In a culture and music genre in which being “gay” is synonymous with weakness, weirdness, or ineptitude, Kanye West
took a moment during his recent Madison Square Garden concert to
denounce those who use the term in an offensive or derogatory manner,
saying:

“Open your fucking minds. Open your minds. Be accepting of different
people and let people be who they are. You know how many people came to
me calling me gay cause I wear my jeans the fresh way? Or because I
said hey, dude, how you gonna say ‘fag’ right in front of a gay dude’s
face and act like that’s okay. That shit is disrespectful. Coming from
Chicago, where if you saw somebody that was gay you were supposed to
stay ten feet away. It should be time to break out of the insinuations
that I was sayin’, the stereotypes, or the fear, the backlash that I
would get if you don’t believe in what I believe in, accepting people
for who they are…they’re very talented and if they do something
special in the world and they’re discriminated. I’ve flown across the
world y’all, and I’ve come back here to tell you — open your minds and
live a happier life…”

In the past, the public has questioned the sexuality of many rappers based on anything and everything including style of dress. Outkast‘s Andre 3000
faced rampant rumors of homosexuality when he went from wearing the Hip
Hop staple of baggy jeans and t-shirts, to an eclectic mix of furs,
flashy colors, and vintage finds. After photos surfaced of Lil Wayne seemingly kissing his mentor Baby on the lips, talk of homosexuality spread like wildfire.

With such opposition to homosexuality in Hip Hop, there are bound
to be closeted emcees and other Hip Hop entertainment figures. Former
closeted record executive Terrance Dean recently released a much-hyped autobiography about that very topic. Most notably in his book, Hiding in Hip Hop, Dean speaks of an anonymous homosexual emcee (referred to as “Eli“) that we most likely all know and admire. He says:Eli was a force to be reckoned with. He flew out the gate with his
debut album and would become a mainstay in the ever-changing Hip Hop
industry, where many rappers are one-hit wonders. He has been hailed as
one of the greatest rappers to bless the mic…Up until that
moment I had never heard anything remotely close about the rapper being
gay. Eli was a burgeoning superstar who parlayed his marketability into
television and movie credits. He even had a promising clothing line.”

Despite
homosexual entertainers still feeling the need to hide their true
selves in order to gain or maintain success, the Hip Hop world is
slowly beginning to take heed to the idea of more tolerance.
Transgendered rapper Foxxjazell had
a small feature story in the 360 section of the August issue of XXL.
The male-to-female transgendered
artist was featured in an article about the difficulties she faces
while trying to make a career for herself Hip Hop–including being
approached by a major label, only for them to cease communications with
her after finding out she is transgendered. Vh1‘s newest ‘celebreality’ series I Want to Work for Diddy,
follows a group of people vying to be the mogul’s newest addition to
his personal assistant staff. Included in that group of hopefuls is Laverne, a male-to-female transgendered woman. Though some eyebrows have raised amongst internet blogs, on the show thus far Laverne seems to be rightfully treated as an equal.

Is Hip Hop finally maturing into a more all-inclusive, tolerant culture? With burgeoning websites like outhiphop.com, and homorevolution.com,
catering to homosexual artists and their fans, it seems to be a growing
need. Bound to receive backlash from those unwilling to respect the
differences among us all, hopefully the popularity of Kanye West and his brief but strong message to the crowd in New York will open a few closed minds.