or organizations. what people’s real problem is - you out here holding up rainbow signs with like that ridiculous tweet from louis on it or ‘all the love, h. x’ with louis somehow written in blood on the letters or some other messed up thing that only shows how your/the boys’ support for marginalized people is to fuel a fire for a fantastical and make believe and HARMFUL cult ideology that you have impressed upon younger fans and the world as a whole, for years.... you get to make a sign and go home feeling cocky. we have to survive in a world of people like you, who think our only value is as a tool in someone else’s hands to serve their own agenda.
However, scrolling through the rainbow direction tag on tumblr reveals some queer fans expressing joy at seeing pride flags at the concerts or meeting other Rainbow Directioners there. Nothing on the website itself explicitly supports tinhatting, and the anti-bullying stance and LGBT pride might have encouraged many queer fans and allies to join in without knowing the Larry complications.
So the project and its symbols mean very different things to different people.
- Uncovering Rainbow Direction - tumblr that reblogs Rainbow Direction comments both pro and con (defunct)
- TMHFN/RD Feedback at inclusive1d on tumblr
- On Rainbow Direction/TMHFN & shipping: we don’t care what you ship, we want you to support LGBTQIA rights & speak up against bullying (archived) at takemehomefromnarnia (November 2014)
- Rainbow Direction being about safe spaces is a total lie. (archived) - tumblr conversation reblogged by debunkbullshit (December 2014)
- RAINBOW DIRECTION & TAKEMEHOMEFROMNARNIA ‘S POLICY ON SHIPPING (archived) at takemehomefromnarnia (June 2015)
- tumblr conversation (archived) reblogged by im-on-fire-now (July 2015)
- Responses to some of the criticisms being tossed at RD and Larries right now. (archived) by ohnooooonedirection (September 2015)
- tumblr conversation (archived) reblogged by vansandburberry (September 2015)
- Attitude: One Direction LGBT group brings fans together safely during 1D’s world tour by Josh Haigh (April 7, 2015)
- The Advocate: Meet Rainbow Direction, One Direction's LGBT Superfans by Neal Broverman (July 14, 2015)
- MTV News: Meet Rainbow Direction — The Fans Fighting To End LGBT Bullying In The One Direction Fandom by Kristina Marusic (July 20, 2015)
- Sugarscape: Rainbow Direction have a genius fan plan for One Direction's UK and Ireland OTRA shows by Lucy Wood (September 16, 2015)
- Gay News Network:The Rainbow Direction by Ariane Malmanche (September 18, 2015)
- takemehomefromnarnia. The ultimate Rainbow Direction Masterpost (archived), posted to Tumblr September 20, 2014. (See also Vision & Mission Statement at rainbowdirection.com)
- Public Service Announcement "Real Eyes Realize Real Lies" and related campaigns, Archived version, posted to tumblr 29 April 2013 with 16 notes. (Accessed 26 June 2017.)
- takemehomefromnarnia. Welcome to Narnia, there is a way out, Archived version, posted to tumblr 27 April 2013.
- Bring the “YOU MAKE ME STRONG” Flag to OTRA, posted to tumblr February 04, 2015. The banner was designed by actuallyredorchid. Note that the phrase is a lyric from the 1D song "Strong"; Larries have interpreted this song as evidence of Larry being real. (See the Strong article at the One Direction wiki.) It's also a relevant quote from a 1D song, and actuallyredorchid says, "I picked the 'You Make Me Strong' lyric, because for me, it really embodied what Rainbow Direction is all about: queer fans (and allies) making a safe space for other fans, regardless of gender and sexual identity." How the “You Make Me Strong” banner design came to be, posted 3 October 2015. archived. actuallyredorchid also used to be in Bandom and wrote meta about the importance of separating fiction from reality in 2008.
- takemehomefromnarnia. OTRA Top 10 (So Far!), archived, posted to tumblr September 11, 2015.
- takemehomefromnarnia. CELEBRATION TIME: RAINBOW DIRECTION HITS 3000 PARTICIPANTS FOR THE OTRA TOUR, archived, posted to tumblr August 23, 2015.
- For example: art by rosketch (September 6, 2015)
- For example: Buffalo 3/9 gifset by knightchanges, posted 4 September 2015; all the rainbows gifset by sweetharold, posted 12 September 2015; Boston 2015/09/12 gifset by persimmonlions, posted 12 September 2015.
- Sign up as a Rainbow Direction participant for Niall Horan's solo tour, Archived version, 29 October 2016
- Sign up to represent Rainbow Direction at Harry Styles' Live On Tour, Archived version, 28 April 2017. Reblogged April with participation counts.
- HSLOT Rainbow Direction statistics May 7th 2017, Archived version, posted to Tumblr 7 May 2017.
- thisiskatsblog states, "Lilo is my favourite fictional ship, but I am convinced that Louis and Harry kiss, have sex, and plan to get married, with kids." As recently as September 13, 2015, she reblogged a Larry theory (archived) and in a Rainbow Direction post instructed an anon to ignore information in print interviews (archived). (A common Larrie tactic is to ignore print sources on the theory that 1D didn't actually say it--it was written for them by management. Of course if a print source supports Larry, then it must be true.)
- dieinthewinter is more subtle, but also reblogs Larrie posts like this.
- ellistheelephant reblogged a tumblr conversation in which thisiskatsblog plugged Rainbow Direction as a source of healing for fans hurt by 1D's evil management being homophobic in the way they kept Harry and Louis in the closet: What do you think of the inherent homophobia in the way the Louis/Harry situation has been handled?, archived, reblogged November 4, 2014.
- byebyehate. tumblr post (archived), September 15, 2015.
- "[Larry] represents the almost physical sense of discomfort I feel when I get a new follower who has a rainbow heart in their icon, because I know that this person is almost certainly a Larrie, and I know that their 'support of LGBTQ+ fans' won’t stop them from reblogging my posts with tags about what a piece of shit I am for not believing in their ship." tumblr reblog by i-swear-i-used-to-hate-them, posted 14 April 2016.
- For example, the official blog reblogged a rainbow direction sign from one fan who wrote about how Harry Styles had inspired her to accept herself. Her blog has the blurb "i love harry, and his boyfriend too."
- anon ask answered by lapelosa, posted to tumblr 17 August 2014.
- untitled tumblr post, archived, by urfavesheaux, 19 April 2015.
- anon ask sent to byebyehate, archived, 14 May 2015.
- For example: "Of course being a larry shipper means you’re invested in LGBTQIA+ rights. If you believe that two members of this band have been closeted and are fighting that closet, you’re naturally going to be more aware of the harms that society’s misconceptions and biases inflict on the queer community everyday, and of course you’re going to be more responsive to that." Responses to some of the criticisms being tossed at RD and Larries right now., archived, by ohnooooonedirection, posted to tumblr September 12, 2015.
- tumblr reblog of a Larrie's thoughts on Louis choosing to be in the closet and LGBT fans responding, archived, July 2015.
- littlemousling: "Many of the loudest voices against the denial of Louis’ stated sexuality (and stated partners, and stated accidental baby) are queer folks who are NOT FUCKING ON BOARD for strangers trying to tell other strangers what someone’s sexuality is based on 'clues' that are pure bigoted stereotyping." Comme une petite souris — PSA, Archived version, posted July 19, 2015.
- tumblr post by tomlinshaq, archived, April 20, 2015.
- Tumblr post by hormoaning reblogged with a rebuttle (archived) by fuckkyliejenner on September 8, 2015. hormoaning said, "if it bothers you or annoys you, you are a homophobe and you better not claim to be a fan of 1d/harry cuz he would hate you."
- anonymous tumblr comment: "I’m part of the LGBTQA+ community and I have reported bullying that has happened to myself and my friends so many times and they have never said anything about it because the people who bullied us were Larries. The majority of the people who are the worst bullies out there have the rainbow heart in their profile." TMHFN/RD Feedback - Feeling Ignored, archived, tumblr post by inclusive1d, accessed 29 September 2015.
- To the question "Do you see your fans being more liberated?" Liam says, "When the laws changed in the U.S. there were loads of rainbow flags flying at our shows, but I think that was mainly because people think of the Louis and Harry thing, which is absolutely nuts and drives me insane."
- beatingfortwo. OTRA sign idea, archived, posted to tumblr September 10, 2015.
- tumblr post by popunklouis, September 10, 2015. archived.
- tumblr reblog by sherlinson (archived), September 10, 2015.
- Except that this is demonstrably false.
- ask answered by ardentoptimism, 25 April 2015.
- untitled tumblr post, archived, by wepush, 19 July 2015.
- Or at least, nothing obvious to the uninitiated. However, there is ample evidence on Rainbow Direction's official tumblr that is visible to anti-larries and others familiar with larrie theories (e.g. Fanlore editors with too much free time). Unfortunately, the explanations are complicated. For example, on the main page of their tumblr is a counter showing the days "since these tweets suggested LGBTQ+ support is offensive". (Here's a meta post (archived) from mistresscurvy arguing why the tweets aren't offensive.) RD's November 2014 post explaining the counter says that the tweets were "on Louis Tomlinson’s twitter account" rather than attributing them directly to Louis and later lists all the twitter accounts one should demand an apology from: "Tweet the #WeWantAnApology hashtag to @Louis_Tomlinson, @syco, @SonyMusicUK, @SonyMusicGlobal and @ModestMgmt several times a day!" Basically, 1DHQ. In other words, RD subscribes to the larries' belief that Louis' twitter account isn't run by Louis (because then they can ignore his tweets stating categorically that "I am in fact straight"). See also this September 7, 2015 post (archived) about not forcibly outing people includes the tag #timetocomeoutlarry. With the tag, the entire post reads as a veiled suggestion for Larries to "show rainbows" at 1D concerts to encourage Harry and Louis to come out.