The Sky is Falling: Frank Ocean’s Letter, Black Youth, and Humanity
The winds of change offered us another subtle and elusive breeze on the 4th of July as the nation celebrated another ironic Independence Day. Undoubtedly, many of you have already heard of Frank Ocean’s beautiful tumblr post announcing that his first love was a man. In delicate prose laced in a humble font sans serif, he chimes, “4 summers ago. I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide.” As a young gay black male, who ardently remembers my first love, as well as my first encounters with homophobia, time for me seems to be gliding as well. My world is rocked with seemingly infinite amounts of support coming out for the LGBTQ struggle, even as the ignorance of tradition seem to be crystallizing right before my very eyes. I am honestly shocked. And the question becomes, what does this mean?
Now of course, Anderson Cooper came out just a few days before. But as a wealthy white male with a beloved following, his choice was safer. It was courageous and worthy of celebration of course, but responses to his choice was a resounding and cynical “why does this matter?” , which the blogosphere took up the call to answer. Frank Ocean, however, is admitting that he once loved a man in the midst of a hip hop culture that can often thrive on demeaning exclamations against both women and homophobia. Frank Ocean’s letter, his universal anecdote of unreciprocated love, speaks to not only our humanity, but to a growing acceptance. Notions of black masculinity are changing, ideas of sexuality are changing, hip hop is changing, and of course, these changes vary in their nuance and in their brevity, but they are happening nonetheless.
Black Youth Project youth surveys launched back in 2004 discovered Black youth were just as split as the country when it came to homosexuality, with a little more half feeling that it was wrong even though more than 80 percent of them knew someone who was LGBTQ. But since then we have experienced a growing visibility of gay suicides, It Gets Better campaigns, increasing Black support for gay marriage, a Black president who came out in support of gay marriage, and now we have a notable hip-hop figure announcing that he too has loved a man. History is moving forward.
And what’s the most exquisite facet of this entire moment, is that Frank Ocean’s post did not say, “I am gay.” He merely said that he loved. He appealed to our humanity, not to our constructed notions of labels and letters.
I thank Frank Ocean for adding his piece to the puzzle. He might’ve done more than he knows, and hopefully he’s helping some LGBTQ youth grow a little closer to sharing the sentiment expressed in his final line.
“I feel like a free man. If I listen closely…I can hear the sky falling too.”
In fact, these moments do make me feel as if the sky is falling.