“As humans we fear what we don’t understand.”
These are the words of Vic Mensa. The words spoken by a prominent figure in hip-hop, and now, from an outward LGBTQI advocate. In light of Pride celebrations around the States (and the world), Mensa has released a statement recounting his own experience with LGBTQI identity. In it, he discusses his own journey of LGBTQI acceptance.
“A year ago I remember having a conversation with a family member about LGBT rights. I’ve always been in support, but I didn’t feel personally attached or really feel like it was my battle to fight. I didn’t know any gay people growing up (that I know of), and I just felt as if I should stand for things I know.”
For Vic, it took someone close to him identifying as queer in order to understand the importance, and struggles, of LGBTQI identity.
“It made me uncomfortable at first. And that’s good. We have to be removed from our comfort zone to able to grow. It felt like some subconscious judgement inside me had to die to be able to really accept someone I love with my whole heart telling me that this is who they are. Once that happened, it was as if a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I couldn’t be indifferent about something that was so important to people I love.”
As an LGBTQI member myself, this is important to me. I don’t think non-LGBTQI individuals have fully been able to grasp just how much the Orlando massacre has impacted us LGBTQI folk. 49 LGBTQI died, 53+ LGBTQI injured. The nation’s worst terror attack since 9/11, purely stemming from an act of homophobic hate. LGBTQI bars and clubs are some of the only places where we feel completely secure within a heteronormative society, and even this space was violated. Those 49 individuals were someone’s friend, someone’s son, someone’s father. An entire network of advocates, an entire sphere of representation and visibility and pride, silenced by hate.
I was over in New York at the time of the shooting, and it was a sober experience. I rallied in the streets alongside my brothers and sisters in a time of extreme uncertainty. Who can we turn to now? What safe spaces do we have left? It was chaotic, but we were all united in a single thought: it easily could have been me.
It’s easy to ignore the issue, to have subconscious homophobia, if you are not exposed to LGBTQI folk. It is so easy to sideline the issue, to think that the problem is removed and unnecessary from you, when you haven’t experienced it firsthand. Sometimes you may only realise the importance of LGBTQIA advocacy until, like Vic came to realise himself, it is your brother, your mother, or your friend. LGBTQI identity exists in every aspect of your life.
Vic’s statement is important for another reason. Hip-hop, and the music industry itself, is rife with homophobia. To have someone so idolised and respected within the industry talking openly about something so shunned in his profession is powerful. Non-LGBTQIA folk fighting for the rights of their brothers and sisters is powerful.
“Looking at the world around me, I realize now that as a creature of love, the battles of all people fighting to love are also mine. And I will stand with them. Will you?”
On Pride Day, Mensa released ‘Free Love’, a pro-LGBTQI anthem featuring Le1f, Halsey, Lil B The Based God, and Malik Yusef. It uncovers the intersectional nature of human identity; the daily struggles faced by LGBTQI citizens, especially concerning trans rights and LGBTIQI of colour. “Keep Fighting The Good Fight,” he concludes.
Every voice counts. So thank you, Vic.
Read Mensa’s full post in the gallery above, and have a listen to ‘Free Love’ below. Keep fighting the good fight.