“…I’m starting to think we’re a lot alike. Human beings spinning on blackness. All wanting to be seen, touched, heard, paid attention to…“
- Frank Ocean
A poignant statement engulfed in a collection of Frank’s words and thoughts; seen by many as a courageous admission, while others view the celebratory reactions as a powerful sign of the changing times. As I originally read his letter, the eloquence and its organic nature spoke volumes; after reading a variety of columns and social commentary, the vulnerability and honesty in this statement still remain paramount.
If you have not read the letter, you can check it out on his Tumblr page: (http://frankocean.com/). I understand the wave of emotion surrounding the letter, as it speaks to an entire demographic of people worried about or learning to accept their own sexuality; a topic that terrifies the majority of us. The masses see someone in the public eye make a decision to expose oneself and it polarizes us. We place entertainers and social icons in these de facto roles as spokesmen/women without truly taking into account their lives from a personal standpoint. We gravitate toward these people in hopes that their public image will somehow guide us on real life issues, but it often seems this “Where is Ja!” attitude about social issues overextends it bounds.
As you read through it, you may find as I did, the somewhat incidental usage of the pronouns “he” or “him.” Of course, these two words serve as the admission the media has been infatuated with over the past few days, but there was never a usage of the words, “Gay” or “Bisexual”; just a love affair between two individuals. Utilizing the rules of engagement for a liberal-minded and open way of thinking, the letter tapped into deep issues that are relative to countless individuals. We live in a time period when “love” is simply misused and saturated with clever words as opposed to actions. Reading the words of one of my peers describe; his emotions, his feelings, his vulnerability, was not only impressive, but rare.
As a heterosexual man, I could never fully understand, nor comprehend the courage and fearlessness it took for him to share his “secret” with the world, but I have been lucky enough to gain an understanding of love and I’m willing to bet if you were to change a few pronouns around, the focus on the letter would be entirely different. The Hip-Hop community seldom discusses these issues, so I find myself walking a fine line; however what has Hip-Hop done since its inception? Hip-Hop gave a voice to the plight of a demographic of people often forgotten about, but it seems there has been a doctrinal shift in the attitudes of the culture. When we talk about gay people or issues affecting gay people, we dodge the discussion.
With the constant influx of new columns and media reports, I fear his music will be subjugated, overpowered by people ready to dissect lyrics for the wrong reasons. The closet conservatives, who want marijuana legalized and possess a liberal stance on most issues, will sit in their cars or at their desks listening to this new album, Channel Orange, waiting to hear him say something, anything beyond the status quo.
It will be interesting to see if people remain accepting, regardless of a song’s content. The letter was huge for music, but I await the day when this isn’t a big issue; when people are free to be themselves without chastisement or ridicule. Our generation, no, our culture, for all the liberal stances we have on issues skirt around the edge of the fire on this topic. We make jokes and poke fun, but when one of our own steps out no longer afraid of what will be the resulting backlash, it gives us pause. I do not paint a picture of Frank Ocean as some sort of champion for gay rights, more so one of our peers cognizant of his own influence; with an innate ability to discuss his thoughts in ways few of us could ever imagine.
Regardless of your feelings on the magnitude of this moment, we can all use a reality check about our own ignorance and take steps towards understanding the struggles of those different from us.