Frank Ocean: Humanizing The New Gay Black Superhero
The number one thing you should take away with you after one visit to Discreet City is we’re fearless when it comes to voicing our opinions. Our goal from DAY ONE has always been to discuss issues in ways that you will not see on ANY other website. We say the things that a lot of people just think.
When it came to the subject of the new black gay superhero Frank Ocean, we didn’t pull any punches. He’s not above critique or criticism. He’s human like the rest of us. Having said that, our coverage of the Frank Ocean Coming Out Story was not meant to be hostile, merely honest.
Before I continue let me make one thing VERY clear: I agree with most that his letter was a very big deal if only to show the masses that all men that are attracted to men are not fems wearing Prada boots while dancing to Beyonce songs. We need Frank Ocean. He’s the answer to our many complaints about masculine gay black representation in the media.
For all we know, he has checked out our website in the past and answered our complaints by making this announcement (wishful thinking, I know).
Also, I think many of us have been where he has been in life. We’ve all had a major crush on a close seemingly heterosexual friend at one point. It may have been love or just infatuation, but we’ve all been there.
However, for the duration of the rest of this essay, lets step into the “Honesty Zone.” Lets take off the teary-eyed romanticized glasses we were wearing when we read Ocean’s letter and look at this whole thing HONESTLY.
FRANK OCEAN’S COMING OUT LETTER
Whoever you are, wherever you are, 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. My loved ones are everything to me here. In the last year or 3 I’ve screamed at my creator. Screamed at clouds in the sky. For some explanation. Mercy maybe. For peace of mind to rain like manna somehow.
4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide. Most of the day I’d see him, and his smile. I’d hear his conversation and his silence..until it was time to sleep. Sleep I would often share with him. By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping, no negotiating with the feeling. No choice. It was my first love, it changed my life.
Back then my mind would wander to the women I had been with, the ones I cared for and though I was in love with. I reminisced about the sentimental songs I enjoyed when I was a teenager..the ones I played when I experienced a girlfriend for the first time. I realized they were written in a language I did not yet speak. I realized too much too quickly.
Imagine being thrown from a plane. I wasn’t in a plane though. I was in a Nissan Maxima, the same car I packed up with bags and drove to Los Angeles in. I sat there and told my friend how I felt. I wept as the words left my mouth. I grieved for them, knowing I could never take them back for myself.
He patted my back. He said kind things. He did his best, but he wouldn’t admit the same. He had to go back inside soon. It was late and his girlfriend was waiting for him upstairs. He wouldn’t tell me the truth about his feelings for me for another 3 years. I felt like I’d only imagined reciprocity for years.
Now imagine being thrown from a cliff. No, I wasn’t on a cliff, I was still in my car telling myself it was gonna be fine and to take deep breaths. I took the breaths and carried on. I kept up a peculiar friendship with him because I couldn’t imagine keeping up my life without him. I struggled to master myself and my emotions. I wasn’t always successful.
The dance went on. I kept the rhythm for several summers after. It’s winter now. I’m typing this on a plane back to Los Angeles from New Orleans. I flew home for another marred Christmas. I have a window seat. It’s December 27, 2011. By now I’ve written two albums, this being the second. I wrote to keep myself busy and sane. I wanted to create worlds that were rosier than mine. I tried to channel overwhelming emotions. I’m surprised at how far all of it has taken me.
Before writing this I’d told some people my story. I’m sure these people kept me alive, kept me safe…sincerely, these are the folks I wanna thank from the floor of my heart. Everyone of you knows who you are…great humans, probably angels. I don’t know what happens now, and that’s alright. I don’t have any secrets I need kept anymore. There’s probably some small shit still, but you know what I mean. I was never alone, as much as I felt like it.. as much as I still do sometimes. I never was. I don’t think I ever could be.
Thanks. To my first love. I’m grateful for you. Grateful that even though it wasn’t what I hoped for and even though it was never enough, it was. Some things never are…and we were. I won’t forget you. I won’t forget the summer. I’ll remember who I was when I met you. I’ll remember who you were and how we’ve both changed and stayed the same. I’ve never had more respect for life and living than I have right now. Maybe it takes a near death experience to feel alive. Thanks. To my mother, you raised me strong. I know I’m only braved because you were first.. so thank you. All of you. For everything good. I feel like a free man. If I listen closely…I can hear the sky falling.
HONESTY MOMENT #1:
My original essay was misinterpreted by many readers. The problem with doing what we do is that we critically discuss issues that many people already have preconceived opinions on. It’s like an Atheist discussing religion with a devout Muslim.
Many people who commented on yesterday’s article had already determined that Frank Ocean was a brave, courageous hero deserving of ONLY praise and admiration. When they saw the headline for the post, they already determined that they didn’t agree and read the article with a defensive mindset.
I can’t control how you think, nor do I want to…But I hope to at least open your mind to new and different points of views. The problem with many Gay men is that they think that we’re all supposed to have the SAME opinions, interests and type of friends just because we’re all gay.
Hate us or love us, this website shows that we don’t hold that view. We love unique articulated opinions.
The Down Low Dilemma is still very real. As much as we’d like to strip away Down Low behavior from what was described in Frank Ocean’s letter, its very clear that there backbone of it is in there. True his letter expresses the inner workings of a young man coming to terms with an expanding sexuality, but it also demonstrates the origin of many real Down Low relationships: Two men who think they’re straight realizing that they like each other (in that way) but there is a woman involved. However, if there were no mention of a girlfriend, yesterday’s post would not have existed.
Hypothetically speaking, if the man that Frank Ocean cried to ALSO confessed his love for the R&B singer (at that moment instead of 3 years later), they would be considered being on the Down Low. Do we really believe that the other man would have immediately went upstairs to break up with his then girlfriend and confess that he was in love with his male friend?
But let’s eliminate speculation and focus on the facts. Even if the two men never had sex, even if the other man didn’t have a girlfriend the entire time they were friends…the FACT remains that, at that defining moment, Frank Ocean completely disregarded the girlfriend over his own desires. This is important because this can plausibly cause red flags to be raised by black women everywhere: That close friend of your man could be scheming to get with him.
An argument we make on this website is that gay and straight men can be platonic friends with no ulterior motives. Regardless of whether falling in love was an unexpected consequence of the friendship; Frank Ocean’s letter slightly undermines the previous argument. Especially since there was a girlfriend involved.
To be fair, I’m basing my opinions off of logic, not emotion. I’ve been guilty of that on the website in multiple occasions. I understand that when coming to terms with your sexuality, logic takes a backseat. Even when coming to terms with being in love with someone already committed, logic takes a backseat. But when all is said and done, if Frank’s story didn’t include that one word (girlfriend), I would have probably been on the bandwagon along with everyone else.
Really how much more courageous is this coming out story than any other? It’s true that his coming out adds to the much-needed representation of masculine men in the media. On one hand, Frank Ocean has a lot to lose by making this announcement. Already we’ve seen so-called fans lashing out verbally on twitter by calling him a “fag.” But on the other hand, would he have had those fans to lose in the first place had they known he was Gay or Bisexual from the beginning?
Can an openly Gay man (making the same kind of music) see Ocean’s level of notoriety and success if they started today? Rap artists that we’ve featured on Discreet City like Lasto and Kaoz have made it clear they were gay from the very beginning. Their lyrics use the proper pronouns when describing the relationships from their pasts. Would it have been better for them to keep their sexuality under wraps until after they achieved success, then take the mask off saying, “Ha-ha! Gotcha bitches!”
To be fair, the argument could made that Frank Ocean only recently came to terms with his sexuality. He’s only 24 years old and at that age, I had accepted that I was Gay but I wasn’t about to announce it to the world like he did.
The decision to Come Out is major for anyone. Being a celebrity doesn’t make a person more special than the bus driver, waiter, doctor or engineer. We all have our own personal demons and sacrifices that make something as mundane as sexuality a big deal to keep private or not private.
Don’t take what I’ve written as dismissing the impact and importance in what young Frank Ocean has done. I’m just speaking about the situation honestly.
HONESTY MOMENT #4:
Frank Ocean has never actually said that he was Gay or Bisexual. Okay, it’s true he poetically tells the story of his first love that happened to be for a man and the emotional repercussions thereafter. And he implies a lot about writing declarations of soul searching and cursing God. But in all honesty, that is not the same as going on Twitter and Facebook and saying, “Yo, I’m a black Gay man.”
No I’m not criticizing him for failing to Come Out in a way that pleases me…I’m merely stating that the romanticized way his Coming Out is presented makes it all very ambiguous and softens the blow for many of his female fans. He never mentions sex, he never mentions handholding and he never really mentions any intimacy going on at all.
This glaring omission has led many commenters yesterday to say things like, “his love was a one-time-thing” and “they were never dating” and “stop speculating past what is in the letter to fit your agenda.” Based on those statements, are we also over-reaching in celebrating that Frank Ocean Came Out as Gay?
HONESTY MOMENT #5:
Calling someone a “Bottom” is not always a dirty word. When I mentioned in the post yesterday that I construed Frank Ocean to be a Bottom from what I read, that was not meant to be an insult. If you re-read the full context you will see that in doing so it made me more sympathetic to his story.
Throughout my sexual life, I’ve primarily only dated Bottoms and Vers Bottom men. What I’ve noticed over the years that the Bottoms have been more emotional, compassionate, sensitive and more attached to the relationship once sex has occurred. I identified the attachment and sensitivity described in Frank Ocean’s letter with the bottoms that I’ve dated in the past and sympathized with him more because of it.
Anyone that interpreted that as a “negative stigma” that’s your interpretation, not mine. You brought your own insecurities into the text and got offended.
For the protective man within me, identifying Frank as a Bottom was a positive thing to me. Especially given that he displayed so much compassion and emotion. As I read his letter, I imagined that I was the other guy and that he was talking about me. I wondered if I really could have rejected a handsome, intelligent, talented guy like him in that situation.
Many of the rest of you put yourself into Frank’s emotional shoes…THIS IS WHAT TRIGGERED YOUR NEGATIVE REACTION FROM MY STATEMENT. You inserted your own insecurities about Bottoms into the text.
If you stop thinking that being a Bottom is a bad thing, then you’ll stop having the knee-jerk reaction to someone being called one. For example, I often make the point that Jesus was never married, never had a girlfriend and hung around 12 dudes all the time…so he was probably at least Bisexual. This gets a chuckle from some Gay people but MOST gays take offense shouting, “How dare you call Jesus Gay!” As if in their mind being Gay is a flaw or defect that the perfect Jesus would not have. If I called Jesus Straight, its doubtful there would be any flack at all.
This goes to my point about Bottoms…If you stop carrying your own internal issues with the word, you won’t be so quick to interpret it as an insult.
Frank Ocean got embarrassingly sprung on an Unavailable Man. To be honest, in picturing the incident I admittedly laughed and said to myself, this dude Frank Ocean got REALLY sprung on this boy. Then I had to ask if he was really in love or was it just infatuation.
Frank confessing his desire for the guy in the Nissan Maxima (knowing the man had a girlfriend) is a classic symptom of infatuation. Re-read his letter then read the differences between Love and Infatuation. It’s clear that he fits the latter.
Confusing infatuation for love…hell, I’ve been there too. Many of us have.
Only four years ago I fell hard for this boy who literally changed my life. Every time we chilled together, I didn’t want it to end. Every conversation was long and full of revelations about our lives. This boy fucked my head up. I was blind to everyone else; my thoughts only went to him. There was a hitch though; he was already in a relationship with another guy.
Looking back, it was an embarrassing time in my life. While I didn’t cry or write poetic letters about him like Frank Ocean, I did open myself up in a way that I hadn’t before. If you’re a guy like myself that likes to keep his cool, it is remembered as an embarrassment. Especially since I displayed that vulnerability to someone who (as it turns out) wasn’t really feeling the same way. I would like to say that he was my first love, but looking back its more likely that it was just strong infatuation. So looking back, I just shake my head and laugh about the things I did in hindsight (I actually went to a Beyonce concert for God’s sake!).
So while I can relate to Frank Ocean getting sprung, I gotta say that he’s not above a little ridicule. I think Gay men can be overly sensitive when it comes to certain aspects of homosexuality and being a man. People are people, no matter the level of their celebrity.
Also, I‘ll repeat that Frank Ocean gets big props from us on what he’s done. Neither one of us here are “fans” per se…but flaws and all, we embrace him as an example for others to see that there is more to being gay than the feminine stereotypes projected to the masses.
– Nick D
* You will receive the latest news and updates on your favorite celebrities!