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An open letter to Frank Ocean:

Over the course of the past few days I read on the blogs, and saw a few tweets chattering about an R&B artist coming out. Your name surfaced, along with an interview you did overseas, and then you wrote on Tumblr about a relationship you had four years ago with a young man. You shared how it changed your life, and how that young man was your first love.

Initially, when I first heard the news about an R&B artist coming out I wasn’t moved. I actually thought it was a hoax created by someone. As we all know how well internet gossip fuels outings, pre-mature deaths, and other lies about celebrities. So, I dismissed it. I was waiting for you, or your publicist, to issue their pre-made ready-to-go written statement For Artists Who Are Considered Gay When The Rainbow Is Not Enuff:  “I am not gay. I am a heterosexual man, and I love women.” However, that didn’t happen. You actually responded to your legion of fans, and the world, by announcing your love and declaration affirming yourself in a new era Hip Hop world that is drifting toward a new normal that is no longer filled with the hetero masculine machismo that despises homosexuality.

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You see, in 2008, my book was released, Hiding In Hip Hop: On The Down Low in the Entertainment Industry From Music to Hollywood. It’s my memoir detailing my life of working in the entertainment industry, and being privy to many friendships with a number of closeted celebrities, as well as a few relationships I shared with most of them.  So, the news of an R&B artist coming out and admitting his true sexuality was not a shock to me. I actually have been awaiting the day, counting down the hours and minutes as to when one of my friends, or past lovers, would be brave enough to come forward and make a public announcement (My inhale continues to expand). But, it wasn’t one of them. No. It was someone younger. Much braver. An artist who isn’t hindered by the old relics of Hip Hop, or the entertainment school of, “Don’t you come out or it will ruin your career,” and the record label politics. It was YOU. Someone who recognizes their own uniqueness and the power they have to change a world with their honesty and truth. It was you Frank Ocean. A trailblazer. A journeyman. A true lyricist. An artist. A pioneer. A hero.

So, I want to thank you, Mr. Frank Ocean, for your courageousness. It takes a brave soul to come forth in truth, and in love, despite what the rest of the world is doing or feeling as “flavor of the week,” as legendary soul singer, Maze, recently said in a speech at the 2012 BET Awards.

The mirror image you’re reflecting to the world gives us a new vision to aspire to. Your grace and ability to stand in your truth, and BE who you are called to BE, give others the courage and strength to be unafraid and be FREE. Thank you for not playing small, or even allowing yourself to be small. You’re too BIG, and nothing can contain your SPIRIT for it is your CALLing to give us this moment. Right here. Right now.  There are many young people, even mature people, who are struggling with their sexual identity, and are afraid to step out of the shadows for fear of being judged, criticized, or ridiculed. Every day the fear grips and chokes them, just as it once did to you. So, please know that they are watching, reading, and listening to you, and the declaration you’re making.  A black man in Hip Hop, who looks like them, speaks like them, and realized his dreams despite of the backlash or BS others tend to hold on to because of their own prejudices against same gender loving people. You boldly refuse to be bound by others, and in that declaration you are giving others hope and courage to be their authentic selves. Being black and gay so many times we hear, “No,” and “You can’t,” or, “It’s impossible.” Yet, your music and voice is heard around the world on radio channels, you’ve performed in stadiums before hundreds and thousands of people, and club DJs bang your songs while men and women, straight, gay, and bi, bop their heads and two-step to YOUR GROOVE. Yes, that is POWER-FULL!

What many people don’t understand is that coming out is a process. Though it is a process that is formed in our BEings, and shaped into our purpose, however, it takes KNOWing SELF, and BEcoming TRUTH-FULL within one’s self in order to be able to share it with others. No one can make you do it before your time. It is not up to them. It’s up to the CREATOR, and HIS will, and the moment HE knows YOU are ready to be responsible of the task and gift to give to the world. This is YOUR time.

Your gift has, and, is being revealed right before our eyes, and we are bearing witness to it. Every time you’ve opened your mouth we’ve heard it in your songs. Your melodic, smooth, and hypnotic voice lingering gingerly with the beats blending perfectly to tell us about love, happiness, hopefulness, and starting again. Thank you for the gift of your voice, and for understanding how to use it.

I also want to thank you for being open, vulnerable, and FRANK regarding your first love with another man. What a powerful testament in bearing your soul, and being emotional, open, and so revealing for the entire world to see, especially your emotions, and feelings for another man. Your letter was truly heartfelt. Thank you for your honesty.

Yes, we all know about first loves. The ones we’d walk to the earth’s end for. The ones whose voice, smell, and touch gives us a reason to live and look forward to until the next moment we see them again. It’s hard loving someone so much and they don’t even know the depth of your love, and how you’ll give your heart to them, and even lay down and die for them. It’s hard because as you’ve stated so eloquently in your letter that when you were finally able to say the words letting that young man know how you felt about him, and his response was a pat on the back and him saying how he could not return the love, I knew that moment. I knew that experience. I could relate, as well as many of your fans who have experienced love and love lost. We’ve all been there sharing our hearts, words, thoughts, yet, the other person responds with a non-empathetic response. They don’t get it. They don’t understand that it took so much courage, and us fighting through our fears to be vulnerable and in a space where we once were afraid to go. However, for some ODD reason you felt the strength and courage to reveal all because you wanted to be free, floating, and living in that forever euphoric space that they made you feel whenever they were around.  But, they tell you that they cannot love you the way you love them. They can’t be or give you what you want them to be. Your world stops. The sky falls. The earth sinks. The air goes stale, and you can’t breathe. The life has been sucked out of you and you know there will be no more tomorrows because there will be no more anything.

Yet, you’ve found the strength from a loving and nurturing support system of friends, loved ones, and family who healed you through. They lifted you, inspired you, and encouraged you. And, in the power of your BEing you were able to rise, lift the earth, and connect us to you with your symphonic music and tantalizing lyrics. Simply because you acknowledged your greater SELF which you stated at the end of your letter, “I don’t have any secrets I need kept anymore…I feel like a free man.” POWER-FULL!

Just as singer, Adele, wailed with an open wounded heart on her 21 album, singing about a rejected love, and Mary J. Blige, cried out with a soulful blues of an unrequited love on her, My Life album, their vulnerability connected them with their fans. Just as you have done with your letter. And, yes, there are many artists who have made songs about former lovers, ill-fated relationships, and love lost, but Mary J. Blige and Adele touched the souls of folks like an old Negro spiritual. And, in that connectedness their truths catapulted them to superstardom. My hope and prayer for you is that your new album, Channel Orange, in which reviewers say that many of the songs are an ode to a love lost with another man, will have the same effect as 21 and My Life did on the lives of music fans around the world, and it catapult you into the superstar stratosphere where you belong.

Thank you, Frank Ocean, for inviting us into your space, and giving us the opportunity to know you emotionally, spiritually, and humanly.


Terrance Dean


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