It’s uncommon, to put it mildly, for an R&B singer to admit he’s gay. While rumors abound for certain beloved crooners, no popular contemporary artists have come out of the closet.
Well, one brave guy changed all that last week. Singer-songwriter Frank Ocean posted an eloquent account of his first love–who just so happened to be man. The unprecedented admission set the social media ablaze: Never before had any young black man in the music industry been so cavalier about his sexuality, especially a young man who appears stereotypically masculine. A slew of fans (including Beyonce) praised Ocean’s honesty, and popular bloggers took to their keyboards to analyze the impact Ocean’s confession would have on the masses.
But even as LGBT acceptance grows in the United States, the African American community remains largely against equal marriage and overtly homophobic in some circles, including Ocean’s hip-hop ensemble Odd Future. For every well wish to Ocean, there’s a hell wish. Don Lemon, the CNN anchor who came out last year, explained the issue well:
“[To be gay is] quite different for an African-American male… It’s about the worst thing you can be in black culture. You’re taught you have to be a man; you have to be masculine. In the black community they think you can pray the gay away.”
Some think the outing of a young black male signals the demise of humanity, a slippery slope toward the proverbial island full of men (come back 100 years later, and no one will be there, they say). Some say Ocean was just stirring up interest for his first studio album, Channel Orange, which was released today instead of July 17 as originally planned. But despite what fearmongers and skeptics say, Frank Ocean’s candor about his sexuality eases the burden for others. It’s evidence that a young man can be creative, talented, gay, black, masculine, and accepted, all at the same time. Ocean’s account is a small chink in the old homophobic armor, and in a musical genre that often derides or hides homosexuality, that’s a feat worth celebrating.