By Sophia Simon-Bashall
It’s 2am on 12th May 2017. Harry Styles’ debut album was released into the world just two hours ago. It feels like a major shift has occurred in the earth’s atmosphere. It is entirely possible that with these 10 songs, Harry has ended global warming. If anyone has the power to do so, it’s this man.
Fans across the world are lapping it up, of course – although One Direction going on hiatus was (and still is) entirely The Worst Thing Ever, the idea of a solo album from Harry has always been appealing. I am enjoying watching people’s reaction videos and reading their tweets about each song just as much as I am enjoying the actual album.
The one thing I’m not enjoying is the arguments amongst two camps of the fandom. These are always present, unfortunately.
Such arguments centre on one specific topic – that of Larry Stylinson. If you have never heard this term before (though, if you’re reading about One Direction, how is that possible?), it refers to the ‘ship’ of Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson’s relationship. Some would say, a non-existent one.
It was inevitable that an album entirely written by Harry would come into this debate – although, honestly, this fandom can make ANYTHING come into this debate – especially as he has spoken about it being pretty personal.
To be clear, I don’t have a problem with people’s speculation. I am a Larry, seven years strong, and I will no doubt spend the next few days dissecting every word, every note change on this album for Larry content. It’s fun. It’s part of our exploration of this piece of art. That’s okay.
Equally, I really do not care if people don’t believe in Larry. I don’t care whether or not they read the same things into these lyrics as I do.
What I care about is the way that ‘anties’ attack larries for being larries. Why? One, because the fandom is supposed to be like a family – a massive one – and it’s supposed to be fun. But ultimately, it upsets me because it completely misses the point.
The point is not whether Larry is real or not. Maybe it is. Maybe it once was. Maybe it never has been. WHATEVER. Believe what you want to believe.
The point is that Larry symbolises something more to us.
The majority of Larries are LGBTQ+ fans. That is a fact.
From the very beginning, it was seeing two boys being openly very affectionate towards one another. It was seeing them being completely comfortable in that – they didn’t care what people thought. That was inspiring for many young LGBTQ+ fans who were just coming to terms with their sexuality, closeted, or in difficult environments. It normalised queerness. It sent a message that we were okay. That these people that we cared so deeply about would never ostracise us for who or how we loved.
From there, we found friends. Within the fandom, we could find other queer people. We could be safe. We could explore our own sexualities and possibilities about them, particularly through the realm of fan fiction. We could be supported in our questions and concerns and confusions.
And for those of us who were so uncomfortable with our own realities that we couldn’t overtly explore them? There was a distance that Larry provided us with. I have connected with many young queer girls over the years who used writing and reading Larry fic – between two young queer boys – to think about the possibilities before they were ready to confront their own identities. For many of us, it has helped us to disentangle ourselves from internalised homophobia.
Larry is so much more than Louis and Harry – and Harry knows this, too. He knows that their relationship – real or not – is a symbol of hope to many of his fans. He knows that it’s complicated. Which is why he is continuously telling us to interpret the songs however we want to. He has never insisted upon a single meaning. He has never shut us down, and for that, I am thankful.
The wider world may not get it. Heck, the rest of the fandom may not get it. But Harry gets it. That’s nice.