Tuesday, July 9th was an important day in music and LGBTQ history. Famed singer and songwriter, Frank Ocean, made his television debut performing the controversial single, “Bad Religion”, on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon just moments after his album, channel ORANGE, was unexpectedly released.
In the previous week, a blogger who had gotten ahold of an advanced copy revealed that Frank Ocean was “coming out” with channel ORANGE, and she wasn’t talking about the music. The controversy that ensued caused Frank Ocean to post an open letter on his Tumblr page that was originally intended for the Thank You section of his album cover. Frank’s eloquent, heartfelt words touched the majority of its readers and inspired several of his colleagues to speak out in support of his “confession.” With a cocoon of love surrounding him, the perfect conditions were in place to catapult channel ORANGE to the top of the iTunes charts.
Between reading his letter and listening to his album, the wheels in my mind began to spin out of control — swerving off the paved road towards unfamiliar land. I felt myself growing more angry every time I heard or read the word “gay” used in reference to Frank Ocean. It made me upset, not for the conventional or expected reasons, but because the word seemed so vulgar and accusatory in its usage. It was as if people were saying, “Gotcha, sucker! You can run but you can’t hide! Now, tell us who your lover is…”
It’s not as if he’s some shiesty criminal who was engaging in illegal activity. He’s simply a young man who fell in love with another young man. If he chose to only share that part of his life with a select group of people, that’s his prerogative. Frank Ocean owes nothing to the gay community, the black community, or any other poorly constructed community. He doesn’t have to explain himself to anyone except for The One who gave him life and talent.
From what I understand, he hasn’t been chasing male tail all his life. He had an unusual connection with one person that made him question everything he believed about love and intimacy. Let’s also note that all of this happened when he was 19. From experience, I know that age 19 can be quite a tumultuous year. You’re trapped right in between adolescence and adulthood; and with the removal of juvenile constrictions, its an ideal time for self-evaluating. While looking back on that year of my life, to say I was a mess would be an understatement – disaster is more appropriate. With the breadth of emotion and experience captured in his music, sometimes it’s easy to forget that Frank Ocean is in fact a young man. He still has some living and exploring to do, as do all of us, so let’s not rush to tattoo labels on his forehead.
Until Frank Ocean uses the term “gay” or “bisexual” to identify himself, I don’t feel comfortable using either of those words to describe him. In fact, I think I’m at a place where I’m done with ____sexual labels all together. This might be a risky stance to take, but I feel like reducing people’s romantic interests to a scientific category is equivalent to distinguishing between breeds or assigning racial categories. Unless we’re describing sexual acts, I’d rather leave the word “sexual” out of the picture. After all, there’s more to life, love, and relationships than sex — although most of us are products of intercourse.
I’m proud of Frank Ocean for having the courage to open up about something so personal, especially because the other young man is somewhere watching this all unfold. I wish the vulturous masses would take a chill pill, and not try to spin this into another item checked off on the gay agenda.
As a person, I’ve gotten to a point where I view transparency as the holy grail of all human qualities. I’ll gladly shout from the mountaintop that I’m a Christian who loves Frank Ocean without segregating the various aspects of his being. He isn’t a pedophile twisting the words of scripture to establish a false sense of authority over his victims. And seeing as there are active men of the cloth who meet these criteria, I think we should be slow to judge someone for keeping it real. He’s the same artist many of us have grown to love over the past couple of years. Nothing was said in channel ORANGE that gave me the impression this was a different person, so I see no reason to stop enjoying his art now. If I have any gripe with Frank, it’s his Odd Future affiliation; but I’ve almost crossed that bridge.
Thank you, Christopher Francis Ocean, for being the person to unplug my gaydar for good, by helping me to see the banality of obsessing over “sexual orientation”. Your contributions to art and society are invaluable. Keep being true to yourself and your supporters.
With Highest Regards,
LoveBaby Jones <3