The My-Stery: Frank Ocean, Sexuality, and Otherness
For the past few days, hip-hop and r&b singer Frank Ocean had tongues wagging with rumors of his sexuality. Yesterday, he officially decided to come out and speak about the love he had for another man. In his poetic and honest letter, the singer expressed, “…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.” Coming out and declaring yourself as who you are is never easy and I am proud of Frank Ocean for having the courage to do so.
As you may know, Ocean and the group he is often associated with Odd Future (OFWGKTA), who are known for not fitting in the boxes and labels of our society, and often fall in line with some of the principles of this blog. However, Ocean’s coming out shows that “otherness” is more than a hipster fashion, trend or being cool, but is complicated and affects people’s lives. Tyler the Creator as well as other members of Odd Future have in the past made homophobic and insensitive lyrics and comments. Will Ocean’s statement change their outlook on their own work and statements? Tyler’s tweet, “My big brother finally fucking did that…Proud of that nigga cause I know that shit is difficult or whatever. Anyway. I’m a toilet,” downplayed the importance of the moment. His twitter bio still reads, “I am not a dyke.”
Others seemed to trivialize it as well. Many fans say it does not matter what his sexuality is because he has great talent. But what if he did not have that talent? What about the countless other people who do not have that same fame who struggle everyday because those same fans do not accept them as they are. Essentially, those fans are saying that Ocean does not matter as a human; the only thing that matters is his musical product or commodity as a singer. Their statements undermine his declaration. It does matter, that is why he did it. The whole point is to say that he and who he loves matters because others constantly tell people in LGBTQ communities that they do not matter or are deviants, weirdos, and freaks.
People who are considered “others” are not given a chance to fully materialize who they are as whole beings because often they are told a part of who they are does not fit into what is considered “the norm.” This is not only for those who are conventional others, but those who fit “in-between,” in the intersectionalities and hybridities of otherness. Ocean’s attraction to the same-sex falls out of the line of traditional “blackness” in this country, something that many black people are struggling with now, especially after Obama and others in our communities came out to support same-sex marriage. The fact that Ocean is black and an hip-hop and r&b star falls outside the line of the dominant perception of homosexuality and queerness as mostly white and male, which is important in comparison to Anderson Cooper’s declaration of his sexuality. Also, Ocean’s sexuality may not fit into the traditional paradigms of sexuality as either/ or, either one is heterosexual or homosexual. I have read several people who have simply called him gay, not realizing the larger LGBTQ community and that sexuality not that simplistic.
If we refuse to see the humanity in others, we will not see the humanity and beauty in our own otherness. Like it or not, no one is normal, and there is a freedom in that for us. And I am glad that Ocean has found some sense of freedom.
Update: Frank Ocean decided to release his album, Channel Orange early (the physical album will still be released July 17), so go listen to it and watch his performance of “Bad Religion” on the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Show.