British pop star Harry Styles has been making a habit out of helping fans come out at his concerts.
At Wednesday’s sold-out stop on Styles’ Love on Tour show at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, a video captured McKinley McConnell holding up a sign that read, “My mom is in Section 201. Help me come out.”
McConnell, 23, was standing near the stage when the “Golden” singer turned the microphone toward her and asked, “What would you like to tell your mother?”
“Do you want me to tell her?” Styles can be heard asking. “I can tell her. Yeah, no problem, one second.”
Hustling over to the center of the stage, the singer shouted, “Lisa, she’s gay!” as thunderous cheers filled the 17,000-person arena.
McConnell told NBC News that she flew in from Los Angeles to see the show with her mom, who was seated in a different section.
“I literally got her the ticket so last minute,” McConnell explained of their distance. “I was lucky to get a ticket for the general admission pit for myself. I know my mom, and she wouldn’t have been up for the pit.”
McConnell, a political science student at California State University, Northridge, said her mom probably knew about her sexuality before she officially told her — or rather, had Harry Styles tell her.
“Afterward, she told me, ‘You always had a flair for dramatics,’” McConnell said. “I’m really beyond blessed that both my parents are so supportive. And I think they probably always suspected, even though you try to act like they don’t. She just kept saying she loves me and is proud of me.”
Getting caught up in a viral moment, though, was a little overwhelming for McConnell’s mom.
“She cried. I didn’t expect her to cry that much — I think she’s just stunned by it all,” McConnell said. “She works in a school, and a few of her students came up to her today and mentioned it.”
McConnell posted the concert footage on Twitter early Thursday morning, calling it “a moment that will actually be with me forever.”
“Thank you for creating a safe place for me. thank you for letting me grow alongside you as a fan,” she wrote. “Thank you for helping me know who I am. Thank you. @Harry_Styles #LoveOnTourMilwaukee #LoveOnTour #SHESGAY”
McConnell later tweeted that she was “texting my tattoo artist to see how i can get that entire interaction tattooed on me.”
“I followed One Direction; I’ve followed Harry from the start of his solo career. I’m still in a state of shock,” McConnell said Thursday afternoon. “It’s this mantra that fans have — that ‘the moment will come, and he’ll notice me.’ And you really believe it will happen. But when it does, it’s hard to process. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet. I don’t see myself recovering from this for a full while.”
Fans on Twitter responded to the heartwarming clip with words of support.
“As someone who doesn’t know if she’ll ever be out to her parents, this whole interaction was heartwarming and made me cry,” one commenter wrote. “I am so proud of you and happy for you. Hugs xx”
Styles’ concerts have become something of a safe space for young LGBTQ fans: Last month, he helped a young woman named Lexi come out as bisexual at his show at Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Arena.
During the show, Lexi held a sign reading “help me come out” and gave Styles her bisexual Pride flag to hold.
“When I raise this flag, you’re officially out,” Styles told the audience. “I’ve heard that’s how it works.”
In July 2018, he helped a super fan named Grace come out to her mother.
Grace was attending Styles’ concert in San Jose, California — her 10th that summer — and brought a poster that read, “I’m gonna come out to my parents because of you!”
Styles saw the poster and, with Grace’s blessing, did the job for her: After asking for her mother’s name he shouted, “Tina, she’s gay!”
Tina was in her hotel room at the time, but when mother and daughter were reunited, she told Grace, “YES I DO LOVE YOU AND YOU CAN BE WHOEVER YOU WANT TO BE,” a tweet from the then-18-year-old said.
“[Harry’s] a proud supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and he’s made a lot of fans feel comfortable and proud to be who they are and I’m just one example of that,” Grace told BuzzFeed News shortly after the encounter.
McConnell said she is actually friends with Grace and was elsewhere in the concert venue that night.
She said Styles creates an atmosphere where fans feel comfortable sharing themselves with him — and each other.
“He always says, ‘Treat people with kindness,’ and I’ve never experienced an environment where everyone is so nice,” McConnell explained. “You’re talking to strangers, complimenting each other. It’s such a safe and open environment.”
Styles has long been an ally to the LGBTQ community: In 2018, he donated proceeds from a limited edition T-shirt to GLSEN, a nonprofit group that advocates for LGBTQ students.
He’s waved the rainbow flag and the transgender Pride flag at other shows and, in Philadelphia, borrowed a fan’s “Make America Gay Again” banner.
“I want to make people feel comfortable being whatever they want to be,” Styles said of waving the LGBTQ banners in a 2019 Rolling Stone cover story. “Maybe at a show you can have a moment of knowing that you’re not alone.”
In November 2017, Styles told fans at a Stockholm show, “If you are Black, if you are white, if you are gay, if you are straight, if you are transgender — whoever you are, whoever you want to be — I support you.”
He’s also been known to push the boundaries of the gender binary in fashion, wearing a sheer black, frilly blouse and pearl earrings to the Met Gala in 2019 and donning a lacy Gucci dress for the December 2020 cover of Vogue.
“It’s like anything — anytime you’re putting barriers up in your own life, you’re just limiting yourself,” he told Vogue at the time. “There’s so much joy to be had in playing with clothes. I’ve never really thought too much about what it means — it just becomes this extended part of creating something.”
Most recently, Styles dressed in drag as Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz” in a Halloween-inspired Instagram post.
Labeled “Harryween,” the post received more than 6.7 million likes since Sunday, including from Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele and Harris Reed, one of Styles’ go-to designers.
Paul Roberts, choreographer for Styles’ “Treat People With Kindness” video, commented, “Harry, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
By Dan Avery