Last night, we got a passionate email from reader Denarii about Frank Ocean’s Tumblr post. Denarii writes:
I’m just sending a quick note asking that you guys be mindful of the fact that, although he has “come out” (and even *that’s* possibly arguable), Frank Ocean hasn’t actually come out as anything in particular, from all the accounts I’ve read, including his Tumblr posting. As a bisexual identified person, the media’s erasure is simultaneously disheartening and maddening.
As an organization that I’ve followed for several years and greatly respect for actively attempting to be mindful of the many ways in which oppressed peoples can be made invisible, I know I could’ve just waited and commented on a piece if I felt any erasure was occurring, and understand I hate feeling like I’m being “bossy”, so to speak. But from where I’m standing, if I said nothing and The R posted something that erased the possibility of bisexuality/non-monosexuality, whether I make a comment or not, the damage is already done. I’m not making any assumptions about how he identifies–for all I know, he *is* gay. My only wish is that MSM was as thoughtful and considerate about not making assumptions. Alas, as I’m sure you all well know, things are often made to be straight/gay, black/white, etc. I hate binaries. >_>
Well said. Denarii’s email made me reflect on a few different things. There’s definitely the erasure of bisexuality–while Ocean specifically mentions the women he dated and the man he loved, a lot of reports do just say he’s gay. (Also, his love was also in a relationship with a woman, so there is the possibility that they are both bisexual.) And Denarii was on the mark here–why did coverage default to a binary?
I’ve noticed in my personal life that all my friends don’t necessarily “come out”–over the last few years, a few have just started dating people of the same gender. Most did not announce a change in their orientation. Some identify as queer, while others simply say, “That’s who I fell for.” This isn’t to say that the concept of coming out is “a white thing”–that would be incorrect as well. But rather, the spectrum of ideas discussed is a little broader in communities of color. I don’t normally hear the term “same-gender loving” outside of black and queer spaces. I read about aggressives in Vibe, years ago–I didn’t start hearing the term “butch” until I encountered stories from other communities. So perhaps there’s another element not being considered around Ocean’s conception of self: racialized experiences.
And interestingly enough, there’s the less present (but still represented) idea that Ocean coming out somehow absolves Tyler from Odd Future. Check out this person’s logic:
Secondly, this should dispel all notions that Odd Future, Tyler The Creator in particular, are a homophobic band of lyrical bullies. First there was Sydd Tha Kidd who came out as a lesbian, now Frank Ocean. If Tyler were as horrible of a bigot as he seems on his lyrics, then why would he say that his pal is brave and is proud of his coming out? The outrage to Tyler is sort of like the initial venom spit at Eminem in 1999. Clearly Tyler’s lyrics don’t reflect his true feelings or else he would have reacted differently, right?
Maybe his lyrics don’t reflect how he actually feels. Or maybe he thinks of Frank and Sydd as exceptions. Or maybe he supports individual people but not the fight for rights. Who knows? But we shouldn’t assume anything about Tyler based on simply being friends with Frank Ocean.
And of course, there’s the usual “what does this mean for hip-hop’s homophobia” line of questioning, but for the purposes of this piece, I want to focus a little more on language. How do we discuss something as complicated as sexuality without falling into binaries?