“During a recent interview, I recalled a discussion I had with my daughter where I attempted to contextualise 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.
“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.
“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.
“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.’”
He added: “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.”
The fallout came about after the father-of-three discussed “changes in modern masculinity” with the Sunday Times and offered up a personal anecdote.
He explained that he was having a meal with his family when he used what the paper described as “the most taboo term for gay people” – and his children were far from impressed.
“The word that my daughter calls the ‘f-slur for a homosexual’ was commonly used when I was a kid, with a different application,” he explained.
“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!’’” Damon argued, referencing the slapstick comedy he was in almost 20 years ago.
“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.”
His comments were met with incredulity and fury on social media, with scores of users condemning both his ignorance and willingness to publicly admit it:
I’ve lost some respect for Matt Damon for two reasons:
1. Being a 51-year-old Harvard-educated person who only rea… https://t.co/CdAh8jDBQx
During his Sunday Times interview Damon said he generally tries to “shut the f– up more” so that his remarks don’t make headlines.
“Twenty years ago, the best way I can put it is that the journalist listened to the music more than the lyrics [of an interview],” Damon said.
“Now your lyrics are getting parsed, to pull them out of context and get the best headline possible. Everyone needs clicks. Before it didn’t really matter what I said, because it didn’t make the news. But maybe this shift is a good thing. So I shut the f– up more.”
After Damon’s follow-up statement was released on Monday, US media monitoring organisation GLAAD – which monitos coverage of LGBT+ people – said: “The conversations that have arisen after Matt Damon’s original interview and subsequent remarks today are an important reminder that this word, or any word that aims to disparage and disrespect LGBTQ people, has no place in mainstream media, social media, classrooms, workplaces, and beyond.”
The agency’s Head of Talent Anthony Allen Ramos told The Hollywood Reporter: “There needs to be accountability at a time when anti-LGBTQ slurs remain rampant today and can fuel discrimination and stereotypes, especially when used by those outside of the community to defame or describe LGBTQ people.”