I meant to write about this late last week, but it was such a crazy holiday week that I missed it. Frank Ocean, the genius R & B artist, came out, in a unique way, last week, on his Tumblr, by casually posting a remembrance of his first love, a man [click to embiggen]:
I concur with Amanda Marcotte, who calls Ocean a genius and says that Ocean’s coming out as bisexual trumps Anderson Cooper, for several reasons:
Ocean, on the other hand, did something I’d actually say is unprecedented. Instead of coming out in the standard way, he wrote a touching blog post about the experience of falling in love with a man, who incidentally played him, but that part is basically irrelevant to the nuclear bomb that is the revelation that Ocean unabashedly loved and lusted after a man. Ocean didn’t own an identity. While much of the media had responded to this by calling him gay, it’s also possible that he’s bisexual or identifies as straight but had this single experience of same-sex passion.*
This is big not just because Ocean actually gave some shape and color to the experience of having same-sex desires that are strong enough to put you in an oppressed class, however. It’s also that he’s part of the hip-hop collective Odd Future, which is known for turning up the volume on pretty much all the tropes of gangsta rap, including the misogyny and homophobia. Despite all the talk in hip-hop about keeping it real, the art form has always been especially performative.
Touré continues in that vein for Time magazine:
Ocean is an effortless heartthrob who sings in a hip-hop idiom. Hip-hop culture is notoriously homophobic, and asking the community to be nuanced on the issue of sexuality is like asking a middle-schooler to discuss metaphysics. Hip-hop is a parade of alpha men who use the dominance of women to enhance their manhood and seem to know nothing of the concept of anima, the feminized part of masculinity. Ocean’s crew, Odd Future, a collective of rappers in which he’s the only singer, is an oft brilliant bunch of boundary-shoving, gross-out-loving teenagers who are thoughtlessly homophobic one moment and the next, defiantly supportive of their DJ, Syd tha Kid, the lone woman in the crew and an out lesbian. Their leader and mastermind, Tyler, the Creator, was supportive of Ocean in his own way, tweeting, “My Big Brother Finally F—ing Did That. Proud of That [black man] Cause I Know That S— Is Difficult or Whatever. Anyway. Im a Toilet.”
But with each coming out, our society is changed a little. Gayness is made a little more acceptable. The shame is rejected a little more. The day when coming out is no longer politically necessary grows a little closer.
What I have found striking, in the reaction to Frank Ocean coming out, to Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality, and a couple of other instances, is not the detractors. There are always people who are pretty much just bigots, and their hatred says more about their own lack of character than it does about anything else. It’s rather the fact that, when a person like Frank Ocean comes out, it seems to give a sort of permission to people to go ahead and be supportive. As in, there’s finally a spark of familiarity. It’s been long known that the greatest single predictor of whether a person supports LGBT rights is whether or not that person knows LGBT people. This has pretty much always been the Religious Right’s Achilles’ heel, and is one of the reasons they’re so invested in the bogus “ex-gay” business. They know they can’t keep LGBT people away from their flocks completely — hell, so many LGBT come out of Religious Right families, it’s almost silly — so they have to have a group of “approved gays” who are parroting their anti-gay bullshit, who then paint happy, well-adjusted people as the evil “other” which must be opposed. So in the R & B/hip-hop world where Frank Ocean is not only an important part but a highly respected genius, it may be that it gives some people that spark of “Oh, wait! Frank Ocean is bisexual? I love Frank Ocean!,” which then often leads a person to ask questions like, “wait, is it possible that hateful things I’ve heard about LGBT people aren’t true?” Then the light-bulb goes off and another person is brought over to the side of fairness, equality and love.
The “movable middle” is real, and sometimes all it takes is knowing one of us. And, much to the Religious Right’s chagrin, the “movable middle” moves a little bit further to the right every day, closer and closer and closer to them…it freaks them out, is what I’m saying.
For now, let’s enjoy some of Frank’s incredible music, starting with “We All Try,” which includes the following line:
“I believe that marriage isn’t
Between a man and woman but between love and love”