June 24, 2024

The Social Experiment: When an LGBTQ Festival Discriminates”

Here’s how the story went. An artist and close friend of mine goes by the stage name “Starrlight,” a lyricist and visual artist from the Netherlands. Creatively, she is an anomaly. Soft-spoken and gentle, her signature dreadlocks swing in mechanical rhythm in her steps to the stage as she smiles shyly in appreciation for the faces in the crowd. She is sweet yet pensive, compassionate yet stern, she is grateful yet confident. She wears no jewelry or adornments and there are no signs of flashiness or attention-grabbing devices to lure an audience into interest. Loose-fitted jogging pants, a simple tee shirt or hoodie and sneakers, Starrlight ascends the stage and grabs the mic. She patrols the stage from one side to the other, scanning and smiling waiting for the cue of the music to begin her set. And just as suddenly as the bass of the music rumbles and as the piano section builds and the drums increase with volume and presence, Starrlight’s expression transforms from docile to manic as she launches ferociously into a loud vocal sonic boom of double-time rapping in a voice and presence that sounds and seems as if she’s either angry or combative or possessed. She moves as aggressive as she sounds, dreadlocks flying and following behind her as if trying to stay glued to her scalp. The crowd’s reaction is stunned and devastated, surprised and mesmerized and confused, and their movements are translated by this rush of emotions. She is the greatest show on Earth in that moment. She is dynamite with no fuse, a candle lit on both ends: She is Starrlight.

Starrlight is many things. An artist, a mother, a lover and significant other.

And Starrlight is bisexual. 

Based in Bern, Switzerland, Queens of Hip-Hop [@queensofhiphop.ch] is a Hip-Hop and Feminist collective and festival looking to spread their respective cultural influences. In preparation for this event, they requested that Starrlight be on the roster to perform. Starrlight, flattered and excited, agreed. One glimpse into her Instagram page, [@galaxyofstarr], Starrlight offers the audience a little bit of everything: Honesty, silliness, sincerity. She proudly showcases her wife and family and musical career, and proudly does not align herself with any chosen Gender or Sexual demographic. She loves people and despises labels, as labels tend to both create community and limitations. She lives out-loud and proud. This is the perfect venue for her.

One afternoon, however, Starrlight received some alarming news. Queens of Hip-Hop [@queensofhiphop.ch] expressed to her Manager that they were no longer interested in having Starrlight perform at the festival. The reason for their decision? They claimed to unearth comments on Social Media in which Starrlight expressed disrespectful and hateful statements and sentiments about the Transgender Community.

Statements and sentiments in which they have no evidence and cannot prove.

As far as the ideology of “acceptance,” it is a beautiful time in history. This generation has challenged the traditional perspectives of family, sexuality and gender, and has used the internet and the voice of the common person to create valuable and progressive dialogue. This has birthed such psychological achievements as Same Sex Marraige, Black Lives Matter, Women’s Rights, the fight for gender-neutral restrooms, but more importantly is the idea that we can all openly and proudly and comfortably be ourselves. This new openness creates a global community where a person can feel connected and fulfilled; a form of emotional honesty where no one has to feel ashamed for these things they feel or the ways that they are. In a perfect world, we have created the perfect world.

Or maybe the perfect world can only exist in our imaginations. Maybe that is the point. Our imaginations are the mother of cultivation and progress, the visualization of something absolute and definite. Thoughts birth this world, no matter how perfect we imagine, or, sadly, how imperfect it is. Because no matter how beautiful your imagination is to live, other people’s imaginations can be the most dangerous places to exist.

Imaginations also birth fear, of the unknown and unfamiliar, and these fears are responsible for racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia. The imagination a person lives in creates the perfect world where people look alike, as do thoughts, sexual and racial preferences, and immediately these fears create separation. These unhealthy fears need to be addressed and destroyed, which is what is powerful about this generation – challenging societal ideals which are more a product of tradition rather than human dignity. But as this generation creates its version of a “perfect world,” its overcorrection often finds itself being guilty of the same prejudices that it’s attempting to destroy.

What these imaginations create is an imperfect world, where narcissism masquerades as equality, where the motive is to destroy and eliminate rather than educate and enlighten, where disagreements become deal breakers and where there is an absolute line in the sand drawn between “us” and “them”. This is the generation of Social Media, where people’s imaginations create their perfect world full of perfect people that say perfect things, a world where everyone agrees and compliments and understands. This is our perfect world because it represents our greatest perfection: Ourselves. People who do not agree with us, people who challenge us and question our positions and convictions become an intolerable hurdle that needs to be removed and discarded and “unfriend”-ed.

This generation loves an idea like Starrlight, a woman who is openly herself, satisfied and happy to reveal to the world her family, herself and her personal choices. But, if a person’s imagination creates this argument that someone, even their ally in their fight for equality, said something they found disagreeable or “problematic”, they will create rhetoric and rumors to attempt to destroy that same ally, even to the point of not actually having a point.

If I could speak directly to the Queens of Hip-Hop festival, I would remind them that in their decision to become cultural ambassadors, they have greatly overlooked the spirit of Hip-Hop. The Hip-Hop culture exists because of its visible connections of race, sexuality and gender, and has successfully transcended the barriers of oceans and continents to become the culture of the world. In its travels, it found its way to Switzerland, where it influenced all of the faces responsible for the inception of your festival. Hip-Hop has embraced all of you, given you a purpose and an identity within its culture which I believe has empowered you to create the first steps of your movement. With this decision you have made comes a very real responsibility to push the culture in a positive way. Unfortunately, it is my belief, and Starrlight’s belief, that you have perverted this power by creating rumors and by creating an idea of hatred for a group of individuals that she does not actually harbor. Hip-Hop was created in America, a country that exists in a perpetual state of monochromatic thought, where race is a real problem and where Black and Brown people have dealt with very extreme versions of oppression due to this country’s relationship with race. In spite of this, Hip-Hop has never excluded White or European people, never limited itself to one race, one nation or one idea. I understand your intolerance for all things related to racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia, and generalized hatred for people looking to oppress with words or corrosive thought. I share in your fight, as does Starrlight, to eliminate the world of meaningless discrimination and to empower progressive thought.

But as far as this issue – IT’S ALL IN YOUR IMAGINATION.

About The Author

Past Interviews

Download Our New App!

Umoja Radio Amazon Mobile AppUmoja Radio Amazon Mobile AppUmoja Radio Android Mobile AppUmoja Radio iPhone Mobile AppUmoja Radio iPhone Mobile App