This April issue of No Stunts was set aside for those who either have questions about Ziam or who haven’t previously had the time to do the necessary research. I’ll start this introduction by clarifying that I’m not speaking on behalf of anyone except myself. I’m hoping you’ll approach this issue of the magazine with respect, and if it’s not for you or if you have a different opinion than those stated herein, kindly move along. There will be another issue next month, and the month after that, and so on. There’s 14 years worth of history with Zayn and Liam and it’s impossible to cover in one issue. But those who contributed have done their best to provide accurate and helpful information, should you choose to read.
To begin this issue of No Stunts, I’ll discuss the most common things that Ziams hear from antis and offer the shortest version of a response that I feel adequately addresses the “issue.” Generally, if you’re a Larrie, and especially one who identifies as No Stunts, a useful metric would be to ask yourself what your response would be to an anti if they said the same thing about Louis and H. If it would annoy/aggravate/anger you, that is likely how we feel hearing the same thing about Zayn and Liam. There are dozens (maybe hundreds) of Ziams who will happily share receipts, proofs, threads, etc, that will give you context for why they believe in Ziam as fiercely as you believe in Larry. I ask that you allow them to share the information with you before rushing to a decision.
Before I address these points, I am assuming that you, reader of this introduction, are either a Larrie or a neutral (and also either a Ziam or neutral). If you’re an anti who’s hate-reading this, your attention may be better spent on self-reflection than on replying to a magazine titled No Stunts. I won’t waste my time or word count on addressing shit like “you’re fetishizing them” or etc. Now onto the list:
1 – “You’re making this all up in your head”: we are using publicly available information, whether that be their songs, their tattoos, outfits they’ve worn, merch they’ve sold, their own words, etc. We are drawing a conclusion from presented evidence. You are free to draw your own conclusion, and in fact I would encourage critical thinking in all matters. Starting with one aspect of their coding before branching out will likely be the least overwhelming if you’re just starting to read about this. If you connect with music, listen to theirs with an open mind. If you like visuals, look at their tattoos. No matter where you start, it all leads back to the same conclusion.
2 – “They can’t all be gay”: even if we’re speaking statistically, the studies that provide those statistics are often over simplified, underfunded, and cannot be applied in every specific case. And most critically, in the case of queer population statistics, they are only collected from those who choose to participate. Many queer people will not self-identify for fear of being outed or other potential repercussions. But let’s set that aside for now, and remember that all five of the members of One Direction were pursuing a career in music/entertainment when they became famous, a subset of the population which often has a higher percentage of queer individuals than the general public. It’s also worth remembering that those responsible for most talent search style television programs have a history of targeting young, vulnerable, queer artists in order to exploit them for personal gain. This has been well documented and can be found with a quick Google search.
3 – “But they’ve never said they’re queer”: No one owes anyone a coming out. Someone can be queer their entire lives without saying so. And we have to consider that they aren’t allowed, either contractually or due to social pressure, to share certain parts of their identity without repercussions to their career. If and when they are allowed to come out, they may value their privacy and choose to never specify their identities or relationships to the general public. So much of their personal life has been stolen from them that they may safeguard what little they are able. And it wouldn’t make them any less queer. Expecting anyone to share their specific labels or identities with you in order to find them valid and worth supporting is damaging, on both an individual and community level. You are not entitled to that information.
4 – “But the kids”: Generally (not all) Ziams do not believe that Liam or Zayn have biological children. There are many reasons, and some of them may be addressed in detail elsewhere. There are a myriad of inconsistencies with both of those kids’ creation and gestation, similar though not identical to those for the third supposed One Direction child. Just last year, when Zayn was pretending to be on that dating site (which is another thing entirely, but not enough time to address here), he self-identified as not having children. Again, using information that is available and deducing from there.
5 – “But Liam is homophobic”: If you’re determined to believe this, I will not convince you otherwise in a few sentences. But all of Liam’s closest friends are queer. He spends time at queer parties, queer bars, supporting queer charities, doing cover articles for queer magazines, and openly supporting the queer community. He has been very vocal and visible in his close relationship to the queer community (he’s also mentioned multiple times having crushes on men and openly flirts with men, but I digress). Ask yourself if a homophobic person would do this. If the answer is yes, I think your mental gymnastics are admirable, though likely misguided.
6 – “But they don’t look/act/sound queer”: This is blatant stereotyping. Queer people can and do act and look however they want. There are as many ways to be queer as there are queer people. Everyone is unique. You cannot tell if someone is queer just based on their behaviour or mannerisms, and that isn’t taking into account the significant amounts of behavioural coaching the five of them had as they grew up in the band. Zayn and Liam have both queer coded significantly, but even if they hadn’t, that would not mean that they default to heterosexuality.
7 – “But the podcast”: You mean the podcast following the tell all interview where Liam said that he doesn’t have access to his social media anymore? Where he openly admitted that his manager, who not only controls his finances and lives in one of his houses, physically assaults him when he doesn’t like Liam’s behaviour? The one where he was 3+ drinks in before the podcast was even halfway over as the hosts continued to pour him more? The podcast that was released just days after Paynt was announced? The one where he was actually criticising Zayn’s “previous partner” but the sound clips that were spread around made it seem directed at Zayn instead? Context is incredibly important, and removing any of what was said from the appropriate context is irresponsible.
8 – “They’ve never publicly supported each other”: Anyone saying this is likely new to the fandom and is completely unaware that Zayn and Liam have ALWAYS supported each other. You can look through past interviews, past tweets, any interaction you can find. But even if there wasn’t a detailed history of public support, their private life is private. And that’s none of our business.
9 – “But their public relationships”: PR stunts and closeting. It’s really that simple. They follow the patterns, they promote one partner or the other, sometimes both. Breakups and/or drama when they need to be in the news. It’s all manufactured and fed to the public via gossip sites and social media. You could fake more believable relationships without a PR team. Honestly, go ahead and try for a few weeks and you’ll be shocked how easy it is (don’t actually try this, it’s awful for everyone involved). My point is, these are /public/ relationships. If you choose to believe them, then you do. But at least admit the hypocrisy if you don’t also believe the public relationships of other celebrities, especially those in similar contracts.
10 – “They may have had a thing during the band but not anymore”: This phrase usually comes from people who haven’t spent much time looking into it. The Cartier bracelets, many of their tattoos, multiple times they’ve been confirmed to be on vacation together (Miami, Vegas, etc), Paynt, singing on each other’s albums, I could go on. All of this occurred after the band went on hiatus.
11 – “Their tattoos for Gigi/Cheryl/pick a beard”: All of these are more likely to have been for each other. Just to choose one of each of theirs, Liam’s eyes tattoo is supposedly for Cheryl, but has an eye freckle and is identical to Zayn’s eye while looking nothing like Cheryl’s. And Zayn’s “Perrie” tattoo has Liam’s birthmark and Perrie only started dressing like the character on his arm /after/ the tattoo was complete (so not the inspiration for it). Someone is covering this extensively in a separate article, so I’ll stop there and let you read more in depth in that article.
12 – “Zayn hates the band, and that includes Liam”: Zayn certainly resented time spent under the influence of certain members of management and others, but any supposed issues with other band members were likely fabricated entirely, but at the very least exaggerated for the sake of publicity. This is too extensive to cover in an introduction, but there are also masterposts and threads specifically about this if you’re curious. And someone is allowed to have complicated feelings about an experience they’ve had. As you’ll see in a later article, Zayn was exposed to more racism during his time in the band than most people realised. The band members may love each other and hate what they went through. Those two things are not mutually exclusive.
Those are the most common responses that we see in response to posting about Ziam, and some will be expanded upon in their own articles, so for now I’ll leave you with some overall thoughts. These final paragraphs are where my own opinion is about to be just that: opinion. In dealing with antis, whether that be Ziam, Larry, etc. I’ve noticed a few common threads:
It takes an emotional toll to reconcile a reality where this many individuals are subject to a cruel and inhumane system. It’s easier to believe that closeting in the entertainment industry is in the past. It’s easier to recognise the closeting of a single individual than an entire group. It feels heavy to acknowledge and hold space for the fact that the problem is so much deeper, older, and widespread than a few “evil” individuals that you could easily eliminate and solve the problem with their absence. I wish it were that direct. But the reality that we have seen confirmed for decades is that it’s a systemic problem, directly linked to the failings of a society that centres the needs of a greedy and fallible few over the good of the whole. This leads to exploitation and abuse through many avenues. One of those avenues is the entertainment industry. Intersectionality will be useful to help you understand the complex history and practice of forced closeting and help you recognize it when it happens (for more on intersectionality, see the work of Kimberle Crenshaw).
If you look for the same patterns in all occurrences of closeting, you may not find them. I often say that these forced entertainment industry closets were built differently but on the same blueprint. There are some similarities to be found, but those similarities are at the foundation, not on the surface. You have to look deeper at the motivations and machinations of the system to see the common root. And when you do, it will help you understand both where closeting comes from and how it continues to be forced on a new generation of artists. Closeting didn’t start with One Direction and it didn’t end with them either.
None of this gets better on its own. When we share what we know and prioritise systemic change, that’s how we see progress. None of this changes overnight and there’s no magic solution. Intentional work and attention are required, and the fact that the labour falls so heavily on the fans is unfair. If no one else has told you, thank you for caring about the wellbeing and freedom of an individual you may never meet. All any of us want is for the band to be free and happy, able to do the work they love and share it without the burden of bigotry that they’ve known their entire careers. It’s understandable to need time and space to process these sorts of issues, especially since we care so genuinely about the individuals involved. Educating yourself on topics like racism, homophobia, and exploitation is critical work, and you are not alone. There are resources and support available to you, and I would encourage you to continue your self-education beyond the scope of the fandom. But this is a fantastic place to start.
I have hope. I wish hope for you too.