of sexuality is becoming more accepted, even in certain
artist enclaves of the African American community.
and Hip-Hop songwriter, Frank
has come out. Although it will be hotly contested
in African American circles, some say Ocean is the
first major artist to come out in both industries.
For some time there have been rumors about Ocean's
down-low trysts. But in Ocean's new album, Channel Orange, to be released July 17,
a journalist attending the listening party for the
album noted that several of the songs were not heterosexual
in messaging but rather they were boldly "addressed
to a male love object."
I think about the term 'running away,' probably it's
not the right one," Ocean told New
York Times reporter, Jon Caramanica. "It's
more I decided to do something different, so that
I might have a different outlook." Ocean added,
"When they're emotional things, you can't run
away from them anyway."
of the things from which Ocean has now stopped running
away, when publicly confronted, is his sexuality.
The 24-year-old New
Orleans native posted last
week on both Twitter and Tumblr that he had had a
same-gender loving relationship when he was 19.
are in "the closet with the glass door,"
living a life they don't reveal in their music.
summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19. He was too.
We spent that summer, and the summer after, together.
Everyday almost. And on the days we were together,
time would glide... Sleep
I would often share with him... There was no escaping.
No negotiating with the feeling. No choice. It was
my first love."
concludes the post: "I don't have any secrets
I need to keep anymore… I feel like a free man..."
homophobia is evident in Hip-Hop, so, too it is, in
R&B. As a rising star in both genres, Ocean’s
not stating whether he is "bisexual" or
"gay" has frustrated many in the LGBTQ community,
but it might speak to his need to stay afloat professionally.
Ebony.com, Jamilah Lemieux noted
that while few urban artists openly embrace homosexuality,
many are in "the closet with the glass door,"
living a life they don't reveal in their music. "I
hope that Frank Ocean doesn't become 'the gay singer,'
for it would be criminally unfair for him to wear
that label as so many of his peers are sleeping with
and loving same gendered persons, while selling images
that "LGBTQ" label is what many African
American artists have doggedly denounced in spite
of being caught in an indisputable same-gender lover's
not forget our down-to-earth Jersey
girl, Dana Owens, a.k.a reigning Hip-hop’s Queen Latifah.
And on the days we were together, time would glide...
African American celebrity gossip, news, popular culture
and entertainment blog Bossip.com outed Latifah in
September 2010 with photos of Latifah and gal pal
and “personal trainer” Jeanette Jenkins in a tender
embrace that was not intended for public viewing.
When R&B soul diva Alicia Keys’ photos from the
nuptials of Queen Latifah and Jenkins intimately embraced
aboard a private yacht in France went viral
on the Internet, the public’s long awaited “Gotcha”
moment was revealed.
private life is my private life. Whomever I might
be with, I don't feel the need to share it. I don't
think I ever will," Queen Latifah had said in
a November, 2007 interview with People
magazine, refuting rumors that she’s a lesbian.
Powers in her article, A
Close Look At Frank Ocean's Coming Out Letter,
for NPR opines differently as to why artists might
not self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender
or queer (LGBTQ):
"There is another reason why Ocean can't be saddled with an
easy label, and it points to an interesting aspect
of his newly minted self-conception. In his note,
instead of embracing an identity, Ocean shared a set
of memories and explored complex feelings, just as
he does in his songs. Unlike the standard coming out
gesture - newsman Anderson Cooper's public email to
his friend Andrew Sullivan, "The fact is, I'm
gay" - Ocean's presented sexuality as something
that arises within particular circumstances, defined
by shifting desire and individual encounters rather
than solidifying as an identity. In the age-old debate
about whether sexuality emerges as something we are
or through something we want or do, Ocean carefully
rested on the side of feeling and deed."
Ocean appears "label-less" in not identifying
as either "bisexual" or "gay,"
Cleo Manago, founder of Black Men's Xchange (BMX),
states in this article, Can
People Let Frank Ocean Define His Own Sexuality,
a possible reason why:
"What we've witnessed is a profound chauvinism on the part
of gay-identified individuals who cannot conceive
of any identity outside of the limiting gay/straight
binary. And in the process, they continue to obscure
the rarely acknowledged reality that many Black
men who love men are not comfortable with the LGBT
or gay identity."
terms "LGBT," "queer" and "gay"
are not descriptors Manago and his organization would
use to depict themselves. They would be "same-gender-loving"
because terms like "gay" and "queer"
uphold a white queer hegemony that Manago and many
in the African-American LGBTQ community denounce.
As a matter-of-fact, he is credited with coining the
terms "men who have sex with men" (MSM)
and "same-gender-loving" (SGL)
a president who now embraces same-sex marriage and
in this era of celebrated LGBTQ artists like Ellen
DeGeneres and Wanda Sykes, the fluidity of sexuality
is becoming more accepted, even in certain artist
enclaves of the African American community.
Ocean made public his announcement, power couple Beyonce
and Jay-Z expressed their support. And Russell Simmons,
co-founder of the hip-hop label "Def Jam"
wrote a congratulatory
Courage of Frank Ocean
Just Changed the Game! in Global
Grind stating, "Today is a big day for hip-hop.
It is a day that will define who we really are. How
compassionate will we be? How loving can we be? How
inclusive are we? ... Your decision to go public about
your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so
many young people still living in fear."
has certainly changed the game for both hip-hop and
R&B LGBTQ artists, but he sums up this issue best
when he posted on his Tumblr page, "My hope is
that the babies born these days will inherit less
of the (expletive) than we did."
Board member and Columnist, the Rev. Irene Monroe,
is a religion columnist, theologian, and public speaker.
She is the Coordinator of
the African-American Roundtable of the Center for Lesbian and
Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS) at the
Pacific School of Religion. A native of Brooklyn, Rev. Monroe is a
graduate from Wellesley College and Union Theological
Seminary at Columbia University, and served as a pastor
at an African-American church before coming to Harvard
Divinity School for her doctorate as a Ford Fellow.
She was recently named to MSNBC’s list of 10 Black Women You Should Know. Reverend Monroe is the author
of Let Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow Always: Meditations on Bible Prayers
for Not’So’Everyday Moments. As an African-American feminist
theologian, she speaks for a sector of society that
is frequently invisible. Her website is irenemonroe.com.
Click here to contact
the Rev. Monroe.