Why Frank Ocean 'coming out' was brave

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Frank Ocean did not say he was gay.

What the singer, songwriter and Odd Future member revealed was that his first love was a man. As he mentioned on his Tumblr page, Frank Ocean had already decided to state this fact in its proper context by way of the liner notes of his forthcoming debut album Channel Orange. That moment was almost tarnished after a presumptuous story about him quickly spread across the Web. Now, instead of the rumor mill dictating his personal narrative, the world can now see his gorgeously written account of genuine love for another person, achieved one summer, in its intended form.

He may be bisexual. There is a possibility that he is gay. Or perhaps it was a one-off thing that lends credence to what many people already understand: sexuality can be fluid. Regardless of what label Ocean does or doesn’t feel is true as it pertains to his sexual orientation, the one that tag that applies best at this moment is brave. The 24-year-old is only days away from the release of his first official album. While his music spans genres, it’s largely rooted in R&B and soul, and one does wonder whether audiences will continue to be supportive of Ocean in the wake of his revelation.

It’s the sort of fear that many assumed kept allegedly gay singers like Luther Vandross in the closet. In an Out magazine story, one of Vandross’s close friends, comedy writer Bruce Vilanch, claimed that at the beginning of Vandross’s career, he said to him, “No one knows I’m in the life.” In that same story, New York gossip writer Michael Musto, noted, “A famously open gay singer/songwriter (told me) Luther was dying to have a boyfriend.”

Several years later, many assumed that singer Freddie Jackson, who had also battled gay rumors throughout his career, would declare his homosexuality on TV One’s Unsung. Instead, he used troublesome language to deflect the issue.

It would be nice to think the sort of ignorance they battled is passé, but it is very much inter-generational. Look at Gawker’s “Gay or not Gay” feature, which recently featured Trey Songz. This isn’t done to aid those who may struggle with their sexuality; it’s done for the sake of scoring Web hits – and plenty of other media outlets are guilty of this.