I don’t think Frank Ocean‘s recent revelation about his first love is quite the ‘coming out’ story we’ve tried to make it. I’ve maintained since the first time a woman’s love pulled at my own heartstrings, that sexuality is more fluid than fixed.
Frank Ocean is a rising star. His is the first voice you hear on Jay-Z and Kanye West’s ‘Watch The Throne’ album. So when I read his tumblr post yesterday morning, I knew right away it would shake things up in the hip hop world. Folks would talk themselves in circles and work themselves into a fury trying to define Ocean: oh, so that nigga gay now; he’s bi; he’s on the down low. I don’t know if he is any of those things, but either way, I don’t think that was the point of the post.
Frank “thank you’s” post speaks to the complexity of human emotion. Frank Ocean’s letter was a love story, not one of homosexual discovery. That a man was the object of Frank’s affection isn’t inconsequential, I can admit that. I understand how difficult it is socially and culturally for a young Black man in the hip hop world to admit feelings that his contemporaries would probably never admit to themselves, or find the courage to share with the world. Frank took a tremendous risk to let a piece of his truth live freely.
And his story isn’t a gay rights issue, but it is comparable in a way. The point gay advocates and allies have tried to make for years is that love isn’t picky about social variables. It doesn’t take race, religion, income, gender, or political affiliation into consideration when it settles in. And believe it or not, sometimes love precedes lust, or attraction. When it hits you, it hits you. And there’s nothing you can really do about the feeling, or the fact that you felt it. Frank said it beautifully: ”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.” Yep, that’s how it goes.
The social implications of same-sex attraction are always the hurdle. The attraction itself, however, is natural. And, for the record, if you’ve never had one before, then your opinion holds no credibility on what it is, or what it feels like. You guys don’t get to decide for all of us what is and isn’t “natural.” You just don’t.
Frank Ocean’s personal testimony is powerful because it’s so basic, and so common to the human experience. Cats fall in love. And for whatever reason, sometimes the cats they fall for can’t handle the pressure. Frank’s story didn’t have to be activist to resonate. It was a love story. In fact, that it was just a dude exposing his truth with personal freedom being his ultimate end, makes the story all the more engrossing and courageous. And, as a consequence, it also exposes a few blindspots in our perceptions about sexuality and intimacy.
Attraction, in my experience, hasn’t been just about gender. I accept that for most folks, it is. But sometimes gender is merely a variable, like good skin or pretty eyes. Sometimes you fall for the person first, and his or her gender is an afterthought – a bridge you’ll cross when you come to it, if you ever do.
Frank fell in love. With a person who couldn’t reciprocate. And four summers later, he’d grown strong enough to share his secret and strong enough to move through it. He’d grown strong enough to show, through his experience, that people are just people. We have emotions and feel things we don’t expect. But whether we expect them or understand them, doesn’t change the fact that they are. They just are.
The ocean of emotion is vast. If you find love out here – if you find someone who makes you feel genuine love and affection – you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Things may not work out in the long run, but at least you didn’t miss a life-changing experience because it wasn’t packaged the way you expected.
I’m grateful to Frank Ocean for being an ambassador of this idea. I’m proud of him and I love him for his honesty and vulnerability. In telling his story, he gives voice to many people who’ve experienced the same, but never had an ally. Now they know. People are just people, and we feel what we feel. We just do.