Tuesday morning, rapper Beanie Sigel appeared on The Breakfast Club to discuss his feud with fellow Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill. While the interview included a few enlightening moments, namely Sigel admitted he wrote some of Meek’s rhymes, I wish he would have just stuck to talking about hip-hop and capitalized on his waning moments of fame by being a ghostwriter on a diss track. Instead, the aggressive, homophobic views he expressed on the popular radio show were not only offensive, but also dangerous to Black gay men.
“This homosexuality sh-t is at an all-time high,” said the rapper. “It’s sickening to me. I shouldn’t have to explain to my son why two men [are] is on primetime television kissing. There’s nothing positive or good comes out of that.”
Beanie Sigel went on to accuse Charlamagne of being “politically correct” when the radio host did not agree with his point of view, but Charlamagne did what I wished everyone would do: mind their own business.
While I appreciate Beanie being a present dad, what was really sickening was another man caring about what two other men are doing with (and to) each other. If you ask me, that sounds pretty gay, and I should know. Since Beanie is a man of such strong opinions, I wonder what he would think if people questioned his inability to stay out of federal prison, since he’s been in and out since 2002. Or perhaps he has something to say about why his group, State Property, hasn’t had a hit in years.
Instead of spouting harmful homophobic views, Beanie should be teaching his sons that all people deserve respect, no matter whom they love. He should be clear that using derogatory terms is hurtful to others, and their lives matter too. He should set an example that making fun of people by using slurs like “punk” and “sissy” is dangerous rhetoric.
Times like this make me grapple with listening to rappers and the interviews they give. With a culture often associated with misogyny and disdain for Black women, rappers tend to follow this exact blueprint when it comes to Black gay men and perceived femininity. Even if rappers aren’t spitting homophobic slurs, phrases like “no homo,” “that’s suspect,” and “pause” evolves the slang in a harmful way.
Though the amount of times Beanie’s been in jail is longer than his discography, it’s important we call out homophobia and cis-male privilege—both straight and gay. This privilege affords men the opportunity to never feel the need to apologize or be remorseful for abuse and violence against women and gay men. This privilege also allows them the space to spew hateful, disparaging comments or pretend their mediocre historical narratives are saving the culture. There is plenty of evidence that violent, bias-motivated crimes against LGBTQ people are not decreasing and people of color are massively overrepresented among victims of anti-LGBT violence.
It is crucial to recognize that this type of hatred is a serious problem that impacts so many of my Black gay brothers living in neighborhoods like Beanie’s hometown of Philadelphia, or in Harlem, Oakland, or other areas. Although homophobia is not specific to any geographic region or race, ideas about what Black masculinity looks like make it particularly harmful to Black gay men. Growing up, I remember ignoring the slurs “faggot” or “sissy” whenever I heard them because I did not want them to be hurled at me next.
The process of “coming out” has become a mainstream phenomenon, full of inspirational stories, Keith Haring t-shirts, fireside Twitter chats with young gay YouTubers, and it’s very own holiday.
Yesterday, October 11, was National Coming Out Day and sadly, it was yet another day we heard disgusting comments from a washed-up rapper. It was also the 28th anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. In three decades, we’ve come a long way. Sexual acts have been decriminalized across the country, marriage equality has been made the law of the land, and “transgender” has entered the American vocabulary–and brought us key educational moments on shows like Modern Family and Orange Is The New Black.
While coming out isn’t for everyone, nor is it a requirement, what critics tend to forget is that representation matters. From Langston Hughes to Bayard Rustin to Marlon Riggs, Black gay men have been an important part of our history. However, their sexuality is typically pushed to the sidelines when their contributions to society are praised or discussed. Still, Black LGBTQ people are in every community, country, and part of the world. And though research shows that Black people personally identify as LGBTQ more than any other group, Hollywood is just now catching up.
Today popular primetime series are developing storylines featuring Black gay characters. Characters like Mark Bradley (Being Mary Jane), Jeffrey Harrington (The Haves and the Have Nots), and Jamal Lyon (Empire) have enhanced the presence of Black gay representation on television. Even reality shows like Love and Hip Hop and the Prancing Elites Project have taken a step toward challenging stereotypical depictions of Black gay men. These vignettes not only serve as friendly reminders that this “gay thing” isn’t a phase or something exclusive to White people, as Beanie Sigel seems to think, but they also show Black gay men existing and living their lives just like everyone else. And it’s not sickening.
Still, words matter, and when suicide attempts are twice as frequent among queer youth of color than among queer white youth, it’s crucial for us to allow people to live authentically. When Black gay men make up approximately two-percent of the U.S. population in the U.S, but account for almost three-fourths of all estimated new HIV infections from 2008-2010, we cannot allow hatred to breed intimidation and shame. These are the real issues. And until we start to challenge the damaging thinking of people like Beanie Sigel, the stigma around being gay will continue to impact the lives of Black men and women everyday.
Drew-Shane Daniels is a Washington, DC-based freelance writer who has penned articles for Slate, TakePart, VIBE, and Fusion, among others. Follow him @drewshane.