R&B singer/songwriter Frank Ocean came out as queer this past summer, but it turns out that the letter he posted to his Tumblr he had actually written nearly a year ago, last December. With a fair amount of distance from that stunning revelation, he talks to GQ about how utterly relieved he felt after he’d done it. It’s a really touching interview, but I was struck by how Frank describes his mindset immediately after hitting Publish:
GQ: Exactly how did your perspective change?
Frank Ocean: Whatever I said in that letter, before I posted it, seemed so huge. But when you come out the other side, now your brain—instead of receiving fear—sees “Oh, shit happened and nothing happened.” Brain says, “Self, I’m fine.” I look around, and I’m touching my fucking limbs, and I’m good. Before anybody called me and said congratulations or anything nice, it had already changed. It wasn’t from outside. It was completely in here, in my head.
Of course, Frank stood to lose plenty. He was still new to the music scene, especially in a subset of the industry that isn’t very tolerant of queer sexuality. He could have been shunned or attacked for his admission. But what was most shocking — and in some ways, not shocking at all — was that people assumed Frank had done this as a PR stunt.
GQ: Did you worry it would derail your career?
Frank Ocean: I had those fears. In black music, we’ve got so many leaps and bounds to make with acceptance and tolerance in regard to that issue. It reflects something just ingrained, you know. When I was growing up, there was nobody in my family—not even my mother—who I could look to and be like, “I know you’ve never said anything homophobic.” So, you know, you worry about people in the business who you’ve heard talk that way. Some of my heroes coming up talk recklessly like that. It’s tempting to give those views and words—that ignorance—more attention than they deserve. Very tempting.
Some people said, “He’s saying he fell in love with a guy for hype.” As if that’s the best hype you can get in hip-hop or black music. So I knew that if I was going to say what I said, it had to be in concert with one of the most brilliant pieces of art that has come out in my generation. And that’s what I did. Why can I say that? Why I don’t have to affect all this humility and shit is because I worked my ass off. I worked my face off. And the part that you love the most is the easiest part for me. So I’ll do it again.
Sadly, this ties in with the viewpoint that queer people “choose” not to be straight. But it’s clear from Frank’s letter that he simply fell in love with a close friend when he was 19, and that friend was a guy. I guess we can’t blame people for being cynical, since there are musicians who will court controversy to raise attention about their new album—Katy Perry with “I Kissed A Girl,” Justin Bieber with the Gexwy hoax. Still, it’s laughable to imagine that Frank would pretend to be the type of person that many of his peers have no respect for.
Later in the interview, he’s also asked if he does indeed identify as bisexual, and this is where we see the line that Frank draws. “You can move to the next question,” he says. “I’ll respectfully say that life is dynamic and comes along with dynamic experiences, and the same sentiment that I have towards genres of music, I have towards a lot of labels and boxes and shit.” While he’ll open up about his first love, “I’m not trying to sell you sex.” Fair enough.