LGBTQ

Does Azealia Banks Deserve an LGBTQ+ Redemption?

Azealia Banks, a talented rapstress known more for her loose Twitter fingers than for what she spits, is set to headline Wynwood Pride this weekend. There's no denying Banks has garnered a significant LGBTQ+ following. But the question remains: Does she deserve it?

Tracks like "212" and "Luxury" from her debut album Broke With Expensive Taste are mainstays in gay clubs across the nation.

At the same time, she has come under fire for saying those who take the HIV/AIDS prevention medication PrEP are addicted to sex and mentally ill, being captured on video calling a flight attendant a "f**king f**got" in 2015, and asserting that the LGBTQ+ community is akin to "gay white KKK's."

Yet, try as she might to "bid adieu" to her gay fan base, she can't seem to shake her status as a celebrated gay icon.

Perhaps her controversial nature and don't-care attitude are where her fans find redeemable qualities. Her quick wit and targeted criticisms are often funny on the surface — like when she said gay men were "appropriating horse culture" for wearing harnesses and taking ketamine, a drug often used as an equine anesthetic.

Banks continues to benefit from the blank check handed to her by seas of gay men who show up to her concerts in droves. Other artists, though, aren't so lucky. Last summer, rapper DaBaby was canceled and later lost brand partnerships for inflammatory comments about HIV/AIDS and gay men at Rolling Loud Miami.

Those who still support Banks have seemed to help her transcend any notion of cancel culture.

Her music, which often incorporates genres like techno and house, is popular among fans, particularly gay men. And Azealia hasn't ever denied that, either. In a now-viral clip with The Breakfast Club, she agrees when asked if she makes music for gays: "I do...What now?"

It's also quite popular on TikTok — a platform where fans are quick to forget if creators are problematic. Even if they don't understand Banks' history, using her songs for videos helps strip the art from the artist.

Queer musician Lil Nas X, with whom Banks recently said she'd been "keen" on collaborating, calls himself an Azealia Banks fan.

Some feel that Azealia's criticism of the LGBTQ+ community is warranted and that she gets so much pushback because she's a Black woman. Writer Michael Cuby at Them maintains that Banks is a "permanent scapegoat," especially considering the lack of criticism for RuPaul for stealing Banks' flow on her song "The Big Beat."

"The idea that Banks should bow down or somehow feel honored that her work was stolen is nonsense, and her willingness to demand recognition for it should be applauded, not bashed," Cuby says. "It's time we stop expecting Black women to willingly take the short end of the stick."

Banks, 31, has also said on Twitter that she's bisexual: "Why do gay men think everything I post about being gay is about them?! GIRLS ARE GAY TOO. I LIKE VAGINAS."

Some gay men still don't quite think Banks' actions are redeemable, while still acknowledging that her actions are often funny and over-the-top.

"Choosing to extricate her entertainment value from its harmful production is to fetishize the commodity at the expense of women, people of color, and gay and trans people," UCSB Guardian columnist Jacob Sutherland writes. "She herself only stans a chosen few, lashing out against anyone who espouses differing opinions or dares to levy even the smallest complaint against her."

Wynwood Pride, though, has sided with the stans.

Organizers backed her up in an Instagram reply to a fan comment expressing their disappointment with Wynwood Pride's choice to include Banks. They wrote that Banks' brother is trans as well as her close friends and that Banks has acknowledged the importance of gay fans in her career. Her public apology was also a factor in their decision.

Organizers also affirmed that "money is not going to her." Instead, it's going to Equality Florida, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group that is fighting the implementation of the "Don't Say Gay" bill. 

"We here at Wynwood Pride believe in redemption culture, not cancel culture," organizers replied to the angry commenter. "We hope you reconsider and join us for a fab Pride full of love."

Wynwood Pride Festival. 5 p.m. Friday, June 10, and noon Saturday, June 11, at RC Cola Plant, 550 NW 24th St., Miami; wynwoodpride.com. Tickets cost $50 to $250 via tixr.com.