Can Frank Ocean Make Gay OK for the Hip Hop Community?


What a difference the endorsement from a United States president makes for a cause, or does it?

Though R&B singer Frank Ocean apparently isn't being met with a lot of resistance and criticism from the hip hop community in light of his "coming out" as gay, it remains to be seen if the traditionally homophobic industry's attitudes toward LGBT individuals will be changed by this event. 

So far, figures such as rapper Trina are voicing their support for the recently self-outed gospel and R&B star. "He's extremely talented and that's what matters," she said. 

And, while these are brave words (born either out of genuine sentiment, a desire to gain some free press, or both) that probably wouldn't have been said a few years ago -- when the likes of 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, and The Game dominated the industry with rhythmic gay slurs, lots of crotch-grabbing and huge golden chains with dollar signs hanging from them -- there is still a long way to go before macho rappers can be seen parading along transsexuals during Gay Pride festivals.   

Nonetheless, times do change. Ocean's move was undoubtedly brave as there is still a big risk for a hip hop and R&B entertainer (especially a black or Latino one) to come out publicly as gay, as society in general (not only the hip hop community) will tend to harass that person as well as encapsulate him or her in a "gay bubble" that defines the person as gay first and as an artist (or a news anchor, an engineer, or a plumber) second.  

And that gamble might pay off for Ocean, as his revelation doesn't seem to be awakening the passions that it would have prompted in a different era. Maybe -- just as it seems to be the case with racial prejudice -- people are choosing political correctness over controversy. Maybe, these seeming acceptance is born out of an era where tweets are carefully filtered by the music industry's public relation departments. Who knows.  

The point is, Ocean's decision remains a gamble as we don't know how his revelation is going to play out down the road. In the meantime, there seem to be mixed messages as Ocean has received both support and hatred. Support from artists such as Trina, and hatred from Twitter users (mostly men) who have targeted Ocean with dozens of death threats and anti gay comments.