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How “Misquote” of LGBTQ Org Leader in Tabloids Led to Jokes that Joe Biden is Bi

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Someone that goes on Twitter recently may be confused as to why people are making jokes that Joe Biden is bisexual…

While most of the tweets are in good-hearted fun, the jokes actually stem from a series of media entities displaying willful ignorance around LGBTQ+ people and so-called “cancel culture,” and it’s actually pretty facepalm-worthy, but it paints an accurate picture of what the disinformation and queerphobia filling social media looks like for Black LGBTQ+ people recently.

Oddly, it all stems from the DaBaby “controversy” that started this summer, i.e. the rapper’s random decision to condemn gay people and people living with HIV while performing at a festival in July.

If you don’t recall, DaBaby chose to go on this tirade, unprovoked, amidst his performance: “If you didn’t show up today with HIV, AIDS, or any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases, that’ll make you die in two to three weeks, then put your cellphone lighter up…. Ladies, if your pussy smell like water, put your cellphone lighter up. Fellas, if you ain’t sucking dick in the parking lot, put your cellphone lighter up.”

DaBaby was already a “controversial” figure for a myriad of other reasons, mainly the fact that he, y’know, shared the stage with someone who shot a woman earlier this year. But his—again, unprovoked—frankly mind-boggling rant did not earn him any new fans.

The comments led to several condemnations from social media and other musicians. That began phase two of the “controversy,” the “addressing backlash” portion where the person in question stops pretending they don’t know what all the fuss is about.

First, DaBaby made a series of tweets trying to explain that the words weren’t meant to offend. “I told you y’all digested that wrong,” he said in part, “the LGBT community… I ain’t trippin on y’all, do you. y’all business is y’all business,” which I guess by some toddler-level standard can count as an “apology.”

Anyway, DaBaby claimed he had “no intentions on offending anybody,” but that somehow didn’t make the condemnations immediately stop. So a few days later, DaBaby released a music video for the song “Giving What It’s Supposed to Give,” holding up a piece of paper with the word “AIDS” while two men tried to intimidate him. In the song, he also raps, “Bitch, we like AIDS, I’m on your ass, we on your ass, bitch, we won’t go ‘way.” (Whether this was planned beforehand, coincidental, or an impromptu attempt to cash in remains to be seen.)

Needless to say, a lot of people also didn’t like the still-ignorant remarks any more than they did earlier in the week. Yet when Lollapalooza dropped him from performing at their festival, and several others followed suit, phase three began: the so-called “cancellation” of DaBaby for saying things people don’t like. You know, we used to call them consequences for our actions back in the day.

So following that, DaBaby issued a more clearly-worded, adult-level apology: “I want to apologize to the LGBTQ+ community for the hurtful and triggering comments I made. Again, I apologize for my misinformed comments about HIV/AIDS and I know education on this is important.”

Usually, that’s where these type of stories begin to die down and fade into the history of one’s Wikipedia page, but that wasn’t the case in this instance. The condemnations kept coming, with some of DaBaby’s songs on other artists being allegedly removed online after, and his record label allegedly put pressure on the artist to make up for his offensive remarks.

That sent DaBaby into the next phase of the controversy, the rarely-recommended but more-than-common “rescinds apology, doesn’t care who’s offended” step. DaBaby and his fans have since claimed he’s being attacked and LGBTQ people are somehow to blame for his “cancellation,” which in reality was a few people making a business decision not to align with someone clearly without the best sense of judgment.

Despite the fact that, again, LGBTQ people en masse did not rally around or attempt to deplatform DaBaby (and the fact all of this happened in under two weeks, before any such effort could really take off), LGBTQ orgs GLAAD, the Black AIDS Institute, and the Southern AIDS Coalition tried to use the opportunity to open a “dialogue” with DaBaby and others to educate them about how HIV/AIDS has affected the Black and LGBTQ community.

Maybe in the old times, that gesture would have been noble and well-received, but instead, it became the fuel for anti-LGBTQ people’s claims that it was the LGBTQ community who was out to cancel DaBaby and ruin him.

Still, that was all months ago, and DaBaby has since returned to performing as usual, so what does that have to do with tweets about Joe Biden today? Well, if you watched Dave Chappelle’s recent comedy special The Closer (or read about it), you may know that the comedian referenced the DaBaby debacle in part of his, again, unsolicited remarks about LGBTQ+ people, trying to use it as evidence that LGBTQ+ people supposedly have more sociopolitical capital than Black people, as if intersectionality simply isn’t a thing at all. 

So a few days ago on November 2, TMZ issued a report titled: “DaBaby: LGBTQ ORG OK WITH PERFORMANCE … But Condemns Chappelle.” Before we can even discuss that report, let’s clear up that there are very few actual similarities in these instances of “controversy”: DaBaby and Dave Chappelle are two Black performers who said something “controversial” on stage and were denounced subsequently. Chappelle referenced DaBaby’s “controversy” in his subsequently “controversial” comedy special.

That’s really the only similarity here – no matter how one feels about either situation, it’s a big difference between saying one thing that “unintentionally” makes some people upset, and someone who is intentionally doing so for a living. 

Unfortunately, we’re in a time where people are committed to having zero cognitive dissonance, so several social media blogs and news source pages repeated TMZ’s story based on the headline, largely without any of the actual story. Several pages repeated the headline: “The LGBTQ forgives Dababy” or “Just in: LGBTQ+ community has forgiven DaBaby.”

Remember when you were growing up and people told us not to believe everything we read on the internet? I miss those times. But now that anyone can make a Twitter account or Instagram page and claim to be a news source (thanks, Shade Room!), misinformation continues to spread super easily just like this.

Even though it should be clear that there’s no “The LGBTQ” or singular entity that speaks for all queer people, several supposedly legitimate news stories also repeated the story with little information and misleading headlines. As LGBTQ publications have since clarified, there is no “The LGBTQ” monolith available to forgive DaBaby, at least at the time of this publication.

“The LGBTQ organization says they now support DaBaby and his future performances,” Complex wrote in a tweet of an article, with a headline originally reading, “LGBTQ Organization Says It’s OK with DaBaby Performing After Rapper Educates Himself, Condemns Dave Chappelle” – neither of which clarified who exactly “The LGBTQ organization” in question is, if they were trying to speak for LGBTQ people, or anything beyond the tweets themselves.

Several other publications did similarly poor jobs accurately describing the story in their headlines or ledes, if they tried at all.

The Shade Room published a similarly-titled article: “CEO Of LGBTQ Organization Says DaBaby Is Off The Hook.” HotNewHipHop.com‘s headline was “DaBaby Forgiven By LGBTQ Organization For Homophobic Rant While Dave Chappelle Remains Canceled,” while HipHopDX claimed, “DABABY FORGIVEN BY LGBTQ ORGANIZATION FOR ROLLING LOUD COMMENTS.”

Fox News’ sister publication, the New York Post, misleadingly titled their article, “DaBaby gets a pass from LGBTQ community, Chappelle denied.”

Again, the jokes ensued.

All this is still based on the frivolous notion that it is the responsibility of the LGBTQ+ community to decide whether or not to “sign off” on anything DaBaby or Dave Chappelle, based on our supposed collective “forgiveness.” We don’t have a United Nations of LGBTQ+ people waiting to adopt a resolution on the Absolution of DaBaby. That’s not how this works. 

Despite what Ellen DeGeneres may have told you all, we are not here just for you to ask us whether “we” are “okay” with being made fun of or not. . When people do or say something racist, it’s not up to people of color to “sign off” on when they stop being racist or not, and when people do or say something misogynistic, it’s not up to women to get together and “evaluate” when to forgive their misogyny.

Each person has their own opinions about what qualifies as a form of bigotry, and relying on any singular person to decide for other people whether something is harmful to those people or not is really some grade school-level nonsense.

Also, the actual story TMZ was reporting on? It was a singular exchange with one person – Gwendolyn Clemons, the CEO of Relationship Unleashed, a small, Memphis-based non-profit organization that works with Black and LGBTQ communities. The tabloid reports that Clemons “and her cohorts at the nonprofit approve of DB’s appearance at Rolling Loud NY… and any future concerts — as they feel he’s learned a lot over the past few months.”

100 organizations signing a petition and DaBaby meeting with at least one org does not equal “DaBaby met with… 100+ other orgs,”

They also claim that Clemons told them that “DaBaby met with them as well as 100+ other orgs that advocate for the LGBTQ community,” which would have probably been the only “newsworthy” part of this story to anyone.

TMZ’s story as originally published, which you can read here, did not actually include any of the words that Clemons said, but just paraphrased what she reportedly said. That became the basis of a social media frenzy reigniting the DaBaby “cancellation” and conflating it with a completely unrelated “controversy.”

Clemons and Relationship Unleashed, which runs the publication Unleashed Voice Magazine, have since claimed that they were “grossly misquoted” in their own publication’s article on the matter. Clemons says she finds it “particularly offensive” that TMZ would do this and that their article “erroneously minimizes the work that Relationship Unleashed does for the LGBTQIA+ community and people living positively.

In response, TMZ denied “misquoting” Clemons and posted her entire email to them, where Clemons clearly states, “Relationship Unleashed was one of the 12 original organizations that joined together to address DaBaby,” in one sentence, before saying in the next, “Prior to meeting with him[,] over 100 organizations had signed our petitions.”

100 organizations signing a petition and DaBaby meeting with at least one org does not equal “DaBaby met with… 100+ other orgs,” no matter how you try to spin words and numbers here. (In the spirit of you know, accuracy, we spared the time to Google who DaBaby has met with, and it was actually leaders from 9 organizations.)

The rest of the email details Clemons’ belief that DaBaby’s initial remarks were “rooted in place of miseducation and sheer ignorance,” but that she believes “he deserves to perform,” but that Chappelle’s situation is not the same because he “knows exactly what he’s doing.” Again, not the same as “condemning” Chappelle instead of DaBaby.

Despite updating and defending their story, TMZ does not include how this story came about and what exactly they asked Clemons that even initiated the response in the first place, so it’s not exactly the “gotcha” they made it seem to be.

It’s exactly what Chappelle, especially with his last special, and his ilk have wanted this entire time. They get the opportunity to tell us we’re “offended” and “outraged” and “too woke” and all these other things we supposedly are, without us actually being able to take part in the conversation they started.

Do you notice the main motif in this story so far? Not a single part of this was initiated or asked for by LGBTQ+ people themselves. That’s the point. It’s all a bunch of musicians, celebrities, media groups, and businesses attempting to monetize the so-called “cancel culture” outrage to their benefit, one way or another, and the marginalized people who are made fun of or “offended” are never the center of the conversation. Every time people in the actual communities supposedly behind the “outrage” say something, it simply validates the narrative each party is trying to push on them.

It’s exactly what Chappelle, especially with his last special, and his ilk have wanted this entire time. They get the opportunity to tell us we’re “offended” and “outraged” and “too woke” and all these other things we supposedly are, without us actually being able to take part in the conversation they started, because they use it to prove themselves right.

It’s the only end result of the supposed “cancel culture” misnomer: First comes the unprovoked, uneducated thoughts of someone, than the supposed “backlash” and the “addressing” of that, then the “cancellation,” then the “apologies” or “no apologies” part, all keeping the supposed “canceled” party in the discussions of media, which directly leads to financial gain – wash, rinse, repeat.

Remember the saying If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? This is the new version: If celebrities and media outlets claim a community is outraged, and people actually in the community aren’t asked or get misrepresented when they do, does it actually matter what that community has to say?

It’s one thing for TMZ to spend their time continuing to perpetuate the non-story here for clicks, but then several “serious” publications repeated their claims without any actual first-hand knowledge or sourcing. Complex and other hip-hop sites, tabloids like the Post, and even local media sites were just some of the media organizations that joined in to amplify a narrative gossip pages and a bunch of Twitter pages were already parroting. Solely based off of one email exchange.

Now, enter famed 2000s rapper and podcast host Joe Budden. For those not aware (and you’ll wish you had stayed that way), Budden hosts a popular podcast with a few other people, talking about hip-hop culture and other things. Naturally, this topic came up on their most recent episode, and since they’re not exactly trying to act as the most responsible crew in podcast-land, the facts of the story are once again casually misrepresented.

During the course of the story, Budden says, “I’m bisexual. How do I spread this news? How do I spread the word? Listen, I like guys and girls. Spread the word. I’m down.”

He was speaking tongue-in-cheek, but in fitting fashion, the clip was taken out of context and made to seem as if Budden was actually coming out.

While we won’t try to speak to Budden’s sexuality on his behalf, we’ll take his past not-so-queer-friendly comments (especially about bi rapper iLoveMakonnen) and the context of the ignorant conversation this was said in, and assume this is all one big joke for him.

Nevertheless, the remarks went around social media and started a trail of funny tweets in response.

As has become a common in-joke on Twitter when anything about Budden is said, people began to attribute the statements to Joe Biden as a “mistake” (well, some may have actually made that mistake.)

While there’s nothing wrong with getting jokes out of the current end result of this mess, there’s a lot wrong with the reality here. It seems harmless, but all this has done is cycle around endless anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric that keeps marginalizing queer people, painting us as both sensitive cry-babies and this all-powerful entity out to crush anyone we don’t like, despite the fact that people are still being killed and criminalized for being gay and trans in America, which media entities like TMZ and Complex aren’t addressing outside of when they want clickbait.

For example, there was no discussion about the Relationship Unleashed’s mission or the work they do. They’re a Memphis-based non-profit working to improve the lives of Black LGBTQ people, one that Lil Nas X previously included in his “baby registry” of charities that people could contribute to. Now, their reputation is marred by being attached to this “controversy” in the thralls of the internet for the foreseeable future.

No space is given to explaining why Clemons may have felt personally invested in discussing DaBaby’s comments, as she lost her sister to AIDS in 1991. That crucial bit of context wasn’t reported by any of the publications.

This all stems from the classic cycles of media illiteracy, misinformation spreading online, celebrities being anti-LGBTQ for no reason, and then LGBTQ people being attacked for their faux “outrage” regardless.

So while some of us can laugh about all this, it’s because Black LGBTQ+ people have grown accustomed to doing so as a coping mechanism for being the never-ending punching bag – or, as Chappelle might prefer, punchline – of any and every “controversy.” We’re always demonized as both the antagonizer and the antagonized, yet our actual existence or participation isn’t even addressed.

Meanwhile, it amplifies actual, serious queerphobia, and the same groups continuing this cycle feign ignorance as to how. Just last week, Lil Boosie made several statements calling for out rapper Lil Nas X to commit suicide, calling him “NOBODY WANTS U HERE”, and while some people may be able to shrug off such callous remarks, there are actual LGBTQ youth committing suicide every day, many who see nothing but crap like this on their Facebook and Instagram feeds every single day.

It’s one thing that youth has to put up with bullying from their peers, bigotry from adults forced into their lives, a lack of representation in media and education, and disproportionate inability to participate in basic activities like sports or employment, but they can’t even get online and not have their existence used as a punchline or a vulgarity by celebrities or publications, or look up their local LGBTQ+ organization without being confronted with it. Intentionally or not, that’s exactly what they’ve done in this instance.

Maybe TMZ can reach out to “The LGBTQ” and get our opinion on whether we’d like to cancel that or not.

Editor’s Note: We reached out for comment from TMZComplex, and Relationship Unleashed. Relationship Unleashed CEO Gwendolyn D. Clemons told INTO, in part, “Our nonprofit organization works to elevate the facts about HIV, to end the stigma, discrimination and fear that keeps people from being tested and treated… the conversation with DaBaby was a beginning, not the only action that he should take to rectify that harm caused. The sensational and inaccurate article from TMZ missed this important point. We felt the meeting went well, but of course more work should be done by DaBaby and all of us to continue this conversation and center it on educating everyone about the truth about HIV, that it is 99% preventable with medication like PrEP and that people living with HIV today, when on effective treatment, lead long and healthy lives and cannot transmit HIV. Undetectable = untransmittable.

“We are HIV advocates, Black and LGBTQ-led, and our vibrant community has many different opinions, but we are united in our commitment to supporting LGBTQ people against discrimination, to care with compassion for people living with HIV, to end the stigma driving new diagnoses, and to end the HIV epidemic.”♦

This story will be updated if and when we receive a response from other parties.

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