Earlier this week, 25 year veteran death metal band Malevolent Creation parted ways with their drummer, Gus Rios. He was their eighth drummer, so why is this news? Well, the fact that confirmed this separation by some old-fashioned Facebook homophobia. It prompted us to ask our man Tomas Doyle to take aim and unload with both barrels on a topic that’s been bugging us all for a long time now. Take it away, Tomas…
Talk is cheap, especially on the internet where the anonymity of a keyboard and a screen has turned everyone into an over-opinionated headcase. Protected from reality and safely hidden away in bedrooms and studies people say things that they would never dream of telling someone in the pub – it’s human nature I guess, and something which, to an extent, we are all guilty of.
But there seems to be a very specific problem in the world of metalhead keyboard warriors which is a pretty unsightly blight on our messageboards, facebook pages, twitter feeds and other online gathering places. I refer, of course, to the tendency of some to frame anything they don’t like in homophobic language. “What a bunch of faggots”, “This band look like fags”, “What is this gay shit?”. Anyone who has frequented enough metal internet hotspots will be all to familiar with these sort of phrases and it is getting to the point of both unacceptability and embarrassment.
In part at least such terminology appears to stem from the cultural mismatch metal is apparently suffering between the generations. Tight jeans low cut t-shirts associated with femininity by (a minority of) old-skoolers with long hair and denim jackets. Naturally anyone with a brain can figure out that a) dressing in a supposedly effeminate manner has nothing to do with your sexual preference or indeed ‘how metal’ you are and b) that Phil Anselmo used to wear make up in Pantera’s early days. Do you want to try and sling a slur at Phil Anselmo or tell him he isn’t metal? No, I didn’t think so.
One of the main arguments that people use when confronted about their use of the word ‘fag’ or ‘gay’ to refer to something that is not to their musical taste is that the words have changed in meaning and that they are not intended in a specifically homophobic way, rather instead as a derogatory term in the most general possible sense. Hmmm.
Let’s take – for example – this recent knuckleheaded announcement* by US Death Metal mob Malevolent Creation over on their Facebook page:
Let’s just analyse for a second. Perhaps drummer Gus Rios is a homosexual man – though why that would be relevant here is anyone’s guess. Or perhaps the band intend the sentence to mean ‘not good enough / inadequate / not a nice dude who we’d rather not be in a band with’. That the band could be taken either as weirdly descriptive (to the point of borderline homophobia), or just insensitive dickheads says a lot about where we as a culture are up to.
The re-appropriation of the hate-rhetoric of the anti-gay brigade can be all well and good (we’ve seen it done with words like ‘queer’, and it is true that language is obviously ever-shifting) but to use it to exclusively describe things you perceive as bad? That doesn’t seem like you’re stealing the power of these words back; that’s making an excuse to say what you think makes you look clever without considering the consequences. Using homophobic language to describe things that you think are less than worthy does not make you a freedom fighter, or that you’re inverting speech in a clever protest. It makes you a fucking berk.
We all too frequently forget that, as a scene, metal has incredibly few openly gay men and women in its ranks of performers. There are a few notable high profile examples (Rob Halford being the most obvious example) but statistically it seems likely that there will be gay people in bands who keep their sexuality a secret on at least some level. Of course, it is the prerogative of any individual to be as public or otherwise about their sexual preferences, but you can’t help but feel that an environment of casual homophobic abuse does not lend itself to an open and free-spirited community.
In real life scenarios you rarely hear these gay-bashing words being bandied about by rock fans. One can only assume that this means that people know it is socially unacceptable and that, if anything, makes their prevalence online even worse. If you are a homophobe then at least have the guts to be one in plainsight, where we can all see you and know what you are, not shrinking behind a firewall like a coward.
Even if you think terms like ‘fag’ and ‘gay’ and whatever else you decide is terribly brainy and hilarious to use are totally OK and without genuine homophobic connotation, think about the fact that there could be a young gay metal fan out there who is being put off by their use. You (like Malevolent Creation) might just see it as a bit of a laugh to talk in those terms and might genuinely not have any malicious intent, but even if it puts one kid off being able to enjoy the music that so many of us get so much from, then that is one too many.
True, dull-witted homophobia exists in all walks of life. It is one of the great social ailments which still tightly grips us. But rock fans ought not to just casually embrace the discourse that belittles gay men and women. We ought to be leaders not followers. We ought to be a welcoming family rather than an online cold shoulder.
If you are a sane-minded fan – hell, a sane -minded person – who knows that this stupidity isn’t and never will be cool, do the right thing and call out the next person you see calling something ‘faggot metal’. Make them feel like the narrow minded buffoon that they are. It’s for the good of all of us.
* This was subsequently deleted by the band and replaced with this rambling nonsense.