Why It Matters That the World's Most Popular Vine User Is a Homophobic, Teenage Jerk


It appears as though 16-year-old Vine star Nash Grier just pulled an Alec Baldwin — that is, he pulled a Baldwin circa 2014.

Grier, who is apparently the world's most popular Vine user with approximately 8.7 million followers, posted a shockingly distasteful video earlier in the year which resurfaced this past weekend. The short clip features a snippet of commercial for an HIV/AIDS test kit, in which two men note that HIV "is not a gay thing," quickly cutting away to a blurry close-up of the viral teen screaming, "YES IT IS! FAAAAAAG!"

The video was deleted after Grier published it, but — as everyone should know by now — the clip was saved by another social media savant, YouTube sensation and LGBT advocate Tyler Oakley, who republished it over the weekend.

Although Grier apologized on Twitter the same day Oakley called him on the offensive video, many people in the LGBT community are less than convinced, especially given the young personality's previous missteps. This is not the first time Grier has used a homophobic slur in social media. 

While Grier may think that his apology will make the whole "mistake" go away, these types of incidents can have lasting consequences. Due to this Bieber-of-the-Vine's miraculous number of followers alone, such videos — seen by masses of impressionable young people — help create a world of harm by perpetuating false information about the still widely-misunderstood problem of HIV/AIDS. 

Men, throughout time and throughout cultures, have found ways to emasculate each other, pumping up their own flaccid egos by putting other men down in the most efficacious way: by challenging each other's masculinity. Throwing around the word "fag" is just one of those ways. What adds vitriol to his commentary is the fact that he connects HIV to gay men — this makes his speech "hate speech" and utterly dangerous. 

As has been noted previously, statistics released by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation reveal that women account for 20% of HIV diagnoses, with a majority of that percentage being straight women and/or women of color. In 2010, 84% of women infected were done so by heterosexual sex, with more than 60% of those women living with HIV being black.

Image Credit: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Originally called "the gay cancer," HIV doesn't discriminate when it comes to infecting people — men, women, gay, straight. For some reason, however, American culture refuses to sever the connection between HIV/AIDS and the gay community, even when other cultures have consciously made that disconnect decades ago, and even when there has been decades of global recognition of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa. Take this ad about HIV from Sydney, Australia, back in 1987:

HIV infection is not a black-and-white issues, and it's certiainly not a punchline. As Kaiser observed in its 2010 study, while "[m]ost new HIV infections occur through male-to-male sexual contact (63% in 2010), heterosexual sex has accounted for a growing share of transmissions over time, representing 25% of new infections in 2010." Race is also a factor, with Kaiser noting that blacks "have the highest rate of new HIV infections. In 2010, the rate of new HIV infections per 100,000 for Blacks (68.9) was about 8 times that of whites (8.7); Latinos (27.5) had a rate 3 times that of whites."

Image Credit: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Unfortunately, Nash Grier, an ignorant white kid from North Carolina, had no idea about these statistics when he posted that videa; presumably, he still has no idea about the history of HIV/AIDS, globally or locally. He's just willy-nilly expressing his "feelings" in six seconds or less. Surely, Grier's 8.7 million followers deserve better than that.