The three most common isms promoted by rap and hip hop are misogyny, homophobia and transphobia. Industry leaders like Russell Simmons and Kanye West have spoken out about homophobia. In fact, Simmons filmed an advertisement for the Human Rights Campaign regarding marriage equality in New York. Last March, Russell Simmons was given an award for excellence in media by GLAAD.
Following in the footsteps of West and Simmons, The Game recently did an interview with DJ Vlad, creator of the popular hip-hop video news site VladTV.com to express solidarity with the GLBT community.
Trigger warning on the video for homophobia and transphobic slurs. Transcript below the fold.
When you are a member of a marginalized group, you are never seen as an individual, but as a representative of your group. Even though I know that our shared race, does not make us the same, I could not stop thinking, for the love of heaven, please, please STFU, you're doing it WRONG! This interview was so full of fail, I hardly know where to start.The Game: You know what it is yo it's me Game, on of Vlad's oldest hip hop hommies. Me and Vlad go back, man we go back -- back like hot wings and race tracks, straight up and straight and straight down like the front door. This is Vlad TV, you know what it is. Hello from New York city.Vlad: Let's just a gay rapper came out with an Eminem skill level.The Game: What would we be talk about?Vlad: Gay shitThe Game: I mean, what you want me to say?Vlad: I mean you don't ever see. When you look at gays in the entertainment business,The Game: Yeah they're aroundVlad: They're around. Would it really be a surprise to - that there's already established gay rappers that are in the closet, considering how many gay people there are in entertainment?The Game: Oh no, I think that there are several rappers that are in the closet and are gay. And see those are the type of gay people - the only type of gay people that I have a problem with. Mmm you know, I don't have a problem with gay people. Gay people are you know - Beyonce should said who run the world? Gays. Because they everywhere man, rightfully so speaking man. Do you, it's a free country be gay, you know do that. Game don't have a problem with gay people. Game has a problem with people who are pretending not to be gay but are gay, because the number one issue with that is you be foolin' somebody, and you could give them, you know, AIDS and they can die. And so that in the closet shit is real scary see what I'm sayin'. So we gotta get into the seriousness of this; it's just not fair to other people and that shit spreads because that girl who you might be foolin', might leave you and go find another dude who ain't gay, give him the disease and he go cheats on her. So you know, it's an ongoing things, so it ain't cool to be in the closet. You gay, just say you gay -- be gay and be proud.Vlad: I asked (indecipherable) if he'd ever do a song with a gay rapper, he said he's pretty sure he has.The Game: That's crazyVlad: Do you think that you've done songs with gay rappers, you know who are possibly in the closet?The Game: possiblyVlad: So, you think that you have worked with a really gay rapper?The Game: Yeah man, possibly and not just being full out gay but hidin' it - pretend like he likes girls, live the rapper lifestyle, but really he's a man fan.Vlad: He's a man fanThe Game: Yeah, there's a lot of man fans out there in hip hop.Vlad: I got you, I think I got you. UmmThe Game: I see how you niggers be lookin' at niggers when I be around. You lookin' at niggers crazy and you be thinkin' (Vlad starts to giggle) no, no no. I be thinkin' when you see a rapper, you might think he lookin' at a nigger like he got a problem but nah, he really lookin' at him like a man fan. It's a lot of man fans in hip hop.Vlad: Were you surprised when you heard the Mister C news?The Game: nah, I wasn't surprised. You know what surprisedVlad: 'cause that's the first hip hop figure that's been out. Think about it.The Game: But did he ever admit to that?Vlad: I mean, he plead guilty in court.The Game: Did he?Vlad: Yes he did. He plead guilty; it's over.The Game: Alright cool. So it's cool to say that Mister C gay?Vlad: yesThe Game: Alright says Vlad, so I'ma say it. Umm so I see Mister C today,Vlad: YupThe Game: So I can't even lie, I have respect for Mister C because of the whole Biggie and all of thatVlad: Legend but gayThe Game: No, he's definitely a legend but when I see Mister C today, and I could think of was thatVlad: Do you ever see the tr@nny actually do the interview?The Game: No I didn't see itVlad: Brooklyn?The Game: No manVlad: Well that's, you know how sometime you'll see a tr@nny, it kind of looks like a girl.The Game: RightVlad: It looks kind of like a girl; it's almost like a dude with braids.The Game: That's Crazy. You know that's Mister see, you know I didn't see it myself so I gotta take my longtime friend Vlad's word. If Mister C came off and said he was gay thenVlad: He didn't say it, he plead guiltyThe Game: he plead guiltyVlad: He plead guilty for having public lewdness - basically getting head from a man in his car in the middle of the day.The Game: Man, well that's gayVlad: That's pretty gayThe Game: So I mean, to each his own man. Shout out to Mister C. Do you your thing man. No love loss here though.
Let me begin by saying that I know I'm on shaky ground here, because this is way outside of my experience -- so please excuse in advance my screw ups.
The Game repeatedly said that he does not have a problem with gay people, but then asserted that he as a straight man, has the right to decide whether or not GLBT people come out. The closet is extremely complex. Let's begin with the idea of the confessional, because there seems to be this idea that LGBT people must constantly confess who they are, or be deemed deceptive, whereas; straight people don't have to. The confessional is demanded because of compulsory heterosexuality i.e. heterosexuality as the excepted norm.
If a person does not have to come out as straight, then they should not have to come out as gay. In fact, unless you are sleeping with that person, it's none of your damn business what they do in bed. As a straight man, The Game has no right to demand that anyone come out, when he does not have to deal with the backlash, the hatred, and the violence associated with homophobia. To announce that you're gay or lesbian means taking a huge risk.
It also occurs to me that though straight people have the audacity to demand that BLGT people come out, heterosexism means that TLBG people are constantly erased. Simply sitting next to your partner in a restaurant, or holding their hand, is enough to be accused of flaunting your sexuality, while two straight people swapping spit in most cases will simply be ignored. Furthermore, being read as trans could mean death or brutal violence, as the beating of Chrissy Polis exemplifies. Even as we demand that the BLGT community come out, we demand that they do so on our terms, and never show any public affection or simply dare to take up space, lest it scar the kiddies for life.
I was really troubled by his harmful down low commentary. The down low has been a reoccurring theme for some members of the Black community for quite sometime now. Notably, last June, Sheri Sheppard and D.L (I don't have a brain in my head) Hughley, decided to blame the high incidence of HIV/AIDS in the Black community on the downlow. HIV/AIDS is NOT a gay disease, but you wouldn't know that from what The Game had to say. The virus is transmitted through the exchange of body fluids and this means that straight people, and drug addicts, are more than capable of contracting this disease. According to Dr. Kevin Fenton, Director of the CDC for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD & TB Prevention, "HIV/AIDS among black women is being fueled by heterosexual black men with multiple partners."
We need to stop this hateful downlow myth right now. What we need to do, is focus on good sex education, rather than looking for someone to blame for the spread of this terrible disease. What irritates me about scapegoating for HIV/AIDS, is that Black folk ought to plain know better. We have been blamed erroneously for so many things, and so to turn around and do the same thing to another marginalized group, is absolutely wrong.
Would it be helpful if more hip hop and rap artists came out? Absolutely. But we don't have the right to demand that they do so. This is especially true when we consider how hostile rap/hip hop has historically been to TLBG people.
When I thought that my head could not explode anymore, Vlad decided that it was time to assert his cis privilege with trans slurs. The man actually had the nerve to use "it" as a pronoun and that is absolutely dehumanizing. I don't know if the person that Mister C was involved with was trans or a cross dresser, but regardless, if you don't know the pronouns the person uses, then it is always best to use a gender neutral pronoun, or simply ask if the occasion arises. Would ze really have been that hard to say? I suppose that's asking to much of a man who sat in a room listening to someone use the term nigger repeatedly, without so much as flinching.
To have Vlad then assert that because of the incident involving Mister C makes him gay was disturbing. If Mister C was with a trans woman, that would make that interaction heterosexual, but either way, it is problematic for a straight man to believe that he can just apply a label to someone else.
The one thing I have learned from blogging about BLGT issues, is that the community is complex, and even when you have the best of intentions, you will fail. Vlad and The Game may have had the best of intentions with this interview, because homophobia and transphobia within rap/hip hop really needs to be discussed, but what they actually had to say only added to the ignorance and hatred, rather than radically confronted it. I believe that this interview actually serves better as a lesson in what not to do when talking about homophobia and transphobia than anything else.