The past year has been full of various states taking monumental steps toward allowing marriage between same-sex couples, inspiring artists such as rapper Macklemore to produce platinum singles such as “Same Love” which tackle the subject, leaving news sources branding him — as well as other artists — as a “revolutionary activist.” But really, they might be hurting the cause more than helping.
For this article, much will be focused on Macklemore himself and his actions, because virtually everyone has been subject to his music and philosophy. Let’s begin with one of the most patronizing acts that has been transgressed against LGBTQA identities, such as with Macklemore’s Grammy performance earlier this year, in which he had 34 couples get married. His performance LITERALLY used queer identities — and same-sex marriage — as a prop in his performance, tacking this onto the long list of how he has exploited LGBTQA identities.
If we take a closer look at the song itself, it is inherently flawed. At a surface level, yes, it is in support of same-sex marriage. Hooray, good job Macklemore; you get a pat on the head for not having an oppressive opinion.
However, in the beginning of “Same Love,” he talks about when he thought he was gay, and then reaffirms he is straight, which reinforces that there is a “perceived difference” between the straight people and LGBTQA people, and subconsciously counteracts his message of equality. This act also heterosexualizes the LGBTQA movement toward equality by creating a poster child that is not, in fact, a member of the LGBTQA community. The fact that a queer person could be saying the same thing as Macklemore and not be taken seriously is a huge flaw in our society’s progression on this issue. This is made clear by featuring Mary Lambert in the song.
Lambert, a self-identified queer woman, released “She Keeps Me Warm” almost a year before Macklemore decided to sample it in his song. Lambert only gained notoriety when her straight counterpart decided to use her work, which is yet another example of a heteronormative culture at work. If you want real queer music, listen to “I’ve Got You” by Melange Lavonne, or anything by Tegan and Sara, Frank Ocean, Angel Haze, Cakes Da Killa, Logan Lynn, or Le1f (who Macklemore also allegedly stole riffs from for his songs “WUT” and “Thrift Shop,” but that’s a whole other debate).
Queer voices should be automatically considered more legitimate, because they have experienced the oppression and the plight of being LGBTQA. This is not to discredit the value of allies, as many have been supportive, aid the queer voice and are a necessary component, but queer voices should not be drowned out in their own fight for equality.
There is a difference between people supporting the LGBTQA community and straight people exploiting our struggle and profiting financially — or otherwise — while diminishing the value of a queer voice. One straight man writes a song about how much homophobia sucks and gets projected as a revolutionary being, while there are plenty of songs from queer artists about the same damn thing that have never been heard by the majority of the population and probably will not get a fraction of the “respect” from the media that Macklemore has received. Macklemore has gained notoriety on the back of the queer movement, and will continue to profit from it in the future.
Marriage, however, is not the top priority for the majority of LGBTQA people. Sure, it would be great to be able to get married, but many in the community are using their efforts towards getting LGBTQA-focused healthcare, helping end LGBTQA youth homelessness, and lowering suicide rates; however, there has been very little media focus on that. Further, the push for marriage was led by many straight lawmakers, deciding that this cause was the most important for the queer community.
Even further, this hyper-focus on one aspect of LGBTQA equality is harming the rest of the cause. Marriage is not the only aspect of life that makes an LGBTQA person legally unequal to their straight counter parts. In many cities across the United States — including Springfield, Ohio — someone can still legally get evicted from their rental property or fired for being LGBTQA. In some places, it isn’t even safe to use the bathroom of the gender with which you identify for fear of harassment, physical harm, sexual assault and, in extreme cases, murder.
If Macklemore — or any other artist — wants to be seen as a successful ally to the LGBTQA community, they need to hand over the microphone to those that are of LGBTQA identity because in the end, queer people know what is best for them as a community. Too often has this fight toward equality been defined and constricted by straight perceptions of queer life. Those who make the laws are predominantly straight; those who speak, and are heard, are predominantly straight. Ultimately, queer voices have been overpowered in their own struggle for equality.