Waking up this morning, we were greeted with an announcement from Frank Ocean that he is bisexual. Rumours about Ocean’s sexuality had been circulating for a little while – a few journalists have been given the chance to hear Ocean’s forthcoming Channel Orange album ahead of its release and it emerged that it includes a number of love songs addressed to men. Despite the speculation, the announcement still hit with a fair amount of force – for a man operating within the R&B world (though Ocean would describe himself simply as a songwriter) to openly identify as anything other than heterosexual is, to date, unheard of.
Plenty has been written on Ocean already today, so we’ll keep this brief. Undoubtedly, it’s important to mention the bravery that was needed to make this step, as well as the issues of prejudice that this has already thrown up. It might also be worthwhile, however, to think about the future – what Frank Ocean’s beautiful, poetic honesty might mean a few months, or a year or two, or five years from now. Because the whole ‘coming out’ process is just that – future-oriented. It’s positive, moving from a fairly compromised present towards something better. And despite the inevitable bigoted reactions and the hand-wringing that this may (or may not) trigger in the hiphop community, it wasn’t hard to reflect on Frank’s note with an increasing optimism as today wore on – not just for him, but also for all the individuals this is inevitably, quietly or not so quietly, going to touch. In a way, it’s not about music at all – sexuality might just be one of the few things that is more important than pop music (only just, mind) – but it certainly helps that a musician found the strength to be honest. Nicely done, Frank. Channel Orange is out on Def Jam on July 23.