And so came the shot heard ‘round the world, as rising crooner Frank Ocean came out of the closet, or at least halfway as it were and admitted that the first time he fell in love, it was with a man. For reasons I have no control or understanding of, the world happens to think that Black people and Black music are homophobic and anti gay, despite the fact that there are many gay/bi Black actors and musicians who manage to sell tickets albums and movies to Black people.
Ocean’s admission comes at a time where “acceptance” of gay people and coming out moments, such as Anderson Cooper’s recent coming out and The President’s support of gay marriage is all the rage. Northstar, a gay character affiliated with Marvel’s X-Men recently proposed to his partner and were married in a comic book that drew mass attention. What makes it a bit different is that Frank Ocean is not an imaginary character, or a well-established member of the entertainment elite. With all due respect to Cooper, his mother is fashion icon Gloria Vanderbilt and his status as a newsperson and near iconic figure, aside from the fact that no one believed he was straight anyway, protects him from any real backlash.
Ocean, on the other hand has struck out in the music business before, and in this second go round hasn’t even released an album yet. He is also aligned with Odd Future, a group much-maligned for perceived homophobic content in their music. An announcement of that nature would be much more courageous and Ocean coming out of the closet could have a much more devastating effect on his career…if being gay really mattered to anyone. His so-called homophobic homie, Tyler the Creator, who inspired lesbian duo Tegan and Sara to publicly lambaste him about being anti-gay had this to say about the whole thing:
My Big Brother Finally Fucking Did That. Proud Of That Nigga Cause I Know That Shit Is Difficult Or Whatever. Anyway. Im A Toilet.
— Tyler, The Creator (@fucktyler) July 4, 2012
Most Black people have gay friends or associates and as a community we have grown up with that element for a while now. It has always been a part of our existence. Most of the time when you hear epithets like “faggot” in music or in the hood, it doesn’t even refer to sexuality, but more towards masculinity and gender roles (or the imagined ones that have been cast upon Black men by society). That’s not to say that all straight men are comfortable with it, but it’s neither alien nor feared as some observers would have you believe.
I commend Mr. Ocean for having the courage to stand on who he is, although it doesn’t affect whether or not I like his music. People like Ricky Martin and Anderson Cooper and even to a certain extent Queen Latifah make these sort of conversations a nuisance by making big news out of old stories. It may encourage a few people to see a “regular” person, still fighting to exist in this entertainment landscape without years of speculation that detract from what they are actually known for professionally, embrace who he is. Perhaps when they all get the courage to be like Frank, we can keep the discussions to whether people can or can’t act/sing/dance/report. In the grand scheme of things, that’s really all that counts.
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