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Editorials, The Problem With Heavy Metal Is Metalheads

The Problem With Heavy Metal Is Metalheads: Stop Calling Everyone A Faggot

Posted by on October 22, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Heavy metal has been a huge part of my life for more than 20 years. Some of the best people I've ever met have been metalheads. But, like every other type of  culture, its image to outsiders is largely informed by its loudest segment regardless of how small that segment is. Unfortunately, the loudest segment in metal is frequently obnoxious and awful. This isn't something unique to heavy metal; reasonable voices in religion, atheism, politics, and geek/gaming culture are constantly drowned out by a chorus of shrieking trolls who can't handle dissenting opinions or questioning of the status quo . I'm tired of always having to justify my love of metal by explaining to outsiders that most metalheads really are good people and not angry, dumb ogres. I'm also tired of the intolerance and unwavering dogmatism that infects this community that I otherwise love. Some of you clowns are ruining it for the rest of us, and the purpose of this new semi-regular series called The Problem With Heavy Metal Is Metalheads is to point out some problems within our community and hopefully work to correct them. It's my hope that the reasonable people reading these posts will engage in calm, rational debate in the comments section despite the reactionary sewage that will almost certainly bubble up from the nastiest, smelliest depths of Metal Injection's commenting community.

Metalheads love patting themselves on the back about how inclusive the heavy metal scene is. However, unless you're a heterosexual white male who wears cargo pants and band shirts exclusively, the heavy metal community may not feel all that welcoming to you. That's not to say that the majority of fans aren't good people, but, historically, the scene hasn't been the friendliest of places for those who don't fit a specific mold. Attitudes are definitely getting more progressive, but even a brief glance at the comments on a Facebook page or article published by any of the major metal sites reveals a stinking cesspool of racism, misogyny, and homophobia.

The metal community, specifically the online metal community, can be an especially harsh place for homosexuals, who, at any given moment, have to stomach all manner of repulsive behavior from the maladjusted imbeciles who inhabit the comments section here at Metal Injection and every other major metal website on the Internet. It's offensive enough that some of these mouth breathers still resort to using gay as a substitution for bad at every opportunity, but, for the last few years, faggot has been slowly becoming the go-to insult for reactionary cretins who can't think of an intelligent response to an opinion they disagree with. The use of faggot as an insult isn't just relegated to anonymous Internet goons, however – prominent musicians like Phil Labonte, the petulant man-baby who fronts All That Remains, and Slayer's Kerry King have both casually dropped the f-word in interviews and social media as well.

It should go without saying that any fandom or scene that prides itself on embracing outcasts the way the metal community does would avoid using offensive language that targets an entire group of already-persecuted people. You'd be wrong, though. Not every metalhead who uses the insult is a slavering bigot; some insist it's a legitimate insult along the same lines as jerk or asshole. But it's not and it never was – at least not in the United States where the term first arose as a slur against homosexuals in 1914. So, if you're one of the few people who honestly don't understand the history of the word, now you know.
Stop using it.

The rest of you have no excuse. There's literally no legitimate reason to call someone a faggot. Like every other slur, it's an ugly word and its use is needlessly offensive to an entire group of people. If you're really itching to insult someone, what's wrong with using asshole, shithead, or the dozens of other terms that aren't needlessly hurtful and insulting to people who are unfortunate enough to randomly stumble upon your stupid, childish comment?

No doubt, some of you reading this have your hackles up; it's a natural reaction to get defensive when something you identify with gets criticized. But, before you start screeching about PC police and social justice warriors, keep in mind that homophobia has real world consequences. Using homosexual slurs as insults, even if it's aimed at someone who's not gay themselves, reinforces the ridiculous idea that homosexuality is inherently bad. It villifies and dehumanizes people based on who they are. It contributes to a hostile social environment where homosexuals continue to be attacked, physically and verbally, simply because of who they are. In a July op-ed for Terrorizer, editor Tom Dare clearly and concisely explains why homophobic slurs are so damaging to the LGBT community:

Whatever the root cause, none of these are acceptable as excuses. Homophobia is horrible in all its forms. It hurts people. “Gay” as a synonym for “bad” tells LGBT people that they are different, that they are bad, that they are somehow inferior to straight people. It leads people to deny their identity, to battle with their own psyche, and is a significant part of why depression and suicide amongst LGBT people is still such a problem. It is why Rob Halford was in the closet for 25 years, why the Cynic guys only publicly spoke about their sexuality this year, and why there are so few openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender musicians in high profile metal bands.

Heavy metal fans have been targets for scorn and derision for decades. The metal community is supposed to be a place where misfits and outcasts can find shelter in the face of that intolerance. When you throw around bigoted slurs, whether you know it or not, you're eroding the community we're all supposed to be a part of. More importantly, you're reinforcing the prejudices of every mouth-breathing homophobe within ear or eye shot, and you're very possibly harming another human being for no reason. Keep that in mind the next time you're tempted to call someone a fa* or describe something you don't like as gay. Hopefully you'll think twice about the language you use in the future. But if you still don't care, please do everyone a favor and keep your stupid comments to yourself.

goahead

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