An Open Letter to Frank Ocean

Thank you sir. On behalf of people everywhere who have had to live in shame and secrecy because of who they are and who they love. Thank you on behalf of heterosexual people like myself and countless others who support the rights of those who may not be heterosexual to live as freely as they deserve. Thank you for showing another way to be black and masculine in a society often expecting black and masculine to be defined by the most nefarious of traits known to man. Thank you on behalf of people everywhere who believe in the creed we say with arms over our hearts in our American Pledge of Allegiance "with liberty and justice for all." Simply thank you.

Yesterday, on a day that we celebrated our American Independence, you celebrated your own. You decided that at a time when the public's views on same sex relationships are beginning to shift, that it was your time to stand up. I can't imagine how hard it must have been to make that choice. Being entrenched in the hip hop community, which for its entire existence has been adversarial to LGBTQI people must have made it hard to be your true self. There is still no guarantee that you will be positively accepted in the community. We must all remember that after country music singer Chely Wright came out as a lesbian woman that she had a very hard time making it in the music business. So the financial as well as professional risks are great. But you stood your ground and made the decision nonetheless. It is said that "justice is what love looks like when it speaks in public." For your selfless bravery and ability to speak about your love in public in hopes of achieving justice for a larger community thank you sir.

I no doubt believe that the impact of your announcement will send ripples through the black and brown community as well as the music industry. It has long been rumored that many hip hop artists have been rumored to be gay or bisexual. While some of those rumors may be just that, rumors, many of those artists possibly may have been. Your coming out, but more importantly the response that your announcement will garner, will either allow others to follow in your footsteps, or go deeper into an increasingly dark closet. I pray for the former.

What your announcement will do for black culture is yet to be seen. Many black and brown people who oppose LGBTQI rights are fans of your work. There is no doubt that at this very moment they are conflicted. I for one believe that the conflict is a beautiful one. I have long believed that people who are against equal rights for LGBTQI people would have a very different view of them if they knew personally someone who identified as a member of the community. Often the bonds we create with our artists allows us to feel as if we know them. How can they deny your right to exist now when a few days ago they were bumping your work and identifying with your music. I believe that what will rise out of the ashes of this internal conflict will be a more accepting and tolerant view of you as a man, and by virtue other members of the LGBTQI community. I know that hopes springs eternal, but here's to hope.      

Your ability to refine masculinity in this new century is awe inspiring. Noted novelist Norman Mailer said "masculinity is not something given to you but something you gain. And you gain it by winning small battles with honor." There can be little doubt that by this definition that your masculinity can not be denied. You publicly confronted your truth in one of the most honorable and eloquent ways I can think of. I salute you.

I hope on this day and at this time we publicly and privately consider how we view those around us. The battles that others face often are never known to us. Frank your battle is the battle of millions of people around the world. You sir found a way to make it known who you are and what you are. For that, may the creator who created you and us all in their likeness continue to bless you on this journey through life. Hopefully those living in the shadows today woke up feeling a little better that someone else was able to be honest about who they are. And even more importantly hopefully they will use this moment as a beacon in the dark ocean of bigotry and homophobia as a way to find their way home. Then and only then will the truly American ideal of "liberty and justice for all" be truly more than an ideal.


Karl Bell said…
The world is changing right before our eyes. Change is the absolute norm. MLK told us a long time ago that "the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy," Frank Ocean's announcement will allow us all to measure not only our friends and family, but ourselves as well. Thanks for this thought provoking open letter!

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