Heavy metal performer and self-proclaimed “bad guy” Phil Labonte, who has a history of controversial comments about gays, is stirring the pot again by saying LGBT people don't have a “legit grievance” concerning slurs.
Phil Labonte, the lead singer of All That Remains, made the comment in Revolver magazine’s January cover story. The particular exchange with interviewer Jon Wiederhorn is not in the excerpt on the magazine's website, but other sites have posted it, including The PRP, a site devoted to hard rock and heavy metal music.
“I have nothing against gay people,” Labonte said. Referring to the f word, he said, “It’s just a word.” The singer, who is white, said he believes no one besides African-Americans has a right to complain about slanderous language.
“Honestly, I think the only people that have a legit grievance when it comes to any racial slurs is the black community,” Labonte said. “I know the homosexual community has problems with it and I understand their hurt feelings. But homosexuals were never property. They’ve had a rough time and I’m not trying to minimize that, but I think the black community has a whole lot more room to be upset about a word than the LGBT community.
“It’s one thing to say, ‘This guy said something and it hurt my feelings and it bummed me out and it sucks.’ Okay, that’s a good perspective. But I don’t know that you need a whole social movement.
“When it comes to the shit that black people have gone through I think it’s okay to be like, ‘Well you know, that was seriously fucked up.’ We need to do something about this.”
John Becker, editor in chief of LGBT site Bilerico, denounced the singer’s statements, which he suggested were comparing the struggles of blacks and gays as if they were competing in an “Oppression Olympics.”
“Phil honey,” Becker wrote, “you’re a straight white man. It’s not your place to tell members of any oppressed group what hateful slurs they do and do not have a right to be offended by, or to opine about when their grievances are ‘legit’ and when and where they have ‘room to be upset.’”
As to why Labonte would dare stir up LGBT-related controversy again, his band does have a new album out next month, and his comments have made headlines across various media outlets. Plus, he told Revolver, “I just get a kick out of being an antagonist. When it comes to rubbing people the wrong way, I don’t care who I offend.”
“There are no more bad guys in rock and roll and metal,” he said. “If the metal world is looking for a bad guy, I’ll be that guy.”
In the weeks since Revolver published the interview, Labonte has been lambasted online for those remarks. He posted the following response on Facebook and Twitter, concluding his thoughts with a quote from former congressman Ron Paul, a libertarian-leaning Republican:
“Seen a lot of brouhaha on the interwebs about the revolver article. Of course lots of people are saying I should be beat up or killed or I should kill myself. So, basically the blogs n commenters on said blogs are saying this, ‘freedom of speech, so long as you don't offend me.’ So these people are of the same mindset of the people who said the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris were justified because some things are just too offensive. I fully understand that to some people it is offensive to hear the word ‘faggot’. I get it, you’re fragile and words give you ouchies. But remember what you’re asking for when you decry protecting the freedom of speech.