I was on Facebook and I was told from a post that the new Love and Hip Hop Hollywood cast member was rapper Millian Christopher also known as Miles, an openly gay rapper. What followed was Miles accusing the cast of shunning him because of his sexual orientation but disguising the distance as not wanting to work with someone lacking credibility and / or not wanting use Miles as a “sideshow” for a ratings boost. What followed were a sprinkle of bible thumpers, homophobes and incomparable comparisons. It got me to thinking and I kept thinking and I could not stop thinking about why homophobia is so accepted and, most importantly, justified in the hip hop community. After much thought and consideration, I have come up with three key reasons why homophobia is accepted and justified. Those three reasons are religion, masculinity and media.
Let us first define homophobia. In America, we pride our freedom and liberties. We have the freedom of speech, freedom to bear arms and freedom of religion to name a few. If a white person can do this then a African American person should also be allowed to this. If a man is allowed to this then a woman should also be allowed to do this. It is about fairness and equality. However, being unfair to another does create an -ist. In the same sense that a person who would mutter the words “I do not think women should work outside of home because they are caretakers” is sexist, someone who utters the words “I do not think blacks should be allowed to vote because they are ignorant” is racist. The whole point being made is that one group deserves a freedom while the other group does not. Men can work but women cannot. Heterosexuals can get married but homosexuals cannot. And do not pull out an extreme example to counter this point. Two consenting people with the mental capacity to decide and engage in sex is not the same as murderers, rapists, or pedophiles. It would be assisted-suicide, consensual sex and still pedophilia because a child does not have the mental capacity to consent. Being unfair to a serial rapist and to law-abiding citizen are not the same in any degree to being unfair to a gay woman and straight woman. We can discuss the criminal justice system another time because in 2015, sodomy is not an enforceable law.
Hip hop consists of majority African American artists. Surprise, surprise. Additionally, African American are more religious than other racial and ethnic groups. During slavery, sermons were held and religion was able to instill hope. Though life on the plantation was terrible, believing in Christ gave slaves the promise they would be free after death with a path to heaven. Every movement that moved African Americans closer to their white counterparts in terms of rights held a religious undertone. Lincoln freeing the slaves was similar to Moses freeing the Jewish slaves. Nearly every demonstration led by the many great leaders of the African-American Civil Rights Movement is comparable with Joshua and the Battle of Jericho. Leaders in the African American community have predominantly been religious figures. Malcolm X was a Muslim minister and Martin Luther King, Jr was a Baptist minister. Even now, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan and T.D. Jakes are the notable leaders of the African American community and they all have religious backgrounds. The church is a symbol of hope and endurance and has been attacked for having that audacity, hence the morbid memories of the church burnings and attacks faced during the Civil Rights Movement when Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was attacked by Dylann Roof.
Instinctively, hip hop artist are known to give thanks to God during award ceremonies. Prayer is seen as the best remedy for anyone going through a rough period. Bible verses are tattooed and can be recited verbatim. However, religion goes into many topics and can be used to justify many beliefs based on interpretations of the bible. The Civil War sprouted because plantations owners believed it was their God-given right to own slaves with references to Ephesians 6:5 and Titus 2:9. Currently, homosexuality is seen as an abominable sin based on Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13. Though there are many sins, homosexuality is an unforgivable sin along with “everyone that is proud in heart” from Proverbs 16:5 and “lying lips” from Proverbs 12:22.
With strong ties to religion it is understandable why hip hop would want to distance and denounce such a big sin like homosexuality compared to lying and arrogance. Homosexuals are a minority and African American homosexuals are minorities in a minority. Judging the vices of the small compared to looking at the arrogant, liars and cheats is easier and brings less backlash because who is going to stand against the ideologies of the church and stand for the sinners who are repeatedly told that their sexuality is a sin but continue to sin. You lied once or twice but it can be touted as a small dose of sin compared to the boosting those Rainbow flags and maintaining a relationship with the same sex. Religion has played a big part in past for African Americans and continues to do so today. Disowning or not abiding by (or not even giving thinks to) Christianity and, increasingly, Islam is seen as disrespecting your ancestors plight for the freedoms enjoyed today because without the wisdom and mercy of God, how would African Americans have made it out of such a horrific situation. Standing by religion even at the expense of another group is just a casualty on one’s righteous road to Heaven or to the afterlife.
Hip hop is not just masculine, it is really masculine, no extremely masculine, no hyper-masculine. Men must be men. This shift to skinny jeans, men in wigs on Vine and faux dreads on men has been noted and disapproved and a great deal of hip hop rappers remain traditional to the street style. Young Thug, Fetty Wap, Kanye West and Lil Wayne are the exception, not the rule. On D.O.A, Jay-Z rapped “you niggas’ jeans too tight; your colors too bright; your voice too light” and Joell Ortiz rapping “we don’t play the skinny jeans and the blouse game” on Slaughterhouse’s “On the House.”
Gayness is not seen as masculine. The representation of gay men is most often one sided with gay men being seen as frilly, high-pitched men with exceptional fashion sense. The introduction to gay men for some began and ended at Jack McFarland from Will & Grace, though it pioneered the way for gay representation on television. Nevertheless, the flamboyant gay or camp gay is enough of a recurrence on the small and big screen that TV Tropes has a page dedicated to it. This unrounded representation leads to the belief that all gay men are inherently flamboyant and feminine. Though the community does have a fair share of stereotypical gay men, it should not cast a shadow on the entire community.
“Faggot” is seen as an insult because homosexually and masculinity are seen as two separate things. Men are routinely told to “man up” and hide their emotions behind a thick layer of uncaringness or content. That point is amplified with African American men who are made to be strong, unbreakable characters with unmistakable masculinity. This contrasts greatly to the stereotypical gay man who fawns over guys, speaks with a lisp and wears feminine clothing. Hip hop has no room to have their images tarnished by the idea of being anything other than hardcore and manly.
You will get 12,400 results (in .20 seconds) on Media Take Out when you search gay. Who has not been called “DOWN LOW” by MTO at least once in their career? This constant watching of artists sexual activity and the implications that can come with being seen as gay (see previous points) makes the only rational and PR-friendly response to either denounce homosexuality, distance yourself or say how the Devil is at work with those accusations or a mixture of all three. Standing behind LGBT results in allegations of being called lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender. The language surrounding these allegations are always portrayed as shameful with big exposure for catching wind of it first but the celebrities are still being criticized for being attention-seekers, if they do so decide to come out to the public.
There is a disproportionate criminalization, homelessness and violence aimed at African American LGBT community, specifically the transgender community and the youth. Nearly 4% percent of the 13% of the United States African American population identifies as LGBT, higher than every other ethnic group and the 3.4% national average. New infections of HIV/AIDS is disproportionately attributed to African American male-to-male contact. Before there are theories this is natural selection trying to right a wrong, it should be noted that African Americans have higher cases of reported infection for HIV/AIDS, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis attributed to not using protection, a lack of information and poverty, to name a few ideas. The point is a significant chunk of the African American community are facing problems from both ends of the spectrum, an underrepresentation from the mainstream and a complete disregard or attack from their own community.
Music is just music but we all know that is bullshit. Artists have influence whether they or we like it or not. Nicki Minaj’s money, fame and business ventures are far more alluring than a mother working two jobs to put food on the table. A parent trying to compete with a person who gets attention for a hat is not much of a contest. This is why their actions are scrutinized. They are significant. The anti-vaccination movement has plenty of celebrity endorsements. Beyoncé paved the way for feminism. Bob Marley moved a nation. Cam’ron made pink fashionable and are we very thankful for that fashion forward contribution he made. We are moving towards a world where being gay will not require “coming out” but automatically accepted without needing a discussion about it or fearing repercussion. Even hip hop has an increasingly growing LGBT community with self-proclaimed LGBT hip hop or queer hip hop with openly gay artists like Frank Ocean, SIYA, Azealia Banks, Angel Haze, Big Freedia, Brooke Candy, and House of Ladosha. Hip hop is moving in the right direction. I hope that it is not in the direction of skipping on usage of the word “faggot” but being less open behind the scenes but general acceptance. One can only hope.