In 2012, singer and songwriter Frank Ocean took to his Tumblr page to pen a beautiful letter that announced his forthcoming album Channel Orange was inspired by a man he loved. Though not a coming-out statement in the traditional sense, it nonetheless exposed a deeply personal facet of the young artist’s personal life and proved that despite his reluctance to share news of new music in the media, he is more than generous with sharing his vulnerabilities for the world to see.
Once again, the Grammy winner has taken to his personal blog to share another moving statement, one which speaks to his own personal feelings and his relationship to the world in which he lives. Reacting to the tragic mass shooting in Orlando, Florida on June 12, Ocean writes a heartwrenching stream-of-consciousness essay about the treatment of LGBTQ people around the world. “I read in the paper that my brothers are being thrown from rooftops blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs for violating sharia law. I heard the crowds stone these fallen men if they move after they hit the ground. I heard it’s in the name of God,” he writes. Aligning himself with others who have been ostracized or worse for their sexual orientations, he continues: “I heard my pastor speak for God too, quoting scripture from his book. Words like abomination popped off my skin like hot grease as he went on to describe a lake of fire that God wanted me in.”
According to his statement, a particular occurrence he experienced as a child resonates with him to this day, particularly when thinking of the 49 people who lost their lives at Orlando’s gay nightclub, Pulse. “I heard on the news that the aftermath of a hate crime left piles of bodies on a dance floor this month. I heard the gunman feigned dead among all the people he killed. I heard the news say he was one of us,” he writes. “I was six years old when I heard my dad call our transgender waitress a faggot as he dragged me out a neighborhood diner saying we wouldn’t be served because she was dirty. That was the last afternoon I saw my father and the first time I heard that word, I think, although it wouldn’t shock me if it wasn’t.”
Touching upon the ongoing fight for transgender rights including the hot-button issue of bathroom usage, Ocean repeatedly uses the word “us” to signify his solidarity with his trans brothers and sisters. “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,” he writes before decrying the high rate of suicide and depression rates among those suffering discrimination. He does have hope, however, that one day soon the clouds will part and that the struggle will prove itself to have been a means to an end. Ocean writes “I daydream on the idea that maybe all this barbarism and all these transgressions against ourselves is an equal and opposite reaction to something better happening in this world, some great swelling wave of openness and wakefulness out here.”
Upon reading his statement in full, Heads may be reminded of Frank Ocean’s 2011 song “We All Try,” from his debut mixtape nostalgia,ULTRA. In it, he sings the words “I believe that marriage isn’t between a man and woman, but between love and love.” It’s a fitting complement to the sentiments in his recent statement, and one that reminds us we could all try a little harder.
As fans eagerly await Frank Ocean’s next album, his words may well become representative of an entire generation, one that has grown up in a time of relative tolerance but continued discrimination. Should he choose to devote a song to the issues touched upon in the above open letter, there is little doubt it will help the healing process for the millions of LGBTQ listeners who may otherwise feel voiceless.