Headbangers’ Brawl is a weekly column where Metal Insider’s contributors take a moment to debate and analyze opposing sides of a topical issue occurring in the world of metal and/or the music industry.
Yesterday, Cynic members Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert, who also played in Death, came out as gay men. They’re to be commended for this, and it’s probably a big relief for them, but we were wondering, in the year 2014, how big of a deal is it that they’ve come out?
Bram: It seemed like it wasn’t that big of a secret amongst their friends, family and the metal community that they were gay. As I noted when I wrote the article, Cynic’s music isn’t for everyone in the first place. Even at their heaviest, the band have jazz and prog influences that have made them a cult favorite since their formation. I’d have to imagine that almost nobody that’s remained a fan for all these years will be like “I hate these guys now that 2/3rds of them are gay.” Members of Torche and Gorgoroth and Otep have been out for years, and in the wake of Rob Halford coming out all the way back in 1996, I can’t think that it’s a huge revelation.
On the other hand, there are probably many men and women involved in heavy music that are closeted and living in fear of coming out. If Masvidal and Reinert’s bravery in coming out empowers others to do so, then this is nothing if not a great thing. But since Halford came out in 1998, I think (or at least hope) that America has undergone a pretty drastic change in social mores, and there’s a lot less homophobia than there was 16 years ago.
Zach: It’s a shame that anyone still lives in fear of coming out, but sadly in many parts of this country, such a fear and prejudice exists. With that said, I’d like to think that Rob Halford coming out opened a lot of doors in the metal community (or at least created a lot more acceptance amongst metal heads). Although I’d also like to think that we as a society are above casually using gay slurs to belittle others (but as some bands and many online commenters have proven, we are not). Still, if Masvidal and Reinert coming out encourages others to feel safe to come out, then even better.
Chris: As both a metal fan and an ardent supporter of gay rights, I have two views about this. First, I see this as a victory for metal musicians and the music community at large. This is yet another example of why metal is no longer the exclusive scene that it was often believed to be. No matter what your race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or shoe size is, you will be accepted in the metal world if you come ready to rock out. Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert are further proof of this truth.
Second, I see this as an opportunity for the metal community to prove itself to the world at large. Cynic is currently one of the most popular progressive metal bands out there, and while they may not pull the sales numbers that Whitechapel put up this week
, they still are well-respected by every generation of metal fan. This is a chance for metal fans to prove that they will still love and support a band, regardless of the sexual orientation of its members, and choose to focus on the music instead of the hype. After the recent bout of accusations (which were eventually proven false) towards Inquisition of being Nazis, I think metal needs some good press to show that metal fans are not the block-headed morons that some members of society would make us out to be. This seems like just the thing. If the metal community were to rise up and show nearly-universal support for Masvidal and Reinert, then we could never be pigeonholed again as being ignorant assholes that hate the entire world.
In the grand scheme of things, it might not seem like a huge deal. Like Bram said, today is a different world than it was in the mid-90’s, especially in terms of gay rights. Cynic have been lauded and respected for years and no decent person would forsake them now over the sexuality of its members.
That being said, just because it’s gotten better doesn’t mean it’s fixed. There is still homophobia present in today’s society and sometimes people don’t notice it simply because they’re straight. Just the seemingly harmless use of the phrase “that’s gay” in place of “that’s stupid” or ” that’s dumb” is but one example and perpetuates the idea that being gay is wrong. So, while it might not seem like a big deal for Masvidal and Reinert to be out, it is to them and to any other gay or lesbian metal musicians and fans. I say congrats to them and keep up the great work.
Anthony: I think it’s great whenever someone in a particular community (in this case, the metal community) feels comfortable coming out about their sexuality. The biggest deal for me is that I don’t believe musicians or celebrities should need to hide the fact at all in the first place. Not that I’m saying they should do it just to do it, but I don’t think they should be afraid to say it when they want to say it, as most of you have already pointed out.
The second question is: does this have anything to do with their music? And the answer to that is no. You should like or dislike their music regardless of sexual orientation. Same with every band ranging from Judas Priest to Queen. There are only a few instances of true bigotry or hate-fueled words where I feel a musician should be liked or disliked based on any kind of social issue. Let the music speak, and ONLY for these few instances let social issues get in the way of that.
Chip: My initial reaction to this is, ‘It’s 2014. Why is someone’s sexual orientation a hot button topic?’ Unfortunately it is because a certain segment of our society refuses to acknowledge that equal rights actually means equal rights for everyone, not just everyone exactly like them. It’s also a topic for discussion apparently because being gay and being in a metal band is still seen as taboo to some. Historically certain genres of music (not just metal, I’d argue hip-hop is a worse offender) have not been as welcoming to the gay community as other genres. But, again, it’s 2014 and in this day and age it’s ridiculous to think that people shouldn’t feel comfortable with being who they are. The fact that these guys felt compelled to make some sort of public announcement about their sexual orientation should tell you that we’ve still not solved the problem of actually equality. Do straight musicians have to announce to their fans that they are straight? Does someone’s sexual orientation actually affect the quality of the music? Of course not. The day that no one actually cares if you are a gay musician and only looks at you as a musician is the day we can say that we’ve reached some level of true equality in the music community.