OK, I’m a little late to the game. This letter from David Holmes to Kid Rock came about last week. Prepping myself to interview Dave Holmes this afternoon, I read through this letter and it’s just too fantastic not to share with you all. The letter originally appeared at www.esquire.com
Dear Kid Rock,
Congratulations on your new album! You’re everywhere these days promoting it and, while I wish you the best and baddest of luck, I can’t help but notice that right in there with “First Kiss is a return to form” and “Kid Rock is a real American badass,” a key element of your marketing campaign seems to be “it’s fun to use the word ‘gay’ as a pejorative.” You told TMZ that selfies are “so gay.” In an interview with the Guardian, you called rap-rock “gay.” You regaled Howard Stern the other day with a story about how miserable and oppressed your son felt in a Malibu high school that hung a single sign forbidding the use of the word “gay” as an insult, and how you shared a moment of father-son bonding over how gay the sign itself was. “If someone says you can’t say ‘gay’ like that, you can tell them to go fuck themselves,” you assured us in your Guardian op-ed piece. “You’re not going to get anything politically correct out of me.”
Well, that’s not exactly true. If you define “political correctness” as “watching your mouth so as not to offend the sensibilities of the people around you,” we actually get a megadose of political correctness from you every time one of your singles gets a radio edit. You can’t say “fuck” on television or on the radio, so you don’t, and I’ve never heard you complain about anyone coming for your fucks. You give that right up willingly when it benefits you, and you know that you do.
THE USE OF “GAY” AS AN INSULT IS DAMAGING TO GAY KIDS IN THE WAY THAT OTHER SWEAR WORDS ARE NOT.
Educators are increasingly forbidding the use of the word “gay” as a pejorative, in an attempt to make schools as safe a space for as many young people as they can be. The use of “gay” as an insult is damaging to gay kids in the way that other swear words—swear words that are also commonly forbidden in schools, which also doesn’t compromise anyone’s right to free speech—are not. You’ve never been a gay kid. I have. Here’s what happens when you’re a gay kid and the people around you use the word “gay” to mean “foolish, silly, less worthy”: You begin to believe that you are foolish, silly, less worthy. And it’s all because of a biological desire within you that is as natural and healthy as your predilection for “skinny white chicks with big tits” (Rolling Stone). You feel desire and then you immediately feel shame. And then you try to turn off your desire. And you can’t, because nobody can. So then you feel anger because you cannot turn off your desire, and then you feel fear, because you worry that everyone around you can tell how angry and ashamed and gay you are.
And then you smile and you fix your hair and you put a good fucking face on it so that nobody will suspect that there’s a storm raging inside of you.
And over time, you get really good at all of this, because you get a lot of practice over a lot of years, so you can get the whole process down to a fraction of a second. You spend your formative years building a giant concrete maze inside your soul that it will take you decades to even acknowledge, much less try to get out of. When I meet a man I am attracted to, it is all I can do not to hyperventilate into a paper bag—and I am 43 years old. Kids right this second, in the year 2015, are still stuck building that shitty, awful maze and dropping themselves inside it, because people like you don’t want to spend two seconds thinking of a kinder word to say.
I have spent time with you, and I have seen up close how much time you spend with your shirt wide open, so I am confident that you have never experienced this kind of shame. But it’s real. Trust me. And you’re extending its life another day by bravely making a stand against the rampaging armies of political correctness that don’t exist, and fighting for your right to do this cruel thing that you think is awesome.
Our culture often tells racial and religious minorities that they’re less worthy, but they can claim to have a shared experience with their families. Gay kids in nearly every case have straight parents, and gay kids in nearly every case are terrified to tell those parents what they’re going through, because in a lot of cases their straight parents think gay people are at best foolish, silly, and less worthy, and at worst: actually evil. Gay kids have to go through this alone. It’s terrifying. It’s a waste of time in the one life we all get on this planet. Somewhere out there, there was a kid who was about to open up to his or her parents or friends about his or her sexuality, but listened to your Howard Stern interview and heard all those grownups giggling about how great it is to demean gay people, and decided that it would be in everyone’s best interest to remain alone and scared to death for a little bit longer. That kid might have even pretended to laugh along. I would have. More recently than I’m comfortable admitting, I would have. Fuck that.
I am aware of how American you are, because you talk about it almost as much as you talk about how awesome it is to use “gay” as an insult. Good for you. I love this country, too. Here’s a fun little bit of history every American should know: In 1942, the U.S. military instituted a regulation banning men and women who “habitually or occasionally engaged in homosexual or other perverse sexual practices.” Thanks for your service, brave soldiers, but we just decided you’re immoral, so out you go. Those discharged for homosexuality were generally coming from the Pacific theater and were processed out of San Francisco. They were in many cases too ashamed to go back where they came from. So they stayed. They stayed and they found each other. And they talked and they realized they didn’t have anything to be ashamed of. So they fought back against the shame and ignorance and cruelty that got them stuck in a strange city, unemployed and with a discharge on their records after risking their actual lives for freedom. Their fighting spirit got us later generations of gay people the right to assemble without the fear of being rounded up and carted off to jail. They got us through a plague. They got us the right to marry. They probably fucked up a storm, and I’m sorry I missed it. They were more American and more badass than you (or I, I’ll admit it) will ever be. They got us here, to a place where I can tell you, man to Kid, to knock this goofy bullshit off already.
Right now, you might be thinking Or what? Or nothing. I’m not going to beat you up. I’m not going to organize a boycott. But I will tell you this: Bit by tiny bit, this world is turning into a cooler, more open, more accepting, more joyful place, and we’re making it that way, and every time you use the word “gay” as an insult, you reveal yourself to be the kind of person we don’t want to bring along with us. I would hate for you to miss it. You seem like a nice guy.
Close your shirt.