Stevie Wonder

Last week, writer Paul Lester asked Stevie Wonder about Frank Ocean. This should’ve been a pretty innocuous question, a chance for an elder statesman genius to say something nice about a young artist who’s doing great work while clearly staying under Wonder’s influence. That’s not exactly what happened. Wonder did say, “I like Frank,” but he also offered this:

I think honestly, some people who think they’re gay, they’re confused. People can misconstrue closeness for love. People can feel connected, they bond. I’m not saying all [gay people are confused]. Some people have a desire to be with the same sex. But that’s them.”

Yikes, Stevie Wonder! That comment came from a profile that ran in The Guardian on Thursday. And over the weekend, he made a statement to MTV News in which he attempted to clear up what he’d said:

I’m sorry that my words about anyone feeling confused about their love were misunderstood. No one has been a greater advocate for the power of love in this world than I; both in my life and in my music. Clearly, love is love, between a man and a woman, a woman and a man, a woman and a woman and a man and a man. What I’m not confused about is the world needing much more love, no hate, no prejudice, no bigotry and more unity, peace and understanding. Period.

That doesn’t seem like what you were trying to say, Stevie Wonder! But we might just have to accept it, since nobody wants to live in a world where Stevie Wonder is a homophobic dickbag.

Comments (79)
  1. If he had meant that comment, how would that make him a “homophobic dickbag”? Please, explain to this simpleton how that is.

    • The ‘homophobic dickbag’ is often referred to as a person lacking perspective or understanding of the gay community. They are most commonly found in Chick Fil A’s but have also been spotted as far north as Harvey’s.

    • Because Mr. Wonder would have been proclaiming that homosexuality doesn’t exist and that they are only confused because of their choice in loving someone of the same sex.

      • He did not say that. His exact words were: “some people who think they’re gay, they’re confused. I’m not saying all [gay people are confused].” He never “proclaimed” that homosexuality doesn’t exist.

    • Broadly questioning the legitimacy of homosexuality is the basis of being a homophobe. Not recognizing that in this instance is the basis of being a simpleton…

      • Where in that statement did he “broadly” question the legitimacy of homosexuality? Are you saying – and please back this up with facts – that there aren’t people who struggle with their sexuality? Because, that’s total bull.

        • “Some people who think they’re gay, they’re confused” — you reading the same article as us, Brad?

        • It was just a strange response to the question The Guardian posed, which was, “Was [Wonder] surprised that there could, in 2012, be a furore at the revelation that a rapper might be gay?” I have a feeling his response was taken somewhat out of context. His response doesn’t follow the question that he was supposedly asked, leading me to think that this quote came up at some point in the conversation and the journalist lazily paired it with a question that was never directly asked.

          However, questioning whether people who identify themselves as gay truly are gay is a display of ignorance. It’s condescending to the gay community. It’s spouting an opinion that reflects lack of understanding about LGBT issues, which equates to homophobia. You’re on the losing end of an argument if you think otherwise. The question is whether or not this is truly what he was saying.

          • Well, Anne Heche would beg to differ with you (she says she was insane during her relationship with Ellen – is that an insult to the LGBT community?), so would my sister – who claimed she was gay for years, and then one day said that she wasn’t sure, then decided she wasn’t interested in sex at all – and NOW says she’s gay again and has been committed to her partner for three years now. The definition of homophobia doesn’t include questioning if a person is truly gay or not. It can mean hate, intolerance, violence, fear – the same as racism. Wonder’s words don’t traffic in any of that . Sexuality can be complicated and confusing – unlike the color of someone’s skin.

          • Okay well let’s say you really like Centipede Hz. You’re all about Centipede Hz and everything about it and you think that it’s better than all the other Animal Collective albums. For some reason, your favorite thing to do is listen to it while jumping on your bed in a night gown that would probably be more fitting on an elderly woman. You’re entitled to this. It’s part of who you are. Then I come along. I don’t really Centipede Hz, but I haven’t really spent all that much time trying to understand it and, quite frankly, I don’t really care to. I certainly don’t understand why you would jump on your bed in an old lady’s nightie while you listen to it. It’s foreign to me. So my response to you is, “maybe you don’t actually know what you like”. Do you see how that’s condescending? It’s almost as condescending as my usage of this metaphor.

          • bullshit. like sigler here, i too have known people who thought they might be gay, only to later say that they are straight and were all along. granted, they never came out as gay, and had they done so i’d never question that. but i would imagine (and no, i can’t relate) that having those types of feelings in the first instance would be a confusing time in a young person’s life – so what’s wrong with calling it just that, confusing? merely questioning something should not yield the conclusion that one is a homophobic bigot.

            and listening to anco while wearing granny’s nightgown has nothing to do with anything.

          • I should have used a different album as an example. I don’t actually dislike Centipede Hz, people.

          • I know sexuality is a gray area. It’s not black and white. There are a wide range of identities therein. I’m saying that, within the context of this article, there is something really dismissive about saying “a lot of gays are just confused” when asked to share an opinion about the reaction to Frank Ocean being gay. There is nothing wrong with stating the fact that people are in fact confused about their sexual identities, but that’s not what they have Wonder saying here.

            You guys aren’t reading.

          • I’m also not conceding that this is even what Stevie Wonder said. I’m saying that what the article is making him say IS, in fact, homophobic within the context that it is presented. And there’s no question about it. The context in which he actually said those words may have not been homophobic at all in reality. But the article made him look homophobic. That is all I’m saying.

          • “there is something really dismissive about saying “a lot of gays are just confused”.”

            Seems that YOU are the one that’s not reading here. It’s very short and my six-year old can read it:

            “I think honestly, SOME people who think they’re gay, they’re confused. People can misconstrue closeness for love. People can feel connected, they bond. I’m not saying all [gay people are confused]. Some people have a desire to be with the same sex. But that’s them.”

            There Is NOTHING homophobic about this statement. Nothing hateful, nothing angry, nothing dismissive, nothing, nada, zip.

            Also, given the long history of misogyny, violence and homophobia in the rap community, I don’t think that’s an unfair thing for Stevie to ponder at all. Rappers haven’t shown a great deal of “tolerance” to anyone.

          • Nathan im sorry, but that Centipede Hz metaphor was terrible

          • I have agreed with you multiple times that Wonder’s quote by itself is not homophobic, but the context makes it so it can be construed as such.

            What I am saying: It can be read as homophobic within the context of The Guardian article, but there is a possibility they took his quote out of context. There is a possibility he did not mean anything homophobic by it.

            What you are saying: It can never be interpreted as homophobic by anyone because the dictionary says so.

            I’d say we should agree to disagree but we’re not even completely disagreeing. This is the last I will say on the matter.

          • and spennyb. I’m sorry. I was trying to break down my logic using something topical. Didn’t work.

        • “some people who think they’re gay, they’re confused”

          It’s sort of right in there, in what he said. Not saying Stevie Wonder is himself homophobic, but that’s definitely a homophobic thing to say.

          • False. I went to high school with a girl who thought she was bisexual and bedded other females during a confused, rebellious phase which also involved cutting herself. Now she is happily married to a man and considers herself heterosexual.

            Some of you guys are way too eager to make this a black-and-white sort of deal. “Anyone who thinks it is possible for a young person to be sexually confused is a hater!” Well, no, not really.

            I would imagine that people who are toward the middle of Kinsey scale tend to experience a bit of sexual confusion during their adolescent years…before coming to the conclusion that they are bisexual and being able to admit it to themselves.

        • Perhaps, but Frank said very plainly that he was in love with a man. There is no confusion involved in the issue at hand, and to bring that up is ignorant and hurtful on Stevie’s part. Not sure how you can argue that. I don’t think he’s a homophobic d*ckbag, however. LOL. Just ignorant. He should have said “love is love” in the first place.

    • All you have to do is substitute “straight” for “gay” in his comments to realize how patronizing his remarks are. You would never imply that people who experience opposite-sex attraction might just be confused about it.

      • Not necessarily true. I thought about the same thing, that is, inserting “straight” for “gay” and ended with the opposite conclusion. A lot of straight people are confused about their sexuality and I don’t see how it is in anyway patronizing to say that..

        Also, more generally, this whole thing really seems like toe stepping. No one can say anything now without it being considered some sort of prejudice or hate. People crusade against the craziest shit. Wonder’s comments, if one considers them homophobic, are still way done the list of homophobic problems in this world.

        • And really, Tom’s comment that implies Wonder might be a “homophobic dickbag” seems more hate filled than anything in Wonder’s quote. Not only is it awful to wonder, but the very phrasing reveals a linguistically inscribed homophobia. If being a dickbag is a bad thing, then I imagine liking dicks is a bad thing, then i imagine gay people are a bad thing, then i am a homophobic dickbag…oh wait…

  2. Taking things out of context: The new go to move of 21st century “journalism.”

    • Taking things out of context is the oldest trick in the book. Pretty sure the devil did it.

      • Speaking of the devil, can someone tell the GAP that this “Styld by” campaign is a complete failure? And to anyone who’s thinking of responding like, “well, it got you talking about it” – it got me hating it, i haven’t clicked on it, and i’m losing respect for all entities involved. Plug that in to your marketing impressions metrics.

        -verbal kint’s dick

  3. This is the worst thing to come out of Stevie Wonder’s mouth since “I just called to say I love you.”

  4. Well, well, well, isn’t HE lovely?

  5. Ha! Stevie’s comment sounds like a Stereogum comment at the top of the Worst section in the Shut Up, Dude weekly.

    Mr Wonder, we DOWNVOTE you!

  6. If gay people can still eat at Chick-fil-A, I’m sure they can still enjoy Talking Book. I know I sure can.

  7. Here’s hoping for an Eminem/Elton John type collab at the VMAs this week

  8. I would like to offer (AND I’D LIKE TO SPECIFY DEVIL’S ADVOCATE STATUS) that I don’t think Wonder’s comment was homophobic. I also don’t think Wonder was, as Perez Hilton intimated, “imply[ing] a heterosexual loves their Cherie amour more authentically than a homosexual loves the sunshine of THEIR life”.

    Does anybody bat an eye when someone implies a heterosexual person might have homosexual leanings? I think — the amount of intolerance in this country notwithstanding — it’s not any more offensive to offer the opinion that “not all gay people are truly gay” as it is to offer “not all straight people are truly straight”.

    Food for thought

  9. And here the whole time I thought love was blind.

  10. Stevie’s comments did make him seem a bit old and clueless, but maybe that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise since he is old and he’s a singer not a human sexuality expert.

    I’m with Brad, I think homophobic dickbag is a bit harsh… actually it’s totally off base. I don’t think he said anything that should make one think he has a hateful bone in his body.

  11. Stevie’s still a legend regardless of what he says. I think musicians should be looked at for whatever their musical output is, and not for such trivia comments they made.

    • In and of itself that’s certainly a homophobic comment (whether it was taken out of context or not I don’t know) however that doesn’t make Stevie Wonder a homophobe.

  12. Since NO ONE here seems to know the definition of what homophobia actually is:

    HOMOPHOBIA-

    : irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against.

    So…where in his statement did he show a fear of, aversion to or discrimination against homosexuals?

    Here’s another:

    ho·mo·pho·bi·a (hm-fb-)
    n.
    1. Fear of or contempt for lesbians and gay men.

    Did he say he had fear or contempt for homosexuals? I wait patiently for the denial of facts I’ve just given you.

    • Thanks for using a layman’s dictionary. That will clear everything right up.

    • Ohhh, nvm I get it.

    • You were cool when your arguments weren’t diminuative of others, but now you’re kinda sounding like a D-Bag. On the other hand, you’re a very firm supporter of S. Wonder and contextual journalism on a music website, so that’s pretty kewl.

    • As others have pointed out, the fact that Stevie called homosexuality itself — not just Frank Ocean’s orientation — into question is a very mild (but still tangible) form of contempt and aversion. If Ocean had said he loved a woman rather than a man, Stevie wouldn’t have said “well, some people think they’re straight but are confused”. But it’s “homophobic” in the same way that murder and driving 60 in a 55 zone are both “criminal”.

  13. There’s nothing complicated about this, jackass. It’s simple, you just want it to be complicated so that you have something to bitch about. If you want to add your own meaning to things that aren’t there, go right ahead – i’m sure Wikipedia welcomes your ideas on what’s intolerant speech. I can’t find any definition that lists “questioning if one is truly gay” as homophobic. Like racism and sexism, people have decided to attach so much to the words that EVERYTHING is now racist, sexist and homophobic .

    • When asked about someone’s “coming out” (not officially announced that he’s gay but he did publicly say he loved a man) it is rather ignorant to immediately suggest that they are confused. Yes, he said “some” people, but the question is about Frank Ocean and that’s immediately where he went. No, he’s not a homophobe for that, we agree there, but you are defending him as if there is nothing remotely insulting or wrong about it. And there is.

      • Exactly. I think that’s really the only real issue here: What’s the basis for Stevie Wonder question Frank Ocean’s sexuality at all? Unless they’ve been close friends for awhile, I don’t see how Stevie could possibly have a reason to suggest Frank Ocean is confused. Why would he even mention it?

  14. Yeah us straight white guys have it pretty hard. Keep on fighting the good fight.

  15. Some people are so touchy. What he said was not against gay people at all. All he said is that some people who claim their gay could just be confused which is true. I’m sure there are gay people who are just confused about their sexuality. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

  16. It’s homophobic in the sense that it is heteronormative. The first question to ask when someone professes their love for the same sex shouldn’t be “you sure you’re gay, bro?” It implies that the standard is to be straight and his assumed sexual orientation is a mistake or misinterpretation.

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  18. thankfully stereogum doesn’t come in braille.

    *studio audience laughs, pees themselves. i become new louis ck*

  19. I know I’m late to the party on this one, but is everyone forgetting that Frank Ocean has never stated that he is homosexual?

  20. And here I thought that the “10 whatever Anco songs” list featured both the author with the least grounded opinion and the comment section most devoid of reasoned thought. . .

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  22. Two things:
    I can’t speak for the guy, but the impression I get from the album and the statements there in, that Frank Ocean may indeed himself admit to being “confused”.
    What do we accomplish by determining if Stevie Wonder (a Civil Rights Icon) harbors what could hardly be argued as anything more than trace elements of homophobia?

    Seriously, Stereogum, why even run this article?

  23. Can we talk about something irrelevant but much more important? Amy Poehler and Will Arnett are splittesville.

  24. Mr. Wonder, just shut the fuck up and play your piano.
    Thanks.

    • agreed! how dare he actually give an answer to a question that was asked to him in an interview? when they asked him about frank, he should’ve just shut the fuck up, whipped out a piano outta nowhere, and started playing “superstition.” that way, we all would’ve had more time for our ears to soak in YOUR valuable commentary, including recent gems like:

      “What’s Big Boi?”
      “What’s Sleater-Kinney?”
      “What’s a T.I.?”
      “Who’s Green Day?”

      but anyways, yeah, stevie wonder is the one who should be shutting the fuck up!

  25. Stevie Wonder is old, AND blind. Ya know?

  26. The extremely unpopular thing that i have to say is that it’s really hard to ‘prove’ that you’re gay, just like it’s hard to prove you’re straight unless you’re standing in a crowd and making out with your objet d’amour. people hang out in all kinds of different social situations in different ways; watch a bunch of Korean or Japanese kids (teens) and you’ll see a lot more physical contact between same-sex friends and not much between opposite sex friends, doesn’t mean they’re all gay (or even bi- or confused).
    So the unpopular part is that as much as I love Frank Ocean (Pyramids!!!!) and the whole Odd Future collective (esp T the C!!) I feel like the profile-raising coming-out party/announcement was a little to close to the launch of the record! I’m seeing publicity stunt written all over this, even if he is a 2-3 on the Kinsey scale, it makes for verrrrrry good press to come out as the first black gay soul singing member of an inflammatorily sexist/homophobic hip-hop crew. And as long as he doesn’t get caught on film no one ever has to really know who is paying attention to his dickbag!
    I think Stevie was in his own very careful (if confusing) way trying to say something similar, I think he was calling him on the publicity-generating disingenuity of it, and not criticizing homosexuality!

  27. Frank Ocean’s sexuality is still pretty ambiguous as he hasn’t came out as being straight, gay or bisexual since he confessed that the first person he fell in love with was a man. It’s pretty obvious to anyone who isn’t trying to paint Stevie as a homophobe for the sake of it that his comments on “some people” being confused is in relation to Ocean’s comments, not as a generalisation on the entire gay community.

    Read Ocean’s letter and then re-read what Stevie said and stop trying so hard to create drama where there isn’t any.

  28. Stevie’s comments show a great deal more thought, concern, tolerance and understanding than Tom Breihan’s comments. Suggesting that Stevie’s comments about Frank Ocean might make him a “homophobic dickbag” are the only intolerant, dogmatic, uninformed, willfully ignorant, blatanly rude, juvenile comments involved in the following article. But I will just have to “accept it” because I prefer not to live in a world where an indie rock blogger is such a …..(feel free to insert your own description)

  29. I think Stevie Wonder was just talking about figuring out your sexuality. Some people aren’t sure of their sexuality, and it takes them years of experiences with men and women to really find out where they sit.

    Because a lot of Frank’s music vividly talks about sex and love with women, it’s probably true that Frank Ocean is now basically straight. Frank only said that his first lover was a man, not that he prefers men in general. That means that, at some point in Frank’s life, he was willing to entertain the notion that he could be gay. Frank played both sides of the field.

    To me, it seems like Stevie is saying that Frank was at one point a ‘confused’ gay person. He explicitly states that not all gay people are like this. Am I wrong?

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