AS THE LAND OF THE FREE INCHES TOWARD GAY EQUALITY, HIP-HOP HAS BEEN CRAWLING OUT OF ITS HOMOPHOBIC CLOSET. AMID THE SLOW-MOVING SHIFT TOWARD TOLERANCE, TODAY’S AUDACIOUS YOUTH MAY BE THE LOUDEST VOICES OF REASON
BY TRACY GARRAUD
ILLUSTRATION BY MISHA TYUTYUNIK
It seemed like we’d always be stuck. Even as the gay movement in America progresses, its march has been sluggish. In hip-hop, snail paced. Evolution felt far-fetched in the ’90s, when the music biz fixated on unmasking the “Gay Rapper.” Or in the early 2000s, when Eminem made a part-time gig out of pissing off GLAAD and “No homo” spread through rap circles like viral vids. As hip-hop grows into its big-boy and -girl Yeezys, though, the culture has crept closer to shedding its homophobic armor.
Now, we have extroverted artists like Azealia Banks and Kreayshawn un-closeting their bisexual tastes. Lil B endorses loving freely. And Jay-Z, the most eminent MC alive, who once flung “F” bombs (“You’s the fag model for Karl Kani”), granted his most significant cosign ever—gay marriage—on the heels of President Obama declaring support. Nationally, LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) rights are making historic headway. Before Obama’s statement, September 2011 saw the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, a divisive 1993 law that banned gay personnel from serving openly in the military.
Hip-hop owes much of its progression to the brash 25-and-under generation. Those who loathe being labeled, embrace androgynous swag and unabashedly gripe with society’s old guards. In a move many considered his “coming out,” Odd Future’s 24-year-old singer/songwriter Frank Ocean published a letter on his Tumblr page on July 4 telling the world his fi rst love was a man. He prefaced his show-and-tell feat with a tweet, expressing “hope that the babies born these days will inherit less of the bullshit than we did.” Frank’s act caused ripples. But for some from Gen-Old, it’s a brave new world. Snoop Dogg said in a recent interview: “When I was growing up, you could never do that and announce that. There would be so much scrutiny and hate and negativity, and no one would step [forward] to support you because that’s what we were brainwashed and trained to know.”
Are we all tolerant enough to embrace a gifted gay rapper? Maybe not—non-straight kids still get bullied, and 47 percent of Americans are against same-sex marriage. Still, this era’s youth are hopeful. VIBE handed a megaphone to six young adults ranging from age 16 to 24—including Ocean’s Odd Future crewmate Syd the Kid—to pick their brains about personal sexual preferences, an end to celebrity coming out parties and the evolution of gay acceptance in hip-hop.
Delilah, 16, Art student; Identifies as lesbian
Talia, 18, Premed student; Identifies as straight (Has dated two girls)
Syd the Kid, 20, Singer, Odd Future Wolf Gang’s The Internet; Identifies as “Likes
girls for right now”
Fred, 21, Graphic designer; Identifies as straight
Shayne, 22, Accounting graduate; Identifies as gay
Chai, 24, Electrician student; Identifies as straight male transgender
PARENTS JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND
VIBE: The older generation tends to have a hard time embracing the same-sex lifestyle. Have you had to teach your parents acceptance?
Delilah: My mom’s hardheaded and really religious. It’s hard to get things through. When she found out, she assumed every girl I brought in the house was my girlfriend and still kind of thinks that. Now she doesn’t say much that’s bad about it.
Syd: Honestly, I really had to back off. When I moved out, my mom started missing me and that’s when things got better. I told her [about my sexuality] when I thought it was a phase—I hoped it was—and she was fi ne at that point. But when she didn’t have a daughter she could share girly stuff with, it really hurt her. She had to realize it’s better to have me around how I am than to not have me at all. If anything, it took more of her teaching me why it was so hard for her to accept.