By Rapping About His Sexuality, Tyler, the Creator Squares Up With His Past

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Tyler, The Creator’s excessive use of the word faggot has always felt, to me, like a joke more than anything else.

In the Summer of 2013, during an appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show, Tyler said, “That’s just a word, you can take the power out of that word. The way that I see things, it’s you chose to be offended if you care more about stuff like that.”

I agree with Tyler’s 2013 statement in the fact that he is not using it to put down anyone or any group of people, he’s using it as a descriptive word that is completely removed from what “fag” is thought to mean. Just watch the newest seasons of South Park, and you’ll begin to understand what I mean.

Yet, two years earlier, he told NME: “I’m not homophobic. I just think ‘faggot’ hits and hurts people. It hits. And ‘gay’ just means you’re stupid. I don’t know, we don’t think about it, we’re just kids. We don’t think about that shit. But I don’t hate gay people. I don’t want anyone to think I’m homophobic.”

According to speculation from those closest to him, Tyler used the word when expressing anger at his absentee father and to convey rage at his step-father, who called him a faggot. In other words, he has used the term to be overtly homophobic when it suited him and argued that no one should be offended when his usage denoted casual homophobia because he doesn’t hate gay people or anything. I’ve never considered Tyler, The Creator to be someone who harbors prejudices towards gay people as others have believed; I merely found him confounding when it came to his defiant defense of the word.

My one concern is that some may attempt to use Tyler’s apparent declaration as absolution for Tyler’s use of faggot. I liken it to similar comments Tyler’s made that he doesn’t care about white people using “nigga.”

Speaking with Hot 97, Tyler said, “We don’t actually give a fuck about that shit. Mothafuckers who care are the reason racism is still alive.” Black people use “nigga” colloquially and even if one disagrees with that usage, no one can deny that it’s not used in the same context as when white people hurl nigger at us. Faggot has never not been anything more than an insult, and while Tyler has free reign to say whatever he wants, the term itself has never evolved from its original pejorative meaning; he doesn’t get to rewrite the rules and not deal with the consequences.

I’m excited for his new album.

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