Last night Azealia Banks called blogger Perez Hilton "a messy fa**ot" on twitter and suggested he kill himself, after a heated back and forth also involving fellow rapper Angel Haze. After being quickly criticized by others for her use of the word, Banks attempted to defend herself by saying her definition of the word doesn’t mean a gay male, but "any male who acts like a female," followed later by her saying "My most sincere apologies to anyone who was indirectly offended by my foul language. Not sorry for Perez tho. Lol"
This morning she tweeted "Really not as moved by this f word thing as u all want me to be. As a bisexual person I knew what I meant when I used that word."
We have written about her work as an out artist several times on our site and counted her as one of the most powerful coming out stories in 2012.
However, Banks’ claim that the word "fa**ot" doesn’t mean a gay male is not true. Regardless of her intent or her personal definition, what matters is the meaning given to that word by those who hear it, and the damage it causes when they do. Undoubtedly there are gay kids who follow her on Twitter who hear this word in an entirely different context. This word is used almost universally by bullies, often as part of a larger verbal or physical assault. This word hurts those kids, no matter what Banks meant by it.
Here are some recent uses of the word that received media attention last year:
February 2012: 20 year-old Brandon White (pictured right) was brutally assaulted in Atlanta as his attackers shouted "No fa**ots in Jack City."
March 2012: A 29 year-old man in Washington, D.C. underwent two surgeries in which his badly severed jaw was reattached with two permanent titanium plates after attackers yelled fa**ot and began dragging and kicking him.
July 2012: A gay Oklahoma City man received first and second degree burns after discovering two people vandalizing his car who proceeded to throw a firebomb and spray paint the word "f*g" on his car.
August 2012: 21 year-old Jordan Addison had to drive around with the words "die f*g" on his car after vandals defaced his car, smashed the windshield and slashed two tires.
Our society knows that "fa**ot" is a derogatory word for gay men, and in this case it was used to attack someone in a very public altercation with hundreds of thousands of fans and young people following.
It is an ugly, archaic word that was used to stigmatize a population of people who suffer high rates of violence both here in the U.S. and abroad. As far as we’ve come in this society, seeing it used by an artist many young people may look up to is painful, but even more so for those young fans, many of whom GLAAD has heard from.
GLAAD has reached out to Banks’ representatives, and is working to compile stories of fans and teens who wanted to respond to the word and let others know what it feels like when they hear it.
We also tweeted:
We hope that Azealia Banks will take what they say to heart and uses her platform to promote acceptance of the LGBT community.