Hip Hop, homophobia, and the LGBTQ experience.
By Scott King
A FEW YEARS AGO, ALMOST by accident, I stopped assuming that people were homophobic until proven otherwise. I mean, it’s sort of an antiquated notion, isn’t it? Why would anyone these days actually be scared of gay people?
Cause, you know, we could take ’em.
I’m guessing that the term “homophobia” was a better descriptor in the days when no one knew any gay people, when the legends and folktales about the unhappy gay mosters who would eat your children were more effective. This was before our very modern notion of “coming out.” You know, living a balanced, gay life and acknowledging your orientation to family, polite society, and the artistic community.
Within the arts, popular music has been strangely slow to acknowledge the existence and divinity of gay love. Deep into the late ‘80s, it was very difficult to sell records with anything more than oblique references to the tainted love that dare not speak its name.
So how did we ever survive centuries of subterranean life and still come out the other side known most politely as a group of people who are extremely enthusiastic about romantic music and the idea of dancing in public?
Through adaptation, of course. And reading between the lines. And writing our own stories, inside the lines. Like a beautiful, joyous secret.
WHICH BRINGS US TO MY joyous, not-so-secret love of Hip Hop.
It’s no big deal. It’s an interest I share, apparently, with millions of Americans as well as fans and imitators around the globe.
In fact, the mainstream and enduring success of the genre is why I sometimes start to see wizards and shadow people when discussing rap music with white liberals.
I know, I know. Your taste in music is none of my business. But if the subject does come up, please don’t say anything genius like, “Yeah, I like rap music, as long as it’s articulate.”
Other super secret racist adjectives that may imbue our conversation include “crude,” “dirty,” “dumb,” “ghetto,” gangsta,” “not saying anything,” and “too aggressive.” To be fair those last two were actually phrases and not adjectives, but they’re still based on a true story.
Kind of like those true stories about “The Struggle” that you hear in those rare but joyous examples of “articulate” hip hop music.
Kind of like my first job waiting tables. I’m not gonna lie. It was a restaurant that was known for its buffets. About once a week, clockwork like that $30 paycheck, some very nice, very polite white lady would say something really sweet to me like, “You speak really well for a waiter.”
Y’all, the subtly and benevolence with which white people investigate things that are different from them, well, it is a very talented blessing.
EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE, I hear rumors that rap music and “Hip-Hop Culture” aren’t exactly the most welcoming terrain for gay people. While it may not be a vacuous, tarted-up pop diva begging for her share of the coveted gay consumer index, I’ve been listening to rap music for 25 years, and I’ve never heard anything (other than Eminem’s puzzling duet with Elton John) that I couldn’t rock out to on my way to the cluuuub. These bitches better recognize.
Hip hop can be intimidating to a queer person who was bullied, intimated, or abused for not conforming, especially to gender norms, when they were young. It tends to project a lot of bravado. It also talks a lot of shit.
Do you know many gay people who do not also do these two things? Would you like to have sex with such a person?
Hip Hop is not homophobic. People are homophobic. Hip Hop gets vilified because it is (predominantly) African American and unapologetic, as in I don’t give a fuck.
It’s also about being a badass. I mean, like, possessing so much badassness that it should be illegal.
I can totally relate.