Do not refer to Frank as gay or bisexual. The race to bag and tag Frank’s sexual orientation speaks to our nation’s binary understanding of sexuality, a straight-until-proven-gay ethos where anyone who enters into a same sex relationship is no longer heterosexual, and bisexuals are just gays-in-waiting. Nowhere in the letter does Frank identify with any of the labels that most writers have brashly applied to him, and that’s part of the beauty of it. Sexuality is more diffuse than “check yes or no.” It’s static for some and fluid for others, and the presumed norm of unerring heterosexuality is the stuff of 1950’s family sitcoms. Read more Kinsey.
Do not pore over Frank’s lyrics for specifics on his sexual identity or songs somehow rendered disingenuous by the letter. It is presumptuous to dismiss his songs for women as insincere posturing because of feelings he had for a man. To do so is to boldly question the veracity of the feelings he has had for the women in his life. But it is also presumptuous to conflate songwriting with autobiography. This is a common foible of fans of hip hop and R&B, who place a premium on experiential songwriting that hinders the ability to parse truth from fiction. The truth is that it is of no consequence whether a song’s events are real or fabricated so long as it destroys. Nobody asked to see Bowie’s space ship. Nobody asked Roger Waters for a piece of the wall.
Do not ponder What This Means for Odd Future. There has been talk of Odd Future’s dynamic having changed now that a group known for taking liberties with homophobic slurs suddenly has a “gay” member. Speculation abounds about what they’ll do differently now. This assumes Frank’s announcement is news to the group (It isn’t), and it ignores the existence of Odd Future’s DJ Syd tha Kid, who has been upfront about her sexuality all along. If you want to talk complexity, consider the fact that all of Odd Future’s homophobic barbs were recorded at Syd’s own house with her handling the mixing.
Do not ponder What This Means for Hip Hop. Hip hop is still a house built on machismo, and the castigation of those outside the hyper-masculine norm is old hat. Even our brightest poets, from Kool G Rap to A Tribe Called Quest to Public Enemy, have expressed their disdain for homosexuality at one point or another, and the current generation has often followed their lead. Remember last year when T.I. invoked his right to oppose homosexuality in Vibe magazine? Or last spring when Philly rapper Jakk Frost released “Gay Bashing”, and rap blogs blindly posted it? Or the fallout from Hot 97 DJ Mister Cee’s arrest? If there has been a shift in attitudes at all in the last year, it is as much a function of actual social progression as it is of rappers biting their tongues because gay people buy records too. Just ask 50 Cent.
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