Here’s the context of ‘Same Love,’ for those you living under rocks without access to the sweet internet nectar that is Tumblr:
Macklemore (a white, straight, cisgendered male from an educated upper-middle-class background) wrote this very pretty song about his support for same-sex marriage. It’s become a radio hit! Yay, Macklemore!
Members of the queer community have had mixed feelings about this song, including some very negative feelings. This in turn has caused other people to feel bewildered and/or outraged, prompting them to say “WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM US? STOP PICKING ON MACKLEMORE!”
More recently, Angel Haze, a queer woman of color, produced a remix of ‘Same Love’ that is about her experiences as a queer woman of color and her support for her community. If you haven’t heard it yet, HERE YOU GO. I picked this youtube video because it has the lyrics in the description. Read the lyrics. They’re important.
I know this has been going around the internet lately. There have been a lot of conversations, out in the world and within our own blog-bubble. Maybe you’re all tired of it. If so, I cordially invite you to get UN-TIRED. ‘Cause I got some feels to throw at you.
These feels come in two parts! Part one: Why ‘Same Love’ as an anthem of the ‘gay rights’ movement, and Macklemore’s visibility as the Best Ally Ever, is problematic.
‘Gay marriage’* has been very much the poster-child of the LGBT institution this decade. And it’s having lots of success! Yay! I wholeheartedly want those of my friends who wish to marry their loves to be able to do so, no matter the gender or sex of the people involved. However, lately it seems that marriage is the sole focus of LGBT activism, at least on the level of those organizations with power, and that’s a problem, because it’s advancing those of us within the community who already have the most privilege, relatively speaking. The murder of trans* and genderqueer men and women; the homelessness of queer youth; job discrimination against queer and trans* people: these are some topics that are life-and-death, that are not getting talked about, because marriage is just . . . so much nicer? I guess?
*”Gay marriage” is in quotes because the practice of referring to it as gay marriage erases bisexual and genderqueer peoples’ experiences. If I marry a woman, I’m not getting gay-married. I’m not gay. If a trans* man wants to marry a woman, that’s not a gay marriage, although they’ll still face legal obstacles.
But all that being said, same-sex marriage is still an important and worthwhile goal! Like I said: yay! And, in the words of gifmaster Logan:
“Macklemore is USEFUL. He reaches the dumbasses, the insecure, the very white. His music should not be considered the gay anthem of our time, nor should we ignore the actual queer artists (especially of color) making amazing music, but he is a tool that can be used to reach out to the harder-to-reach groups of homophobes.”
True facts! It’s the classic ally conundrum. Macklemore’s position of privilege allows him to help the community. However, his privilege also leads him to fall into some even-more-classic “ally traps”:
For instance, when he accepted the award for “Best Video with a Social Message,” he never handed the microphone to Mary Lambert, an actual queer woman whose song gave his song all the feels it needs to be successful. Side note: That article I just linked to? It’s from MSNBC, and it describes Same Love as a “gay rights anthem.” Anybody see why that might piss off the queer community?
Macklemore can’t directly control how people describe his song, though. I’ve never actually heard him describe “Same Love” as a “gay rights anthem,” so that beef is not with him. However, a beef I do have is that he’s not using his position of privilege to spotlight actual queer poc rappers and hip-hop artists. He is falling into the ally-trap of speaking FOR the oppressed group he wants to support, rather than listening to and amplifying their voices.
And I think it’s understandable for people to be sick of that. Sick of being spoken for. Sick of having to hand out cookies to people just for recognizing our humanity. Sick of a system that has launched Macklemore to super-stardom because he is a member of a hyper-privileged group who has tapped into a culture and music created by an oppressed group, while talking about the experiences of another oppressed group.
Which leads me to part two of the feels: How much I fucking love Angel Haze’s ‘Same Love’.
From an activist, getting-shit-done perspective, Macklemore’s ‘Same Love’ is useful. It’s frustrating to have to use a hyper-privileged ally to get the message across. It’s angering as hell to have it be lauded as a universal “Gay Rights Anthem.” But it’s undeniably useful.
From an emotional standpoint, though? From an emotional standpoint, there is something so fucking cathartic about hearing the voice of someone from your group, someone who society wants to say doesn’t exist, shouldn’t exist, claiming her own space with beautiful powerful music. It felt to me, when I heard the song for the first time, that in doing so she was claiming space for me as well. She is claiming space for everyone who has been erased, and celebrating the beauty of the people and the community that have grown in spite of and in response to oppression and erasure.
When society is trying to erase you, telling your own story can be the most powerful form of resistance. It’s planting a flag in the earth and saying “I exist!” It’s turning to your community members who are still in dark, terrible places, and saying, “You exist. You exist, and I celebrate you.”
I can’t even really describe the intensity of my reaction to the opening line of Angel’s version of Same Love (“Hi Mom, I’m really scared right now, but I have to – “). And when I compare it to Macklemore’s opening, where he “comes out” to his mom and then she tells him it’s okay because he’s straight . . .
Macklemore’s song is for allies. It’s a great song for allies! It’s useful, and it’s beautiful, and I respect him for creating it. But Angel Haze’s song is for her community, and for herself. And to me, that makes it infinitely more important.