In the past year, two public figures made international news by opening up about their sexuality: Jason Collins in the NBA and Frank Ocean in R&B. Gone are the days when being gay or lesbian was a media burden. The climate is changing because the LGBT community successfully demands equal rights, no matter how loud or uncomfortable the conversation.
Then there is hip-hop.
Hot 97’s Mister Cee, a legendary deejay in New York City, has been accused of allegedly soliciting male or transgender prostitutes on more than one occasion. Cee, 46, is a born and raised New Yorker with roots in the West Indies. He has worked with giants in hip-hop like Big Daddy Kane, and Notorious B.I.G. Cee is a stereotypical masculine man in hip-hop. Therefore, an allegation of same-sex relations drops some jaws because — bizarrely — people still believe sexual orientation is equivalent to gender expression.
This weekend, Cee found himself in the media again for allegedly soliciting sex from an undercover cop, with conflicting reports on whether the officer was male or female. Monday morning, Cee went on Hot 97 to discuss the controversy. For over 40 minutes, Cee endured a verbal witch-hunt from his radio colleagues. Interviewed by Ebro Darden, and seemingly less concerned with the illegal activity of prostitution, Darden dramatically and repeatedly demanded to know if Cee was gay — as if he were accusing the deejay of murder. To soften the blow, Darden added, “we’re going to crack some jokes because you’re our brother.” And to mock Cee a bit more, another deejay, Cipha Sounds, played the house anthem “Follow Me,” a song known for its popularity in gay clubs.
Listening to the program, I thought to myself: If Cee is gay, embarrassment and a demand for the truth are not helpful. Who would shout they are “here and queer” during an interview like the one on Hot 97?
Clearly mocking their “brother” in crisis, the hosts sprinkled a little “we don’t care if you’re gay” babble — but it seemed as if they did care, all while enjoying interrogating Mister Cee, soaking up the glow of their “exclusive interview.” Cee sounded desperate, confused and weakly attempted to explain himself personally and legally. It was sad to hear; but this is the culture of hip-hop.
Coming out a personal decision
Anti-gay sentiments aren’t what they used to be in hip-hop. Eminem, 50 Cent, Common and others no longer spit hateful lyrics. The rhymes may have changed, but the mindset has not. Sure, there is Frank Ocean, but he never used the word “gay” to describe his sexual orientation and gets a pass for his alternative quirkiness. Hot 97’s tabloid interview with Cee proves there isn’t a safe space to come out in mainstream hip-hop. Listening to Ebro’s Judge-Judy-type cross-examination almost made me want to go back in the closet!
In a candid moment of the interview, Cee calmly explained, “For argument’s sake, let’s say … if I’m lying. If I’m lying and I choose not to come out — that’s my choice.” Unhappy with the hypothetical, Ebro tried to shame Cee into confessing by claiming, “it’s disrespectful to other gay and lesbian people because they see it as you’re hiding something!” He added it “angers” people. When did Ebro become an expert on queer theory? Obviously Ebro isn’t familiar with Keith Boykin’s One More River to Cross or Alan Downs’ Velvet Rage.
The LGBT community believes in freedom. Coming out is an individual journey and contrary to what radio jocks on Hot 97 believe, unless you are outwardly homophobic, the LGBT community is not angry with anyone for not being out and proud … I’m sure we all wish “ex-gay” Antoine Dodson would’ve stayed in the closet.
Sure, there might be folks who question why so-and-so isn’t public, but it’s a decision everyone must make on their own time. Dragging someone out of the closest can cause a lifetime of damage. Furthermore, many people have same-sex relations, but do not identify as gay or lesbian or being part of the LGBT community. Identities are fluid, complex and not easily explainable on radio airwaves. The toxic atmosphere of Hot 97’s radio show was regressive, crude and — if Mister Cee is not heterosexual — will push him deeper into the closet, especially after reading the Twitter responses to the interview.
‘Imprinted to be closeted’
If Cee is gay, bisexual or doesn’t believe in labels, I know many like him: A 46 year-old black man who didn’t grow up with the affirmations of today, plus the restraints of hip-hop. Twenty years older than Frank Ocean, over a decade older than Jason Collins; Cee and many in his generation do not possess the tools to identify under the LGBTQ umbrella. Mister Cee is imprinted to be closeted.
Thankfully, Mister Cee never spat homophobia; he repeatedly said he embraces the LGBT community. Yes, he might be “lying” about his sexual orientation. Living an authentic life delivers incredible blessings — on your terms. But Cee is allowed to identify however he desires without justifications. And what if he is straight? Then the hot-button word “gay” is once again being used to criminalize black male sexuality.
Ironically, Cee’s Hot 97 radio cohorts claimed they support the LGBT community but with their catty jokes and “tranny” one-liners, they were ignorantly manifesting homophobia, a concept clearly lost in their insular bubble. Wading the muddy waters of sexuality is overwhelming, especially if you’re in the fairytale land of “manly” hip-hop, which worships flashy cars, barely legal “beauties” and imaginary big d****.
To Kerry Rhodes, the NFL player who was allegedly outed by his ex, to Mister Cee: Regardless of your orientation, no one should disempower you with his or her labels. Coming out doesn’t always result in a celebrated Tumblr post or saving lives via a groundbreaking cover on Sports Illustrated. Sometimes “coming out” is a quiet mention to yourself when the only life you want to save is your own.
Clay Cane is the radio host of Clay Cane Live on WWRL 1600AM. Follow him on Twitter. Follow him on Twitter at @claycane.