It's no secret that there is a greater stigma toward homosexuals in the black community.
That's why hip-hop superstar Frank Ocean's bombshell announcement that his first love was a man makes him a true pioneer in the industry.
He made the announcement in a previously written letter posted on his Tumblr.
"I don't have any secrets I need kept anymore," he writes. "I was never alone as much as I felt like it ... as much as I still do sometimes ... I never was. I don't think I ever could be."
Let's hope Ocean's courageous announcement will allow other gay black men, in or out of the hip-hop world, to feel that they are not alone. The coming out of one of the industry's biggest rising stars can help break down the stifling stigma that has so many hiding their true identities.
Russell Simmons, on his website, called Ocean's announcement a game changer. "Today is a big day for hip-hop," Simmons writes. "It is a day that will define who we really are. How compassionate will we be? How loving can we be? How inclusive are we? I am profoundly moved by the courage and honesty of Frank Ocean. Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear."
Ironically, Odd Future — and Ocean's partner in the group, Tyler the Creator — have been known for homophobic lyrics, with Tyler calling B.o.B. a "faggot" on "Yonkers." But Tyler apparently embraced Ocean's announcement:
My Big Brother Finally Fucking Did That. Proud Of That Nigga Cause I Know That Shit Is Difficult Or Whatever. Anyway. Im A Toilet.
— Tyler, The Creator (@fucktyler) July 4, 2012
Ocean, 24, has been taking the R&B crooning world by storm since 2010, when he joined the bizarre Odd Future hip-hop tandem as the silky backdrop to the group’s often violent, morbid and misogynistic content. His debut mixtape, "Nostalgia, Ultra," announced the arrival of this post-R. Kelly singer who could bend his melodies and wordplay much the same way he could bend and distort our view of traditional R&B fodder (i.e. "Novacane," his ethereally haunting ode to relational numbness).
"Nostalgia, Ultra" caught the ears of the entire music industry, and soon enough Jay-Z was knocking at Ocean's door for help with songs on his then forthcoming Kanye West-collab record "Watch the Throne." Ocean contributed two songs to that project and thus cemented his legacy in the hip-hop world as a gifted singer-songwriter with incredible range and creativity. That was until today. This morning, Ocean’s legacy became a whole lot more epic.
Here's the entirety of Ocean's Tumblr post, which tells the story of his first love at age 19: