Let me start by saying this: Calling someone out on their position of privilege is not an act of hate. It is not discrimination. It is not an attack on that person as a human being. Pointing out that the media’s obsession with a straight, cisgender male as the herald of LGBT issues is problematic is not a dismissal of all allies or even of Macklemore personally. His support does not mean nothing. That’s kind of the problem.
When queer people talk about our rights, we’re talking about our daily lives. Every time some careless teenager declares a thing that makes him angry is “gay,” he’s reminding another queer youth that their existence is a synonym for something disliked, defective, looked down on. Every time I go to a wedding I’m reminded that my home state has a constitutional amendment defining marriage as “one man and one woman only” and banning the “rights or incidences” of marriage in other kinds of relationships. In 29 states, including the one where I live, I can be fired for my sexual orientation.
Macklemore doesn’t live with any of this. Yes, I’m sure he’s capable of empathy, but the fact remains that our reality is not his. Despite this, he is mainstream media’s darling of equality. His song “Same Love” is hailed as a gay rights anthem, and The Daily Athenaeum just published an article comparing him to Martin Luther King, Jr. To essentially paint a straight, cisgender person as the leader of the LGBT rights movement is incredibly problematic, and it ignores the queer voices that have been speaking to issues of equality for decades. The ideals expressed in “Same Love” are not new, and while they are controversial, they guarantee accolades from from the left. And Macklemore, as a straight man, does not have to face in the same way the torrent of hatred and disdain that also comes with it.
Speaking about the problematic nature of the applause given to Macklemore for “Same Love” garners hatred of its own. On Tumblr, the simple note that Macklemore’s equality speech at the VMAs would have been more meaningful coming from Mary Lambert was answered with a vicious rant telling queer people concerned about the representation to “shut the fuck up” and:
“Stop being so stupid. I’ve heard Macklemore get so much shit today for FUCKING SUPPORTING equal rights! He is a straight white man using his privilege in a correct and respectful way and people seem to have a problem with that?! You’re fucking kidding me. So if he just decided to suck someone’s dick the day before, would his support finally mean something?! Man, shut the hell up people. This is support right here, and in the mainstream media.”
This is exactly why we have an issue with the pedestal Macklemore has been given. The very same people who applaud him for risking nothing with a song about marriage equality are telling queer people shut up and take what they can get. When we speak about the inequality evidenced by the silencing of our concerns while straight, cisgender people can talk about the same things and be called heroes for it; we get called morons and told not to discriminate.
Yes, you can be an ally — though if you’re telling queer people shut up and take what they’re given, you aren’t one. If you’re demanding we allow you to support equality in a way that isn’t actually good for the people who need that equality, you aren’t one. Real allies are great, but their voices should not be heard above the voices of the people they are purporting to help. We should not have to feel as though we aren’t allowed to speak about our own issues. If Macklemore really wants to support the LGBTQA+ community, “Same Love” is not enough. Shouting “And Mary Lambert” over his shoulder as he walks offstage at the VMAs is not enough. He needs to promote queer artists and make space for them to speak. Because as long as he takes, without recognition of his privilege, the place he’s been given as the voice of equality, he is harming us. As long as the voices of straight, cisgender supporters get more attention than the voices of queer people, we are not equal.
*I intentionally used only the letters LGBT when referencing Macklemore’s support, because this is what the media has hailed him for supporting, although he has, in fact, said nothing about trans* people, and there are many issues far more important for LGB people (and the wider community) than marriage equality.
**I know there are severe issues of racial representation in the creation of Macklemore as, essentially, the white savior of hip hip, but I don’t feel qualified to properly discuss them from my position.
Written by Madison Carlson