After uproar, Matt Damon tries to clarify comments on anti-gay slur
By Isabella Grullón Paz
Facing a backlash after he was quoted saying he had recently decided to “retire” a homophobic slur, the actor Matt Damon said in a statement earlier this week that “I do not use slurs of any kind.”
The statement followed an interview published this week by The Sunday Times in which Damon recounted a conversation with his daughter during which he “made a joke” that moved her to write him an essay on the historical harm of what she calls “the ‘f-slur for a homosexual.’”
“She went to her room and wrote a very long, beautiful treatise on how that word is dangerous,” Damon said, according to The Sunday Times, a British newspaper. “I said, ‘I retire the f-slur!’ I understood.”
In the statement, which was obtained by Variety, Damon said that he had never “called anyone” the word in his “personal life” and that he understood why his framing in the interview “led many to assume the worst.”
He added that in the conversation with his daughter, he had recalled that as a child growing up in Boston he had heard the slur being used on the street “before I knew what it even referred to.”
“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 ever have been a time where that word was used unthinkingly,” Damon said in the statement. “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.”
“This conversation with my daughter was not a personal awakening,” he continued. “I do not use slurs of any kind.”
In the Sunday Times interview, Damon seemed to suggest that the word had come up in a joke.
“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 said in the 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”!’”
He did not specify in the interview which of his daughters the interaction happened with.
Many on social media were unimpressed by Damon’s story, saying that he should have known better years — not months — ago. Some also wondered why Damon shared the story in the first place.
Charlotte Clymer, a former Human Rights Campaign press secretary, said on Twitter that although she understood the sentiment of the story, “This is like 10+ years ago kinda stuff. And he knows better.”
This is not the first time that Damon has courted controversy with comments about LGBTQ people.
In 2015, he told The Guardian that in acting, it was key that “people shouldn’t know anything about your sexuality because that’s one of the mysteries that you should be able to play,” adding that he imagined “it must be really hard” for gay actors to be public about their sexuality. On The Ellen Show, Damon defended the remarks, saying that “actors are more effective when they’re a mystery.”
In his statement on Monday, the actor acknowledged that “open hostility” against LGBTQ people was not uncommon.
“To be as clear as I can be, I stand with the LGBTQ+ community,” he said.