Sunday, June 22, 2008

Happy Pride!

As Pride Week begins in Toronto, I have to comment on a recent incident in the music world. Last week, at a concert in Norway, a spectator threw a shoe at Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme (is that really his name?). He responded by calling the spectator a "chicken shit fucking faggot". After news media labelled him "homophobic", he released a statement which the media referred to as an "apology", but which in reality is anything but. In his words:

"My gay family & friends, as well as myself, KNOW I am not a homophobe. For years now I've known gay is not a choice; one's skin color doesn't determine one's intelligence level; & red hair doesn't mean you're someone's stepchild. You see, it's not the words, it's their intent. I never said, nor suggested, that being gay is wrong, but apparently, based on your outrage to my flu-infused rant, you do!"

Blaming illness, he launched this rambling rant (the above is just a short sample) against the critics who called him "homophobic". He also plays the "I have gay friends" card, and attributes the criticisms to being PC, implying that on this basis, the entire issue can and should be dismissed.

The thing is, the key to the problem is right in his statement: "it's not the words, it's their intent". Homme intended to insult and degrade the spectator, and he used the word "faggot" to do so. When you use a derogatory term like "faggot", you derogate the people it refers to, and for no reason other than that they are gay. The implications of the word do not vanish simply because you say you mean well, or because you have friends who are gay.

Homme says all the right things - that being gay is not a choice, that being gay is not wrong, and that it is genetic (something we are all increasingly aware of - see the latest news about the study of brain symmetry in gay men and straight women). And I do accept that he is not to be lumped into the category of men who physically attack gays. But his words indicate a disconnect - one that his gay friends would do well to note.

The gay community long ago took ownership of the word "faggot", in retaliation for its use as a slur. Gays can use the term without negative connotation, and sometimes with affection. Straights with close ties to the gay community can sometimes use the word in the same sense, but its use in this sense can be easily misunderstood and should be done with extreme caution.

The sad thing here is that Homme is concerned only with attacking his critics, instead of dealing with the people who have been offended - some of whom are undoubtedly his fans. Would it have killed the guy to have simply acknowledged that he had hurt some people, and to have said he was sorry?

And for those who are still unsure: if he had used the word "nigger", we wouldn't even be bothering to have this debate.

Have a good Pride Week.


Tom said...

The Heinz commercial that got pulled because it showed affection between two men pissed me off this week.

A gay friendly gesture turned into a homophobic win.

I also laugh at these churches that say they welcome gays as we are, except if we want to get married in said church.

Kim_in_TO said...

Thanks - I hadn't heard about that. I give them points for trying, at least. The ad is quite blatant - none of the usual ambiguous or implied affection.