How Not To Respond To Frank Ocean’s Sexuality

How Not To Respond To Frank Ocean’s Sexuality

Unless you live under a rock or were a victim of thunderstorm-inflicted power outages this week, you’ve probably heard about Odd Future affiliated R&B singer Frank Ocean’s big revelation over the Independence Day holiday. After one attentive blogger went to a listening party for Ocean’s soon- to-be-released Def Jam debut Channel Orange and noted the selective use of male pronouns in a few love songs, Ocean took to his Tumblr account to release a letter originally meant to serve as the album’s “Thank You” section. In it, he detailed a friendship with another man that progressed into love and the crushing heartbreak he suffered when he professed his feelings only to be rejected. It was a devastatingly beautiful read and a rare moment for R&B, a genre with legends that have gone to their graves never having addressed rumors about their sexuality.

You’ve probably seen the response to Frank’s letter too, the social media chatter, the well-meaning think pieces, and the mean-spirited bigotry. The prevailing sentiment around the ‘net is one of support, but as the deluge of music blog content creation has come roaring back into post-holiday action, it is apparent that we, as a community, are not properly equipped to discuss matters of sexuality with the delicacy that they require. Too many scribes are gloriously misguided in their examination of Frank’s letter and its implications, and it seems as if we need a set of ground rules on how to approach this dialogue going forward. It’s a valuable discourse, but it needs to continue without the unfounded conclusions, self-righteous dogma and attention-grabbing click bait we’ve seen all week.

Here’s how NOT to talk about Frank Ocean’s sexuality.

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  1. Demetriusblacc
    Jul 13, 2012 @ 21:51:00

    Ocean’s lovely, thoughtful note to fans explaining that his first love was a man was supposedly released before the album because journalists had noticed some male pronouns in interesting places on Channel Orange. “Bad Religion” and “Forrest Gump” are the tracks in question. The former is a haunting, organ-driven descent into Ocean’s struggle with himself. You should read BubbleMAMI’s piece about it at RapGenius (and while you’re at it, read Craig Jenkins on the dumb conclusions you shouldn’t draw about Frank’s sexuality). But mostly, you should listen to “Bad Religion” and “Forrest Gump” for yourself. The only man whose opinions on the matter are wholly valid is talking to you, and he’s got a lot to share. But if all you take away from Channel Orange is the chance to overscrutinize these two tracks for clues to how to label Frank, you’re missing a hell of a beautiful forest for just a couple of interesting trees.

    Agree with Alan Pyke on this matter!!!

  2. marc heilbrunn
    Jul 10, 2012 @ 23:37:00


  3. True Dubs
    Jul 09, 2012 @ 15:26:00

    Best article on the subject I’ve read yet. The blogosphere and the media have an obligation to be respectful and intelligent about this, and not just spew garbage or scramble for reactionary bullshit.

  4. Joe
    Jul 09, 2012 @ 14:58:00

    Well-written, looking past the self-appointed expertise on reactions. “Don’t call it a non-issue BUT also don’t overstate the importance!” Classic.

  5. Gedi D.
    Jul 09, 2012 @ 14:01:00

    The gay black athlete would be more compelling because sports represents the machismo and the need to dominate to be successful.

  6. JohnRHealey
    Jul 09, 2012 @ 13:48:00

    Craig for president. This rules.

  7. Gedi D.
    Jul 09, 2012 @ 13:20:00

    Fantastic piece Craig. You made a lot of great points. All you needed was “f*ck your think piece son!” at the end.

  8. Andrew Martin
    Jul 09, 2012 @ 12:47:00

    Craig, you are incredible.

  9. Zach Cole
    Jul 09, 2012 @ 12:43:00

    Craig – you genius! Thank you for writing this.

  10. CG
    Jul 09, 2012 @ 11:16:00

    Re-thinking my over-thought think-piece.

  11. Ur Stupid
    Jul 09, 2012 @ 11:15:00


  12. KG
    Jul 09, 2012 @ 11:10:00

    We need a gay black athlete, a gay black politician, etc. that kind of thing to break the machismo. a gay r&b singer is not unheard of I cant believe its become such a big deal. also who really takes Tyler seriously with all the “faggot” and “bitch” stuff. theyre whole thing is shock value and theyve had Syd in the crew since day one. love the article, good points. another point should be made “just because Anderson Cooper came out, doesn’t mean Frank Ocean gives a fuck”

  13. David Reyneke
    Jul 09, 2012 @ 11:08:00

    This is incredible, Craig. Fantastic job!

  14. Daman Bahner
    Jul 09, 2012 @ 11:00:00

    FUCKING BRILLIANT – important, and extremely well said.

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