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The LGBTQ Community's Response to Alec Baldwin's Anti-Gay Slurs: A Race-Based Double Standard?

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Raymond Hall via Getty Images
Raymond Hall via Getty Images

Alec Baldwin has done it again: He's been caught on camera hurling anti-gay epithets in a cussing tirade against the vulturous paparazzi on his heels. This time Baldwin is accused of spewing out the slur "c*ksucking f*ggot."

Baldwin doesn't deny using the word "c*ksucking." Some argue that this particular admission is merely because he can't lie his way out of it. But Baldwin claims that he simply had no clue that the word is a homophobic slur. He tweeted, "I apologize and will retire it from my vocabulary," adding, "you learn something new every day."

However, knowing full well that the six-letter "F" word is a homophobic slur -- and the deleterious effects that spewing that word has had on the endorsement deals and the careers of other public figures in the past -- Baldwin emphatically refutes even having uttered it. CNN's Anderson Cooper has publicly called him a liar, but Baldwin nonetheless persists with his tale.

"One is that I never used the word faggot in the tape recording being offered as evidence against me," Baldwin writes in a Huffington Post blog post. "What word is said right after the other choice word I use is unclear. But I can assure you, with complete confidence, that a direct homophobic slur (or indirect one for that matter) is not spoken."

While we have to give Baldwin credit for his staunch support of marriage equality and gay civil rights in general, and also for having a bevy of LGBTQ friends, he has finally maxed out with the mea culpas to our community. He now can't help but appear to be a lip-service ally at best, and an exposed closeted homophobe at worst.

"Mr. Baldwin can't fight for equality on paper, while degrading gay people in practice," a GLAAD representative rightly told FOX 411.

Homophobic epithets are so pervasive across our culture that most goodhearted and well-intentioned heterosexual people like Baldwin are sadly unaware of the psychological and physical toll that these words have on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people. Too often these cavalierly used epithets go either unchecked or unchallenged as the hate speech that they are.

And unfortunately, Baldwin's go-to arsenal of profanity is an assortment of potty-mouthed anti-gay epithets.

Baldwin has received numerous passes from the LGBTQ community where others have not. And many in LGBTQ communities of color contest that the reason might be race-based.

The case of the beloved African-American comedian Tracy Morgan, who was one of Alec Baldwin's co-stars on NBC's 30 Rock, is a glaring example.

During a standup performance in June 2011 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn., Morgan made some statements about LGBTQ people that he said were intended as jokes but which were really insulting jabs:

"Gays need to quit being pussies and not be whining about something as insignificant as bullying."

"Gay is something that kids learn from the media and programming."

"I don't "f*cking care if I piss off some gays, because if they can take a f*cking dick up their ass ... they can take a f*cking joke."

Morgan publicly apologized through GLAAD, and as part and parcel of his requisite forgiveness tour, he has spoken out in support of LGBTQ equality.

In October 2006 African-American actor Isaiah Washington got into fisticuffs with Grey's Anatomy co-star Patrick Dempsey, grabbing Dempsey by the throat and outing co-star T.R. Knight, saying, "I'm not your little f*ggot like T.R." His public apology to the LGBTQ community for derogatory comments that he deliberately and repeatedly made about Knight's sexuality was a disingenuous statement and a desperate effort to save his job. He lost it nonetheless.

And then there are those who, when called out for using the "F" word, contest that they didn't mean it as an insult or didn't mean it in an anti-gay way.

Case in point: Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar was suspended in September 2012 for three games for wearing eye black that displayed a homophobic slur written in Spanish -- "TU ERE MARICON" -- during a game against the Boston Red Sox. (The expression can be loosely translated as, "You are a f*aggot," or, "You are a weak girl.") Escobar, a native of Cuba, contested that the phrase was taken out of context, saying that in his culture it is not intended to be offensive but is instead a normal part of friendly repartee between men.

Even if the individual intent behind the use of these words was not homophobic, the words are still problematic because language is a representation of culture. If a culture is unaware of or anesthetized to the destructive power of certain slurs and epithets, it will continue to use those words, which reinscribes and perpetuates damaging ideas and assumptions about things like race, gender identity and sexual orientation. Consequently, these ideas and assumptions are transmitted from field houses to playing courts to media and into the dominant culture.

That said, the difference between the way that the LGBTQ community has reacted to Baldwin after his numerous outbursts and the way that it's reacted to similar outbursts from celebrities of color is troubling. Anti-LGBTQ language needs to be called out equally no matter where it comes from. Alec Baldwin certainly needs to go to anger management, but he also needs to clean his potty mouth, because it's not just foul; it's homophobic.