Matty Healy’s gay kiss stunt is white saviourism that could harm LGBTQ+ Malaysians, says singer

Matty Healy of The 1975 performing on stage wearing a lab coat, a sweater and a shirt and tie.

Matty Healy kissing a male bandmate at a festival in anti-LGBTQ+ Malaysia has left many in the country fearing a police crackdown, a Malaysian queer artist says.

Healy, frontman of English indie pop-rock band the 1975, has been accused of “white saviourism” and of “performative activism” after he used the band’s headline slot at Kuala Lumpur’s Good Vibes festival to speak out against anti-LGBTQ+ laws.

In Malaysia, gay sex is illegal under a colonial-era law imposed under British rule. It is also one of 13 countries worldwide that explicitly criminalises the gender expression of trans people.

Addressing the crowd in Kuala Lumpur on Friday (21 July), Healy said the band had made a “mistake when we were booking shows” and suggested he wouldn’t have agreed to perform if he had known gay sex was illegal.

“I’ll take your money, you can ban me, but I’ve done this before and it doesn’t feel good,” Healy said, before he kissed his bandmate Ross MacDonald.

In the days since, Healy has been widely condemned by Malaysia’s LGBTQ+ community, with some warning his actions could lead to a renewed crackdown on queer people from the government and police.

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Matty Healy of The 1975
The 1975’s show was cut short in Malaysia, after frontman Matty Healy took aim at the Malaysian government’s anti-LGBTQ stance. (Getty)

Rufus Sivaroshan, a New York based Malaysian music artist, quickly went viral when they lashed out at Matty Healy on TikTok, calling him a “f**king idiot”. 

“I hate this bulls**t white saviour complex of people coming into regions like south-east Asia with no prior research whatsoever to what the culture is like, to what the repercussions of certain things are, come in and do this s**t and then ruin it for not them but for the people that actually live there. And that’s what p**sses me off,” Sivaroshan said.


#stitch with @cabi ps: that’s not to say that Malaysian’s are all homophobic, as there is a queer community and I believe a lot of Gen-Z/Millenial Malaysia’s are more woke and accepting of LGBTQ+ folks, but Malaysian are all aware of what our government systems are like and how acts like thse can actually hurt marginalized communities more than help them. #the1975 #goodvibesfestival #gvf2023

♬ original sound – a kid named rufus

Speaking to PinkNews, Rufus said: “I was furious because it was a really, really inconsiderate thing to do.”

As far as Rufus sees it, Healy’s behaviour – which resulted in the festival being cancelled by the government – could have long-term consequences for queer Malaysians and for the country’s previously burgeoning music scene.

“He asked for trouble and he pretty much got it, and what’s even more frustrating for a lot of us is that the locals are the ones that have to deal with the consequences,” Rufus said.

They describe Malaysia’s queer scene as an underground, thriving space where LGBTQ+ people can come together to celebrate and explore. The problem now is that Matty Healy has put them on the map for both the government and police.

“When you’ve got a really prominent figure saying the things that he said, [it really] disrupts the peace that Malaysian queers have had,” Rufus continued.

“We’re going to have more and more people criticising the government’s agenda and then that’s just going to make things worse in the sense that they’re just going to be on our asses.”

Rufus Sivaroshan, a music artist, pictured in a posed image sitting on an armchair with a mirror behind them and a decorated room in the background.
Rufus Sivaroshan, a music artist, has criticised Matty Healy. (Will Rowan)

They continued: “The reason why I’m so scared is because it’s so fragile. People get put into prisons. 

“Speaking on behalf of the LGBTQ community back home, the repercussions of this is way more policing on us. It makes us very vulnerable to raids… God knows what could happen.

“At the core of it it just makes things scarier for people that live there moving forward.”

Matty Healy’s behaviour is white saviourism, says Rufus

Not only that, Rufus is afraid the furore could impact on Malaysia’s thriving music scene. It could deter international acts from performing there.

“Had none of this happened everyone would have been happy. We would have had a festival, money would have come in, everyone would have been paid. Everyone would have gotten their performance fees.

“When stuff like this happens it really disrupts the flow.” 

Matty Healy is, they say, the very definition of a “white saviour” – a white person from the west who wades into local issues without understanding the nuances.

“It’s white saviourism because he didn’t ask. He didn’t do the research, he didn’t put in the time to talk to people that understand what it’s like to be queer. He didn’t take the time to talk to queer folk that live here. He doesn’t know anything about the queer community here.”

Matty Healy
The 1975 singer Matty Healy (Xavi Torrent/Redferns)

Rufus now hopes the queer community will be able to rebuild and stay safe – and that there won’t be unintended consequences of Healy’s on-stage rant.

“To the Malaysian queer community I am so sorry. Stay strong,” they say.

“This is just one of those situations where you kind of have to have one another’s backs. God knows what could happen. I don’t know if some of the safe spaces back home will be prone to raids. I don’t know. It’s really up in the air.”

They’re also hoping the artists who lost out on income because of the festival’s cancellation get the justice they deserve.

Finally, Rufus’ message to Matty Healy is straight to-the-point.

“I am angry with you for f**king things up in my hometown. I love Kuala Lumpur, I love Malaysia. I’m not patriotic but I love my hometown because it’s where I grew up.

“So if you f**k with Malaysians you f**k with me, for real.” 

PinkNews has contacted representatives for Matty Healy for comment.