Braving new waters
While on an adrenaline high after reading R&B singer Frank Ocean's "coming out" post on his Tumblr account, I tweeted last week: "Anderson Cooper. Frank Ocean. The times they are a-changing."
A friend sent me a BBM : "Unless their sexuality has a direct impact on their jobs, they don't have to come out to the world. "
Of course, my tweet was pure excitement, and not a naive belief times really were "a-changing".
It was in reaction to both Ocean and CNN veteran journalist Cooper taking bold steps in the same week.
You may think Ocean's revelation that his first love was a man is not important.
But if you understand he is part of the hip-hop world, which is notorious for its homophobic lyrics, you'll realise the impact of his announcement. In Ocean's case, it was a commercially risky move as he hasn't released his debut album yet. I felt proud of him. I asked my friend to elaborate (I enjoy a robust conversation because they are so rare on BBM).
She explained: "They don't have to announce it. This preoccupation with sexuality upsets me. People are people. But in the world they're not. People are their hair, their clothes, their race, their age, their bank account, their sexuality. [Being famous] shouldn't change a damn thing, but it does.
"People's perceptions f**king change. Now people are like, 'I can't listen to him any more because he's gay'. F**k that. Emotions are a universal experience."
I agreed, but added that I thought it was "brave" of Ocean.
"Because, sadly, it could impact on his livelihood," I said.
"CNN veteran journalist Cooper has a stable income. He will still be a journalist."
I was impressed with Ocean's articulate portrait of his first love. He is hurt. He is poetic. He is brave. He is introspective, hopeful and not regretful. A few days before his blog post, rumours started around his sexuality. A journalist at the listening session for his Channel Orange album noted that Ocean, in his singing, used the pronoun "him" instead of "her".
Ocean's hand had been forced. He said the "coming out" post was initially "intended to fill the thank you section in my album credits", but there was no better time to explain his sexuality.
Late on Tuesday night he posted: "Four summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Every day almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide. Most of the day I'd see him, and his smile. I'd hear his conversation and his silence. Until it was time to sleep.
"Sleep I would often share with him. By the time I realised I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping, no negotiating with the feeling. No choice. It was my first love. It changed my life."
My friend said: "People are not willing to change their views, but rather enforce them."
I said it was my hope that "big names can help change or address perceptions". We laughed after she suggested she would love to be a gay rights activist, as she was "angrier" than me.
"I can't get angry. I live it on a daily basis. Imagine? I would have died by now. My blood pressure is already uncharacteristically high for a 25-year-old," I said.
Perhaps I am still naive to hope stellar personalities like Ellen DeGeneres and Will Young could prompt real change. I don't believe people's feelings change, but their perceptions and attitudes could be redressed by such icons.
- To read Ocean's Tumblr post visit http://frankocean.com. His debut album 'Channel Orange' will be released on July 17