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Matt Damon's use of a gay slur in any context in 2021 is unacceptable and embarrassing

·5 min read

Matt Damon is promoting his new film "Stillwater," but a recent interview with The Sunday Times put him in steaming hot water instead.

Damon shared with the interviewer a lesson his daughter taught him several months ago: that he could no longer use the "f-word" as a slur for gay people.

Really.

"The word that my daughter calls the ‘f-slur for a homosexual’ was commonly used when I was a kid, with a different application,” Damon told The Sunday Times in a recent interview. "I made a joke, months ago, and got a treatise from my daughter. She left the table. I said, 'Come on, that’s a joke! I say it in the movie 'Stuck on You!' She went to her room and wrote a very long, beautiful treatise on how that word is dangerous. I said, 'I retire the f-slur!' I understood."

Damon expanded on his comments later Monday, after a social media uproar: "During a recent interview, I recalled a discussion I had with my daughter where I attempted to contextualize for her the progress that has been made – though by no means completed – since I was growing up in Boston and, as a child, heard the word 'f*g' used on the street before I knew what it even referred to," Damon said in a statement provided to USA TODAY.

"I explained that that word was used constantly and casually and was even a line of dialogue in a movie of mine as recently as 2003; she in turn expressed incredulity that there could have ever been a time where that word was used unthinkingly. To my admiration and pride, she was extremely articulate about the extent to which that word would have been painful to someone in the LGBTQ+ community regardless of how culturally normalized it was. I not only agreed with her but thrilled at her passion, values and desire for social justice."

He went on to talk about his personal use of the word – or rather, his lack thereof. "I have never called anyone 'f****t' in my personal life and this conversation with my daughter was not a personal awakening. I do not use slurs of any kind. I have learned that eradicating prejudice requires active movement toward justice rather than finding passive comfort in imagining myself 'one of the good guys.' And given that open hostility against the LGBTQ+ community is still not uncommon, I understand why my statement led many to assume the worst. To be as clear as I can be, I stand with the LGBTQ community."

We talked with him too: Matt Damon talks 'Stillwater,' parenting and writing again with Ben Affleck

Matt Damon poses during a photocall for the film "Stillwater" at the 74th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on July 9, 2021.
Matt Damon poses during a photocall for the film "Stillwater" at the 74th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on July 9, 2021.

Many on social media – myself included – called out the star for his astonishingly ignorant behavior described in the original interview.

"Matt Damon’s teen daughter told him f****t is a homophobic slur and to stop using it," comedian Jenny Johnson wrote. "Matt Damon who works in Hollywood. Matt Damon who went to Harvard. Matt Damon who was in ‘BEYOND THE CANDELABRA’. I’m now worried what else she’s gonna have to teach him."

Billy Eichner chimed in, too: "You’re still allowed to be homophobic in this fake-woke industry." And writer Saeed Jones wondered: "Why would he volunteer this information?"

Not to mention the fact the word has a deadly connotation, too: "Countless gay men have been attacked, beaten and even killed with that word being the last thing they hear, but sure, go Matt," Twitter user @TJ_Knight wrote.

Straight and cisgender people often wonder why the LGBTQ community doesn't shut up about their queerness.

To those people, let me say: This is why.

More: 'Being transgender is not a medical condition': The meaning of trans broken arm syndrome

If someone as high-profile as Damon, with unfettered access to educational materials, has just learned that you can't say the "f-word" anymore, no matter the context – and that you shouldn't have said it at all in the first place – what stops anyone else?

And while his statement does provide surrounding details – and further shows the star is working on himself – it fails to address the "joke" he made, and could have had more oomph considering the stakes for the LGBTQ community and the need for inclusivity and sensitivity.

Statistics bear the importance of promoting acceptance. Queer kids contemplate killing themselves at alarming rates. According to The Trevor Project, 42% of LGBTQ young people "seriously considered" suicide this past year alone. That's nearly half of LGBTQ youth. Read that back: Nearly. Half. And more than half of them were transgender and nonbinary.

Every time someone slips in a slur like the "f-word," they should stare at that statistic until it sinks in.

I've been lucky enough that no straight person has called me the "f-word" to my face (who knows, though, it could happen tomorrow). But I'm all too familiar with slurs.

I'll never forget the time when two boys replaced the words to "Play that Funky Music" with "play that funky music, queer boy" to me on a Bar Mitzvah dance floor. I'll never forget the time when I was walking with a straight friend in Ocean City, Maryland, and a stranger shouted at us from his car, "Are you guys queers?" It's an inevitability. It will happen again.

So to Matt Damon – or anyone, really – I say this: Educate yourself. Donate to LGBTQ causes. Talk to leaders in the LGBTQ community. Attend events. Hell, watch "The Talented Mr. Ripley" again, you know, the one you starred in. Doesn't get more homoerotic than that.

Don't want to get canceled? Be accountable for your actions.

And for the love of everything, think before you speak.

Important: We need to celebrate LGBTQ joy. Lives depend on it.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Matt Damon homophobic slur use unacceptable. We need LGBTQ education.

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