There have been a lot of things written about this song and exactly why it's so grating to some people. Some have criticized it for its dripping white privilege, taking up privileged space in multiple minority communities, slathering on comparisons between people of color and LGBT movements without regard to either, making broad statements about homophobia in hip-hop while ignoring that there's an entire genre of hip-hop by and for LGBT people (homo hop), and so forth (here's a pretty good clearinghouse from Racialicious). My own bubble initially popped for three reasons in addition:
- It's basically a gay marriage song (my opinions about that are here).
- The lyric about him thinking he was gay and his mom reassuring him he's not because he's been "into girls since before pre-K" is iffy; how many of us didn't know we were queer back then? Or just went through the motions because we felt like we were supposed to?
- It's largely dedicated to making tolerance necessary within Christian hegemony without challenging it.
But the thing that bugs me most is that damn hook:
I can't changeThis was written as well as sung by Mary Lambert and based on her story (via Wikipedia) it's probably a pretty accurate description of how she feels. The reason it irritates me isn't because I want to invalidate her feelings, but because it's a perfect description of the gay and lesbian narrative that's dominated mainstream discourse for quite a while now. When I hear this hook all I can think of is somebody mournfully singing about how being a lesbian is so awful but she just can't change even if she tries. I guess you could argue that that third line says she doesn't want to change, but it still is working within that narrative and it's just something I perceive as I hear the song every time I hear it. I actually have to change the radio station when it comes on because all I can picture is somebody groveling at the feet of straight people.
Even if I try
Even if I wanted to
My love... she keeps me warm
If this had been something written and performed by two queers (including Lambert) in the homo hop subgenre I would probably just consider it a testament to their own personal experience. But as the only current mainstream played-on-the-radio-all-the-fucking-time song dealing with LGB issues it's seriously annoying that again we're being barraged by a song that rests so firmly upon this "no choice" narrative. I already wrote about the no choice narrative back when I talked about "Born This Way" and realize now that these two songs are basically parallels of suck. It's true that there are LGBT and queer people who absolutely do not believe they had any choice in the matter (and many who would take the "Hard Pill" no questions asked), but as somebody who did have some choice in the matter it disturbs me when this is the only narrative people are regularly accustomed to and that those of us who don't fit this narrative are by extension shamed, minimized, and in many cases argued with over it. But the reality is that we don't deserve rights and liberation only because "people don't choose to be queer." We deserve them whether we chose it or not.