Rapper T.I. says gays are OK but shouldn’t “shut down” homophobics

I have a contentious relationship with hip-hop. While I love the genre, it comes with so much misogyny and homophobia that it should innately be something I despise. Things have been changing, though, with MCs like Fat Joe and Kanye West speaking out in support of gay people in their family and fan bases, and out rappers like Big Freedia finding their footing in more mainstream venues. (Still not nearly as big as the likes of Lil’ Wayne, but larger than we’ve seen until now.) It’s arguable that even Nicki Minaj, Kreayshawn and the conversations they start by even hinting at bisexuality add to acceptance.

When I read that Vibe‘s current cover guy T.I. spoke about equality in his new interview, I was instantly worried he was going to disappoint me. With rappers, it’s like they are innocent until proven guilty; homophobia-free until they drop the “F” word in a rhyme or say “No homo” in interviews. But, instead, T.I. complicated things a little further for me.

The MC told Vibe he is “supportive of everyone’s sexual preference,” but he thinks the gay community can be a little too touchy. Here’s a direct quote:

Man, I will say this, the funniest joke I ever heard Tracy [Morgan] say during a stand-up was, “C’mon man, I think gay people are too sensitive. If you can take a d-ck, you can take a joke.” [Cracks up laughing.] That sh-t was funny to me. And it’s kind of true. … They’re like,”If you have an opinion against us, we’re gonna shut you down.” … That’s not American. If you’re gay you should have the right to be gay in peace, and if you’re against it you should have the right to be against it in peace.

While I understand what T.I. is saying, I ultimately have to say this back to him: We did not get anywhere by being “gay in peace.” Because we’re not “in peace.” Even in T.I.’s hometown of Atlanta, there is Pride. There are lesbian clubs. There are certainly lots of gay people. But gay still isn’t 100 percent accepted, which is why it’s so hard to “take a joke” like the one he’s referring to. We’re still beaten, killed and ridiculed and, even if some of us are able to “live in peace,” we’re still second class citizens. And a lot of this is perpetuated by homophobic society as sometimes celebrated in hip-hop culture. (See: DMX, Eminem, etc.)

If someone is “against me” being gay, I don’t think I’m trying to “shut them down.” I’m just trying to educate them, because they clearly have no real idea what it is to be American. Being equal is being American, and gay people are not equal in the eyes of the government. We can take jokes — we’ve been made the butt of jokes since America came into existence. And we actually suffered through it silently for decades until we decided not to stay quiet anymore. That’s what has rappers like T.I. finally able to tell the largest urban music magazine that he is A-OK with whatever your sexual preference may be. That’s a big step in and of itself.

I appreciate T.I. talking about equality and agree that everyone has the same rights from the First Amendment as I do. But I believe people have the ability to change their minds and hearts and if helping do that with homophobic people is called “shutting them down,” then that’s what’s on my to-do list.

After all, T.I., you told me I can have whatever I like. I’m just trying to live my life. (OK, I’ll stop now.)