KUALA LUMPUR, July 25 — English rock band The 1975’s tirade against Putrajaya that saw the Good Vibes Festival cut short has sparked a new wave of concern within Malaysia’s queer community, with several lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activists expressing distress over the resulting fallout.

Speaking to Malay Mail, the activists said they were dismayed by the band’s frontman Matt Healy for his stunt that has put the hard-won progress of the community in jeopardy, and sparking a fresh hatred and potential violence towards them.

“We had to go into damage control following Healy’s actions to break the laws he earlier said he would adhere to. [Now] a lot of people are angry at the gay community because of Healy,” said Dhia Rezki Rohaizad, the deputy president of gay rights advocacy group Jejaka.

Dhia said the situation has also polarised the Malaysian public. While those who are already prejudiced are using this incident to fuel further animosity, those who were previously seen as neutral are now also expressing anger towards the LGBT community.

“We seem to be losing support from these neutrals who were neither for nor against us before this, all because we’ve been put under an unwanted microscope,” Dhia explained.

Commenting on the stunt, S. Thilaga of the transgender advocacy group Justice for Sisters said the situation was made worse due to its proximity with the state elections taking place next month.

In six state elections on August 12, coalitions in the national unity government will face the challenge of Perikatan Nasional that is riding high on the so-called “green wave” of support for religious conservatism.

“Sometimes with more restrictions, you see more outrageous reactions. That’s why I feel it’s a cause-and-effect situation. Healy’s actions have heightened panic within the LGBT community, who are already heavily traumatised by recent events,” Thilaga said when contacted.

“We’re currently in an election period and the community is often used as a punching bag or scapegoat and we generally expect higher anti-LGBT sentiments during elections. This will further isolate the young, closeted individuals who’re afraid to express themselves.”

On the first night of Good Vibes last week, the band’s performance was cut short after its frontman Healy launched into an expletive-ridden tirade against Malaysia’s anti-LGBT laws and followed up with a deep mouth-to-mouth kiss with bassist Ross MacDonald.

The stunt was widely shared on social media by concertgoers who captured the moment on their smartphones and sparked intense debate that went international.

The music festival, which was celebrating its 10th anniversary, was later cancelled by Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil based on organiser Future Sound Asia’s letter of undertaking guaranteeing the conduct of the band.

The band has also been blacklisted by local authorities. Afterwards, it also cancelled its headlining dates in Jakarta and Taipei.

Speaking to British broadcaster BBC World Service, local drag queen Carmen Rose condemned Healy as acting out a “white-saviour complex”, decrying the stunt as performative and lacking conviction or sincerity.

Carmen said Healy appeared to have delivered his message while intoxicated, and called his action of destroying the organisers’ equipment as reeking of “white privilege.”

“There’s a right place and time to do this and he delivered it while intoxicated and was uncalled for. Based on the video, the way he delivered it was very performative. It’s giving a ‘white-saviour complex’ and he wasn’t doing it for our community.

“If he was doing it for our community, he would know the consequences we would have to go through. I don’t think he cares about us, but himself. I get the message he’s trying to send but it wasn’t a very good message,” she said.

Like Thilaga, Carmen highlighted how the stunt has made the community an easy target, especially with the crucial state elections looming.

While both Thilaga and Dhia acknowledged the severity of the band’s actions, they deemed punishing the vendors for the band’s behaviour by prematurely cancelling the three-day event as harsh and counterproductive, potentially exacerbating the blame placed on the LGBT community.

The incident came following several public outrage against LGBT-related issues, such as the seizure of nearly RM65,000 worth of watches from Swatch outlets deemed as promoting or having “elements” of LGBT in May. Swatch Group has since sued the Home Ministry over the action.

In the same month, two MPs from Islamist party PAS called for the LGBT community to be classified as those suffering from mental health illnesses, while the Islamic affairs minister Datuk Mohd Na’im Mokhtar said the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (Jakim) has established a special committee to address LGBT Muslims as the country rejects the community.

As the nation grapples with the negative aftermath of these incidents, Thilaga urged a realistic approach to criticisms against the government while emphasising the importance of understanding the context and issues at hand.

“We appreciate solidarity with the community and wanting to fight for the cause, but there needs to be some understanding of the context and issues. You may mean well, but the outcome won’t be what you desire until you learn your lesson, which is you can’t act in solidarity without communicating and consulting with other people,” she added.

With some LGBT advocates abroad using the issue to demonise the country, Dhia also urged for better communication and understanding of the local context.

“If there’s any publicity, it would preferably come from someone in the country or if Healy wanted to do something, at least make an effort to understand the laws of the country, its context, and how queer people are living here,” Dhia said.

In the most recent LGBT Global Acceptance Index released in 2021, Malaysia was ranked 115 out of 175 countries with a score of just 3.48 out of 10.