LGBTQ+ Icons: Frank Ocean

Every Friday this LGBTQ+ history month will see us look at and celebrate an iconic LGBTQ+ musician. This week's focus is on Frank Ocean, a man who isn't only subjected to one form of discrimination...

Frank Ocean has been at the forefront of contemporary music for nearly a decade now, releasing two critically-acclaimed albums as well as a mixtape and a visual album. As a gay man, Ocean's success firmly set him on the path to becoming an icon for the LGBTQ+ community. However, there is one more thing about him that sets him apart from most other gay musicians: he's black.

All three of the other icons in this series so far have been white. Whilst I'm sure many black LGBTQ+ people look up to the likes of Gaga and Mercury, it's always nice to have someone who truly represents you in the media. This is where Ocean comes in, a man whose identity as a black gay man means that he has surely faced both racism and homophobia in his life. Hell, his own father tried to sue him for $14.5 million when he brought up a slice of transphobia he witnessed his father perform when he was just 6 years old. Now that's a family feud. (Ocean won, thankfully).

Like Mercury, Ocean isn't particularly loud about his sexuality. He announced it in 2012 and hasn't really discussed it much since, though he did pen a statement following the tragic Orlando gay nightclub shooting in 2016, in which 49 people were murdered and 53 more injured.

“Many hate us and wish we didn’t exist. Many are annoyed by our wanting to be married like everyone else or use the correct restroom like everyone else. Many don’t see anything wrong with passing down the same old values that send thousands of kids into suicidal depression each year. So we say pride and we express love for who and what we are. Because who else will in earnest?"

Those were his words at the time and you can feel the sadness and anger in them. Ocean's approach to talking about his sexuality appears to be "sparse but strong" - sparse in volume, but strong when he does speak. After Prince died, he thanked him for his influence, saying that "he made me feel more comfortable with how I identify sexually simply by his display of freedom from and irreverence for obviously archaic ideas like gender conformity."

Indeed, he didn't exactly waste time in coming out. A Tumblr post in 2012 revealed that his debut album was largely inspired by his first experience of true love - an unrequited love he held at 19 years-old for a man. This blog post, essentially his way of coming out, was met with support from his label and fellow artists, and done so as to avoid all the speculation that would inevitably surround the album's lyrical content. It's a brave move when it's your debut album, but he showed no fear.

Ocean's bravery and strong words serve as a beacon of light for fellow black, gay men who often feel the blow of double discrimination. There aren't enough black LGBTQ+ people in the media so every single one of them, whether it be Frank Ocean or even Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Captain Holt, is an extremely valuable member of the community. Ocean has written an extremely relatable album in Channel Orange and also expressed support for the community. Coupled with his fame, he certainly qualifies as an LGBTQ+ icon.