Matthew Healy, lead singer of the English pop rock band The 1975, raised eyebrows during his band's performance in Dubai earlier this week.
Despite the United Arab Emirates' strict anti-LGBTIQ+ laws, the vocalist and rhythm guitarist left the stage, walked towards the crowd, and kissed a male fan on the lips. The band also displayed a rainbow-themed background during the show.
In a tweet, Healy described his experience in Dubai as "amazing," adding that he doubts he would be welcomed back into the city after his stunt.
The 1975 took the stage at Coca-Cola Arena on Wednesday, marking its first-ever gig in the UAE. Emotions were running high for the band's frontman, who broke down in tears - or as The National's Sophie Prideaux puts it, "full uncontrollable sobbing" - 10 songs into the concert.
Overwhelmed by the love and support displayed by his Dubai fans, he said, "I know it's indulgent for me to cry [...] I just want us to be able to identify as humans, not as groups of people." He then highlighted the beauty of diversity and expressed his love for the crowd.
During the set, Healy joined the crowd while performing Loving Someone, which The 1975 often dedicates to the LGBTIQ+ community. He hugged a male fan who had reportedly shouted, "Marry me!" He then appeared to tell the fan something, which some speculate was permission for what he planned to do next, and went on to kiss him on the lips.
Afterwards, Healy returned to the stage and said, "I love you bro. We're all human, right?"
*Footage of the exchange has been circulating on social media, but StepFeed chose not to share it in a show of respect to the fan's privacy.
According to an attendee who spoke to StepFeed, the show also included a rainbow-themed background, most likely in reference to the LGBTIQ+ pride flag.
"I know you're scared here. I'm scared being here because I don't wanna say something wrong. I know how you feel," the attendee quotes Healy as saying.
UAE authorities are yet to comment on the matter.
The band is a public supporter of LGBTIQ+ rights, championing the cause during their shows and donating funds to help open London's first LGBTIQ+ community center. It is worth noting that Healy identifies as straight, according to Metro.
As is the case in most Arab countries, homosexuality is illegal in the UAE and same-sex marriages are not recognized. Article 354 of the UAE Penal Code, which is pretty vague in its definition, enforces the death penalty on "whoever used coercion in having sexual intercourse with a female or sodomy with a male." The law is sometimes interpreted in a manner that allows the prosecution of those who engage in consensual same-sex relationships. However, the death penalty has never been carried out as punishment for homosexuality or sodomy, as per The Independent.
According to the United Kingdom's Foreign Office, there have been some reports of individuals being punished for homosexual activity and/or sexual activity outside marriage, particularly in cases involving a public element or those causing offense.
The nation frowns upon any public displays of affection in general.
Not the first time a musician publicly advocates LGBTIQ+ rights in the Arab world
In 2010, the lead singer of Lebanese band Mashrou' Leila, Hamed Sinno, raised the gay pride flag during the band's concert in Byblos, Lebanon, publicly taking a stand in support of LGBTIQ+ rights in the Arab world.
In September 2017, during the band's concert in Egypt, several attendees raised rainbow flags and were subsequently detained under charges of "promoting sexual deviancy" and "inciting immorality."