Rapper Cardi B and her fiancé, Offset, of the rap group Migos, are currently on the outs with members of the LGBTQ community, and ― get this ― if you believe their take, it’s actually the LGBTQ community’s fault.
Apparently the pair didn’t know that writing and rapping a line like “I cannot vibe with queers,” which Offset recently did during a guest spot on YFN Lucci’s track “Boss Life,” could be interpreted as homophobic.
Offset defended the line and himself on Thursday via Instagram by referencing the dictionary definition of the word ― “lingo that means strange or odd” ― or more precisely (if we can use that word here with a straight face) “lame people who film you, post it and stalk you.”
He also wants us to know that despite using the line (and being called out for homophobia in the past), there’s simply no way he can be homophobic because “my passion for fashion has lead me to a lot of gay people around me who I have mad respect for.”
(I’ll pause here for a second to let you stop laughing and catch your breath.)
Cardi B came to her fiancé’s defense over the weekend with her own assertion about there being “a different vocabulary on the dictionary.” (There must have been a lot of ears ringing over at Merriam-Webster in the last week, eh?)
“If that’s a word that you guys said is a bad word for gays, I’ve never even heard that word in the first place,” the singer said in a Periscope livestream.
She then offered a little advice for anyone who might be offended by the line.
“Why don’t y’all educate people? A lot of people are not aware about what’s wrong or right in the LGBTQ community,” she said.
That’s right ― apparently none of this would have happened if us queer people could have found a few hours to tear ourselves away from all of the fashion stuff that Offset loves so much and had just educated him and Cardi B about what’s “wrong or right” in our community.
Before we go any further, I want to formally apologize to Cardi B and Offset and anyone else who has ever used homophobic or transphobic language and did so without knowing what they were actually saying because the queer community hadn’t sat them down and “educated” them. We’ve obviously done you wrong and if we were less selfish and more involved in your lives ― instead of, in still too many cases, literally trying to stay alive ourselves ― we wouldn’t be in this unfortunate situation. Going forward, we’ll work even harder to make sure the world (which, contrary to what we originally thought, is apparently not already sufficiently designed to guarantee and ensure your heterosexual privilege and success as non-queer people) is better suited to meeting your needs.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I want to help. And even though I don’t have the entire queer community’s schedule handy, I’ve personally cleared a bit of my own to dedicate myself to the monumental task at hand.
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to address everything that Offset and Cardi B need to know. (I recognize that means that hours or days or months from now, one or both of them might do something else that’s considered offensive, which I am more than happy to take the blame for and do a follow-up to address whatever foolishness they’ve come up with at that time.)
Instead, let me offer a crash course in what’s “wrong” in the LGBTQ community. Since we’ve already established that Offset and Cardi B are big fans of the dictionary, let’s start with the definition of homophobia: “the irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals.” The definition is the same for transphobia if you swap out “homosexuals” for “transgender people.”
When homophobia and transphobia are allowed to run rampant, there are very real consequences. In fact, here’s just handful of the terrible things that LGBTQ people have had to contend with in the last 12 months simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity:
- 2017 was the deadliest year on record for the LGBTQ community in the U.S. with an 86 percent increase in hate violence homicides from 2016.
- At least 28 transgender people (most of them transgender women of color) were murdered in 2017 ― more than any other year on record.
- The U.S. Department of Justice told the Supreme Court that a baker whose religion opposes same-sex marriage should not have to create wedding cakes for queer couples.
- A lesbian couple and their children had their throats slit in upstate New York.
- Texas introduced no less than 20 bills all aimed at eliminating or limiting rights and protections for LGBTQ people.
- President Donald Trump attempted to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military.
- A 20-year-old man was charged with stabbing a 19-year-old gay man to death after he allegedly gave the suspect a kiss on the mouth.
- The Trump administration rescinded an Obama-era directive that instructed that transgender youth should be allowed to use school bathrooms that corresponded with their gender identity rather than the gender they were assigned at birth.
- More than 60 people were arrested on charges of homosexuality in Egypt.
- A 23-year-old black lesbian was shot and burned alive in Washington, D.C.
- The Department of Justice filed an amicus brief in a federal court that opposed offering workplace protections to LGBTQ individuals.
- Four people were charged with the death of a transgender teen after her eyes were gauged out, her genitals were repeatedly stabbed and her body set on fire.
- Trump worked to stack the courts with anti-LGBTQ judges.
- Mississippi passed what many called the most extreme anti-LGBTQ law in the nation.
- Scores of gay men were reportedly rounded up, beaten, tortured and even killed in a mass crackdown on homosexuality in Chechnya.
And let’s not forget it’s still legal in 28 states to fire someone just because they identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or some other non-heterosexual orientation and in 30 states it’s legal to fire people who identify as trans or non-cisgender.
As odious as the discrimination and violence listed above is, smaller, quieter instances of homophobia and transphobia can be just as odious ― and can have an impact not just on specific individuals and lives but also more generally on the ways in which our society approaches, understands and treats queer people.
What’s more, it’s important to recognize that the “phobia” in “homophobia” or “transphobia” doesn’t necessarily mean “fear” ― as the definition above reveals, it can also refer to an “aversion to” or “discrimination against” queer people. For example, a line like “I cannot vibe with queers” can be defined as homophobic because it relays a feeling of being averse to engaging with or being around gay people. Offset and Cardi B need to understand that a line like this one, as innocent as it may seem to them, can help reinforce a culture where LBGTQ people are seen as damaged or disgusting and worthy of being shunned, hated or worse.
If Offset and Cardi B take anything away from this situation, I hope it’s this: Words matter ― especially words said or sung or rapped or written by people with incredible popularity and visibility and, therefore, influence. Choosing our words carefully and intentionally can shape the fundamental way that queer people are viewed and understood by impressionable listeners and can have radically positive consequences for the LGBTQ community.
We all make mistakes and sometimes we’re unaware of how great of an effect our actions or comments can have on the world around us. It’s OK to admit that we were confused or ignorant or just plain wrong. It’s also OK to ask for help. But tying ourselves into knots in order to avoid being called out for something we did and then blaming the people we’ve offended for not keeping us from making that mistake in the first place is ridiculous and embarrassing for everyone involved.