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John J. Caswell Jr. Headshot

Dear Eminem: You Will Have Blood On Your Hands

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Dear Marshall-

I'm not the type of person who typically pays much attention to 5' 8" tall pre-pubescent looking white men that rap. I think short rapping white men are weird. And when they go so far as to name themselves after pieces of candy, I really can't be bothered. It's just not my thing. But let me be clear: While I may have no interest in their music or personas, I would fight to the death to protect the rights of short weird white men everywhere to do what they please artistically. If you want to spend your life rhyming about various 'shawtys' while calling yourself Reese's Pieces, that's totally fine with me. If Rihanna consents and willingly joins you on a track about tying her to a bed and murdering her via arson if she ever tried to leave you, I begrudgingly say, "God bless." You are both adults. You do you. After all, we live in a country that affords you the ability to chase your dreams no matter how ridiculous they might seem to others.

You also have the right to use the word 'faggot' whenever and wherever you choose. And you have exercised that right predictably as of late in your music. Not surprisingly, you have been called into question over its use and you have justified your questionable taste by assuring us that your definition of the word 'faggot' lacks any ill will or intent of malice. And while the manmade legal constructs that we all operate within guarantee you the ability to continue saying 'faggot' as often as you would like, I really wish you wouldn't.

If it's not already apparent, I am not questioning your right to speak. I'm questioning your personal moral and ethical compass. I'm questioning your level of intelligence and ability to logically understand how your use of certain words might hurt people, or worse, influence others to do similar damage citing your example as impetus for their own constitutionally validated hate speech.

Congratulations on the recent release of your eighth studio album, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, which will surely make you a lot of money and bring you increased fame and adoration from your existing and newly acquired fans. Just in time for the holidays, children of undiscerning parents will pull your CD from their stockings or download it using the several iTunes gift cards they'll receive as presents. And they'll listen intently to you say:

I'll still be able to break a motherf***in' table over the back of a couple of faggots and crack it in half. Little gay-looking boy / So gay I can barely say it with a straight face-looking boy / You witnessing massacre like you watching a church gathering taking place-looking boy / 'Oy vey, that boy's gay,' that's all they say looking-boy / You take a thumbs up, pat on the back, the way you go from your label every day-looking boy.

Marhsall, I get it. You're assuring us that, at least to you, the word 'faggot' is equivalent to 'idiot' or 'asshole' or any other generic insult that can be hurled at another human being. I'm not sure I believe you but even if I did, that's not the point.

There is a little boy somewhere in Oklahoma that has grown up in a difficult situation at home and takes his anger out daily on the 'faggot' in his class. There is a high school student in Texas that grew up in an evangelical Christian household and after years of suppression, he acts out by ridiculing and violently beating other boys that he's actually attracted to deep down inside. These imagined representations of already disturbed youth are real and exist in great numbers and they will listen to your album come Christmas time. And they'll hear you say:

I'll still be able to break a motherf***in' table over the back of a couple of faggots and crack it in half.

You recently had your 41st birthday. Happy Birthday! You have much to celebrate artistically and financially. I'm certain a tour will follow which means more money and more albums in years to come and more birthdays to celebrate. But not everyone is so fortunate. Kenneth Weishuhn of Iowa would have been 15 years old by now. Instead, he's dead having killed himself after being incessantly bullied and ridiculed over his sexuality. As a result of unbearable taunting, a young and gay Seth Walsh of California hung himself in his backyard and lingered on life support for a week before finally passing on. The last birthday cake he saw had only a sparse 13 candles to blow out.

Nobody is saying these tragedies are your fault, Mr. Eminem. But I can guarantee you that somewhere some child is listening to you sing about breaking tables over the backs of faggots. And that child doesn't understand or give a shit about your asinine and semantically flawed defense of the word's use. That child has an adult of influence and power in their ears using the same words and inciting the same images of violence that they put into practice when they bully kids in the locker room. And at some point in 2014, as sad as it is to say, another child will be dead as a result. And maybe, just maybe, that bully sits in his room listening to your glorified use of a word that repeatedly contributes to the premature death of this nation's youth.

So, yeah. You do have the right to say the word. But you also have the choice not to say it. Like it or not, you do have blood on your hands as you contribute to a collective homophobia that pushes people to death. No amount of denial or self-delusion can ever wash that away.

John