‘I’m profoundly grateful for Kendrick Lamar’s Auntie Diaries’: Trans community breaks down rapper’s powerful yet controversial track ahead of headlining Glastonbury set

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Kendrick Lamar’s Auntie Diaries has sparked quite the conversation since its release last month (Picture: Getty)

Kendrick Lamar ignited a global debate with his Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers track Auntie Diaries, a poignant song that explores his relationship with his trans family members and his journey into LGBTQ+ allyship.

Sitting on disc two of his acclaimed fifth studio album, Auntie Diaries kicks off with the contentious opening lyric ‘my auntie is a man now’ with the homophobic slur ‘f*ggot’ appearing 10 times.

While Kendrick delves deep into his past ignorance as a child and stresses he’s ‘old enough to understand now’ how saying the homophobic slur was wrong, many have criticised him for his execution of the song.

On the other hand, he’s been applauded for rapping about trans liberation and acceptance on such a massive platform in a genre of music that historically rarely raises such themes.

Was Kendrick lazy in his delivery? Would the song have garnered the same attention if he hadn’t used problematic language? Is Kendrick contradicting himself by rapping about growth but using slurs?

Or actually, is Auntie Diaries revolutionary in its approach?

Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick is set to headline Glastonbury on Sunday night (Picture: Getty)

Following the album’s release earlier this month, the track quickly sparked an online discourse with many debating whether the inclusion of the homophobic slur, as well as deadnaming and misgendering, was appropriate.

Ahead of his headlining Glastonbury performance, Metro.co.uk heard from trans voices to understand how the community has responded to Kendrick’s Auntie Diaries and to hear whether his approach was appropriate for successfully getting his story across.

For 26-year-old Ramon, Auntie Diaries explains the incredibly messy path a cisgender, heterosexual person goes through in their journey to allyship with the queer community. ‘To be abundantly clear, it is 100% valid to be confronted with the problematic elements of this song’s narrative and react with pain,’ she says.

‘The thing is, that’s precisely what the story is describing. How the pain of all oppressed peoples is connected and how the ignorance passed down through generations has us harming each other – sometimes without even knowing it.

Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick raps about his trans family members on the track Auntie Diaries (Picture: Getty)

‘It’s very clear to me that this song wasn’t written for people who are already knowledgeable and accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, myself included, but rather for a demographic of people who might engage with casual homophobia/transphobia and haven’t even considered the harm it causes as they don’t experience that harm themselves.

‘The way Kendrick relates the bigotry he faces for being Black to the bigotry his trans family members experience for being trans can be incredibly illuminating for the listener. His vulnerable retelling of his experience unlearning the bigotry he was taught as a kid provides a framework for other people to map their own experiences onto in order to grow in the same way he has.’

Ramon breaks down Auntie Diaries for us and notices the initial instrumentals has a ‘nostalgic tone with small flourishes of oscillating sound effects’.

‘This made me think of the idea of growth,’ she says. ‘I also noticed pretty quickly that what Kendrick was referring to seemed to be events of the past – saying things like, “thinking, ‘I want me a bad b*tch when I get big’” and “asked my momma why my uncles don’t like him that much”.

‘These are clear indicators that these are experiences from Kendrick’s childhood.

‘After the first verse established the timeline as being childhood then came the second verse where Kendrick says the homophobic f-slur several times. This might be where alarm bells start ringing for those in the LGBTQ+ community who might be more sensitive to harsh language, and rightfully so, however, this wasn’t the case for me.’

Kendrick Lamar fan
Ramon is ‘profoundly grateful’ for Kendrick’s song Auntie Diaries (Picture: Twitter)

Kendrick’s use of homophobic slurs didn’t strike Ramon as being malicious.

‘Immediately after he says the slur, he follows it with, “Elementary kids with no filter, however” which again established the timeframe as being Kendrick’s childhood,’ she points out.

‘I’d already noticed the awkwardness of the deadnaming and seemingly contradictory statements like “My Auntie is a man now” but again, they didn’t feel malicious.’

Ramon also notes Kendrick’s constant reinforcement of the incredibly positive relationship he had as a youth with his trans uncle. ‘Most surprising was when he tells us that his trans uncle was the first person he ever saw writing rhymes and implies that that’s when his interest in rap started,’ she highlights.

‘Essentially saying that without the influence of one of his trans family members, we might not even be listening to this song right now.’

Ramon found herself crying at one particularly poignant moment in the track in which Kendrick describes how his church pastor outed his uncle and cousin as being queer to the entire congregation.

‘Here, Kendrick talks about how he knew what the pastor was saying was wrong and how he stood up to confront the pastor in defence of his loved ones, in which he correctly genders his cousin.

‘Coincidentally, this was also the first time I cried when listening to this song. I’ve never been one for tears when it comes to sad life events or bad moods, but media and seeing artists excel at their craft seem to be my soft spot.

‘These were tears of joy. The idea of a young Kendrick defending his trans family members in a church of all places, combined with the swelling instrumental and Kendrick’s changes in vocal delivery, and the thought of people hearing this song who aren’t aware of the trans or queer experience and potentially learning from that was incredibly overwhelming.’

‘Auntie Diaries, to me, symbolizes the hopeful future of liberation for all oppressed peoples that I so desperately want to see,’ Ramon adds.

‘It serves as a blueprint for a variety of people who may not have even understood they had bigoted views about queer people to introspect on their own lived experiences and grow in similar ways as Kendrick has.

‘It connects the oppression faced by Black and brown people to that faced by the LGBTQ+ community and beautifully illustrates the need for all oppressed peoples to stand in solidarity with one another if we’re to have any hope of achieving equality.

‘The timing of the release of such a pro-queer song feels like therapy for a community which faces negativity at every turn and for that, I’m profoundly grateful for Kendrick Lamar.’

Chloe, 25, from Calgary in Canada wasn’t sure how to feel after first listening to Auntie Diaries but thought that Kendrick choosing to share his story with the world was the right thing to do.

Kendrick Lamar fan
Chloe connected with Auntie Diaries on a personal level (Picture: Twitter)

‘The song means a lot to me,’ she tells us. ‘It absolutely connected with me personally and definitely felt like a pivotal moment of recognition, exposure ,and awareness for the LGBTQ+ community.

‘The conversation alone that it sparked up online and such is key for progress and growth in our society in my opinion.’

While Chloe understands the hurt many have felt in response to the deadnaming, misgendering, and slurs in Auntie Diaries, she, like Ramon, feels that the song is ultimately about growth.

‘In the context of the song it is being used to teach a lesson and display the growth and expansion of understanding and knowledge Kendrick went through being surrounded by his trans family members,’ she continues.

‘He’s trying to show how he didn’t know any better but to do these things as a kid as he didn’t realise the impact or severity of these sort of actions. He makes an example out of himself in this song to display the growth and learning process people can undergo when someone they love comes out as trans, bisexual, gay, non-binary.

‘They may not know how to properly treat that person at first and it may take time for them to really get it, but the point is that they want to do the right thing and over time they become more aware of how to do that.’

Chloe believes that if Auntie Diaries didn’t include the controversial slurs, the song wouldn’t have had the same impact that it has had. ‘To me, what’s really important is the conversation surrounding these topics that has come from the track.

‘If the song was 100% politically correct people would probably have been like “oh Kendrick supports LGBT+ as he should, cool” and that would most likely be the end of the discussion.

Kendrick Lamar fan
Lizzo recently changed her track GRRRLS after facing backlash for including a slur (Picture: Getty)

‘Instead, we saw a huge outburst of people online talking back and forth about this song and what it means just like we are right now. My only fear is that maybe some bigots out there think the slurs are ok with the mindset “if Kendrick said it why can’t I?”

‘However, those people would be completely missing Kendrick’s overall point and message.’

Chloe reckons that for the most part people understood the point Kendrick was making. ‘However, everyone is going to perceive art a little bit differently from one another,’ she adds. ‘That’s just how it is for better or worse.’

Lizzo recently edited a lyric in her song GRRRLS after facing backlash over an offensive slur being used.

Should Kendrick do the same?

‘If he went back and made changes he would be giving in to the complaints and push back instead of just sticking to his initial feelings,’ Chloe says. ‘I think as long as your actions are well-intentioned, and you know that in your heart then you shouldn’t regret or take back what you have said or done and such.’

‘I was very excited about the song, Shawn, 27, from Maryland, United States, tells us. ‘I was elated because I can relate. It reminded me of my relationship with my niece.

Kendrick Lamar fan
Shawn is a big fan of Auntie Diaries and believes people are not focussing on the message of the track (Picture: Twitter)

‘The track is one of my favourite songs now. It means a lot to me, especially being a Black trans man. The Black community isn’t accepting of us.’

Shawn doesn’t believe people are listening to Kendrick’s lyrics properly. ‘I think the slur is hard for people in the community to digest, but it was his way to get cis-gendered people to understand.

‘He is an award-winning writer and I think his use of the word, in the manner he did, was very clever. The point has been very misconstrued. People are focusing on the slur than the message as a whole. The last line of the song [“F*ggot, f*ggot, f*ggot” we can say it together /But only if you let a white girl say, “N*gga”] was the whole point.’

However, for jane fae, the Director of TransActual and Chair of Trans Media Watch, Auntie Diaries is not so much voicing support but acting as a confessional.

Speaking in a personal capacity, jane says that Kendrick is ‘owning past error and looking to do better. ‘It has generated controversy because it is far from perfect,’ she says. ‘There have been plenty of suggestions as to how he could have done what he has done in these lyrics better.

‘But I am not going to condemn him for that and neither, at my age, am I going to go toe to toe with a world class rapper, telling him how he can do his job better.’

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jane reckons there’s still a lot of work to do in terms of Kendrick’s journey as an LGBTQ+ ally. ‘If Kendrick is serious about being an ally there is a way to go yet. He needs to talk with those he is talking about and listen.

‘And then, we shall see. Whatever is needed here, it certainly is not some sort of shouting match based on a demand for perfection from day one.’

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