In the world of Beyoncé, there is no news that doesn’t make the headlines. Gloria Carter, Jay-Z’s mom, made her debut on his latest album released yesterday. The rapper’s new “4:44” album released on Tidal features songs on growth, toxic masculinity and his mom’s sexuality. While many of the songs are amazing, the one we’re most excited about is “Smile.”
In the song “Smile,” Gloria joins Jay-Z to end the track with spoken word about her identity as a lesbian. Though it’s been widely known in the QTPOC community that Jay-Z was raised by a single-lesbian mom, this is the first time that either one of them have discussed her sexuality publicly. What a beautiful and poetic way to come out to the world!
“Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian / Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian,” Jay-Z raps in the song.
“Living in the shadow / Can you imagine what kind of life it is to live?” she questions in the beginning of the track. “In the shadows people see you as happy and free / Because that’s what you want them to see,” she continues. “The world is changing and they say it’s time to be free / But you live with the fear of just being me… Living in the shadow feels like the safe place to be / No harm for them, no harm for me / But life is short, and it’s time to be free / Love who you love, because life isn’t guaranteed.”
The raw honesty that she drops in this poetic script is amazing. Gloria touches on the struggles of raising four kids by herself and the illusion she had to create to keep her kids. It’s not unheard of for lesbian women to have their children taken away from them, especially Black women where the added layer of oppression is heightened. To live in the closet (the shadows, as Gloria put it) was the safest way for her to keep going and persevere for her kids. We’re so happy that she now gets to live out and proud with her amazing son and daughter-in-law (love you, Queen Bey!).
Later in the track Jay-Z adds, “Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate / Society shame and the pain was too much to take / Cried tears of joy when you fell in love / Don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her.”
The shame tied to coming out can be overpowering for so many members of the LGBTQ community. The fact that Jay-Z and Gloria are now speaking out against that shame is so important. “Up to 33% of the lesbian and gay population have difficulty controlling their drug or alcohol use,” reports The Pride Institute. “The percentage is higher for transgender individuals.” The reason for this struggle with alcohol and drug use is often correlated with lack of support or feelings of shame around ones sexuality.
Jay-Z has a record of speaking out publicly in support of LGBTQ rights – and the more public figures we have speaking out as allies in support of our community, the better. This song shows the depth and context of his allyship. In a 2012 interview with CNN he came out in support of same-sex marriage: “I’ve always thought it as something that was still, um, holding the country back,” Jay-Z said of not allowing same-sex coupled to wed. “What people do in their own homes is their business and you can choose to love whoever you love. That’s their business. [It] is no different than discriminating against blacks. It’s discrimination plain and simple.”
Welcome (officially) to the lesbian club, Mama Carter!