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Frank OceanWhile everyone was lighting sparklers and crashing barbecues during the odd, mid-week holiday, R&B singer Frank Ocean was celebrating his own, personal independence day. Early Wednesday morning, he took to his Tumblr page to share what may be one of the most pivotal and thought-provoking reflections from someone who wasn’t even trying to be pivotal or thought-provoking. He was just being refreshingly, unabashedly honest.
"4 summers ago, I met somebody," he wrote. "I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping, no negotiating with the feeling. No choice. It was my first love, it changed my life." And just like that, he was out, sharing with his fans, his associates, and his music industry colleagues that he is bisexual. It was beautiful, from the eloquence of his expression to his bravery to admit it in the first place.
And for someone whose career is anchored in the minefields of machismo that is hip-hop, it’s a really big deal.
The passage, taken from the liner notes of his forthcoming album, Channel Orange—his first on a major music label—accelerates his celebrity, which was already building from his actual gifts and talents, not just his newfound position as hip-hop’s resident gay guy. Frank Ocean isn’t yet a household name but he’s already on an enviable fast track from collaborating with Jay-Z and Kanye on their “Watch the Throne” collective and Queen Bey herself on her last album. He’s not a heavyweight red carpet stroller, no. (And I’m not sure that’s what he’d ever really want to be.)
But he’s also not so obscure that his coming out can be easily dismissed. Hip-hop has long avoided a direct confrontation with the issue of sexuality—except, of course, when it comes to the put-‘em-on-the-glass marketing of women—but it has to deal with it now.
There have always been whispers about who’s gay and who’s dipping and dabbling and who’s not being true to themselves, even as rappers bark fiery lyrics about loyalty and keeping it real. But being gay has been, like, the worst thing you could ever be. Worse than a violent drug dealer. Worse than a pimp or a pathological woman beater. Homosexuality is lobbed as an insult and slander, not embraced as an actual truth or acceptable lifestyle. Not only is hip-hop 98 percent bravado, it’s built a collective reputation for avoiding real emotions. When they are addressed, they’re fleeting for the most part. So Ocean’s admission is also awesome because it’s not just “I nailed this dude” or “I thought this guy was hella sexy,” but it involved genuine feelings of love and attachment. Yay.
I think it takes a definitive amount of courage for anyone, anywhere, no matter what their particular circumstances, to share something as personal with their family, friends, and community. I hope this revelation doesn’t overshadow Frank Ocean the talent or preface everything he does as “the gay R&B singer,” even as all of the brouhaha and media hype tapers off. For now, we just have to applaud him for the post that was more raw than any rap lyric I’ve heard in a long, long time. And so preciously, authentically honest and fresh.
Do you think folks struggling with their sexuality find more inspiration from celebrities who come out? Does it matter?
Image via Getty Images