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Kalegate: Madonna being homophobic? Get a grip.

By Ben Kelly


Earlier this week, during a fun Q&A session with Buzzfeed, Madonna was asked to write the first word that came to mind when certain topics were flagged up. When faced with “KALE”, Madonna wrote “GAY”, and people jumped to express their horror that she would use the word as an insult. Or rather, they assumed she was using the word as an insult.

Let’s get this straight (that’s straight as in “ironed out, in order” – and no, that doesn’t mean I think heterosexuals are boring).

Madonna was not describing kale as gay because she thinks kale is rubbish and gay means rubbish too; remember, she is neither a playground bully, nor an early noughties Radio 1 DJ. She’s describing kale as gay because it’s quite a fancy little vegetable as it goes, and one of those things many gay men and Gwyneth Paltrow pay too much money for at Whole Foods, because we appreciate the finer things in life. See also: elderflower cordial, quinoa, agave syrup, or organic barn eggs – from which to make egg white omelettes.

Of course gay shouldn’t be used as a supplement for “bad” or “rubbish” or anything like that, and many LGBT charities like Stonewall are doing great work to make sure this practice is weeded out in schools and society at large. The word “gay” shouldn’t be used as an insult at all.


Unless of course the kale was offended, but it has yet to make a comment, so at this point I doubt it’s going to happen. Remember she was asked for the first word she thought of when she heard “kale”, and as she does when she sits down to write the first dance single off a new album, my friends, she thought of us.

It’s worth noting that she answered “gay” to “kale” just after answering “gay” to “Putin”, but people weren’t quite as fussed about that. She thought of gay when she heard Putin probably because he has such a problem with gay people, and in a macho homophobic kind of way, many people think he might be gay himself.  Also, the fact that she intentionally called Putin gay and then answered kale with gay afterwards also shows she was making a little joke! Imagine! It’s OK everyone, you can laugh at jokes.

Finally, I have to say I’m still scratching my head and looking around at colleagues and passers-by with a confused look on my face at the base fact that there are people who thought Madonna was being homophobic.

Madonna. Homophobic.

Just look at those two words, jarring together on that one line, as awkward next to each other as Sharon Osbourne and Danni Minogue for most of series four of The X Factor.

madonnaThis is Madonna we’re talking about. You know, Madonna as in borne of the New York ’70s disco scene and subsequent frequenter of gay nightclubs, fundraisers and charity events; the bringer of voguing to the masses, who presented, showcased and stood up for the LGBT community before most other pop stars could even spell that acronym; who wrote songs about same-sex love and put an AIDS information pamphlet in the Like A Prayer album sleeve; who speaks out about homophobia in Africa and Russia, and anywhere else it exists; who helped Ellen DeGeneres to come out in 1997, and who has advocated same-sex marriage for years. I could go on. Many gay icons don’t really earn the title by doing anything for the gay community. Madonna has.

Madonna knows us better than we know ourselves. She knows we love her, and she knows we love kale. So for any keyboard warriors who were offended by kalegate, please; in the words of Sinead O’Connor on SNL circa 1992, fight the real enemy.

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