Ocean of Emotion
I don’t think Frank Ocean’s recent revelation about his first love is 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’s is the first voice you hear on Jay-Z and Kanye West’s ‘Watch the Throne’ album. He’s a rising star. So when I read his tumblr post yesterday morning, I knew right away it would shake things up in the hip hop world. Folks talked themselves in circles and worked themselves into a fury trying to define Ocean: oh, so that n*gga 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’s “thank you’s” speaks to the complexity of human emotion. His letter was a love story, not one of homosexual discovery. That the object of Frank’s affection was a man 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 leap to let a piece of his truth live.
The intimacy shared between Frank Ocean and his male friend is more layered than the one-dimensional identity public opinion is trying to force. Frank’s letter offers a more interesting take on love, namely that it isn’t picky about social variables. It doesn’t take race, religion, income, gender, or political affiliation into consideration when it settles in. When it hits you, it hits you. And there’s nothing you can really do about the feeling, or 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 implications of same-sex attraction are always the hurdle. But the attraction itself usually happens naturally. And if you’ve never had one before, then your opinion lacks credibility on what it is, or what it feels like. No one gets 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. It was just a dude exposing his truth with personal freedom being the ultimate end. That’s what makes the story all the more engrossing and courageous.
Frank’s letter and the reactions to it, also expose a few blind spots 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 have a need to. Sometimes the love is all that matters.
Frank fell for a person who couldn’t fully reciprocate. For Adam and Eve, or Adam and Steve, rejection is hard to take. But four summers later, Frank had 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 the gift horse in the mouth. 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.