Frank Ocean Is Gay: A Ten-Point History of Coming Out in Music, From Bowie to Lance Bass
Odd Future crooner Frank Ocean recently opened up on Tumblr about falling in love with a man, and the blogosphere is buzzing with stories about gay Franky.
But we're stuck on how modern this whole coming-out ceremony has become. Gays, bisexuals, and lesbians have been a big part of the music industry forever. But they've only recently begun to see their lifestyles accepted.
Let's take a look at the history of coming out in music and reflect on just how hard these folks fought to be themselves.
He was a piano virtuoso and brilliant showman, bringing colorful flamboyance and love of music into American homes with The Liberace Show in the early '50s. Back then, you could get away with wearing loud, sequined suits, and matching shoes without even arousing suspicions. Sort of.
Throughout his life, Liberace denied that he was homosexual, once suing the UK's Daily Mirror for about $22,000 for simply implying it. At the time, admitting his sexuality would've been career suicide, and he died in 1987 without ever coming clean.
Lifelong friend and beard Betty White confirmed his homosexuality for the world in 2011. Still, though he spent his life in hiding, Liberace was an inspiration to many to be themselves.
He was "the architect of rock 'n' roll," helping build that brick house in the '50s with classic hits such as "Tutti Frutti," "Long, Tall Sally," and "Good Golly Miss Molly." But he struggled to overcome the prejudices of his time. Being famous and black wasn't easy, not to mention homosexual.
Having had relations with both sexes, Little Richard has admitted to gay experiences growing up. But he claims to have changed after being "born again" in the late '50s, explaining that homosexuality was a contagious disease to be overcome. This rock legend's life has been fraught with drug abuse, dark periods, and religious revivals, and we wonder what it might have been like if he could have just been comfortable with himself.
As a child, John watched Liberace on television and found an idol. He, too, grew up to become an iconic pianoman in crazy, colorful costumes. But he would also become a champion for the gay movement.
Though Elton hit the scene denying his homosexuality, even shacking up with a few women, he came out as bisexual in 1976 during an interview with Rolling Stone. He stayed married to a woman until the late '80s before saying he was finally "comfortable being gay."
On the total opposite side of the coin, David Bowie hit the scene championing his "alternative lifestyle" from the get-go. He came out as gay in 1972, as part of the promotional campaign for his glam-rock character Ziggy Stardust. To imagine such a career move would have been impossible in the days of Liberace and Little Richard, but Bowie helped prepare popular culture for the gender-bending antics of the '70s and '80s.
Later in life, he would change his tune to bisexuality, and even later would claim he's all along been a "closet heterosexual." But his actual inclinations are unimportant, because Bowie's legacy of helping to familiarize straights with gay culture will last long beyond his years.
The Queen frontman was another gay icon of the 1970s. We think of him as being more open about his sexuality than his contemporaries. But even Fab Freddie shied away from definitive statements during interviews, creating distance between himself and his partner in public.
By the 1980s, the gay conversation was getting louder. And so were the fashions and styles. Boy George of Culture Club fame was a big part of that conversation when he premiered his gender-bending look on MTV in 1982.
A lot of folks thought he was a girl. And as soon as embarrassed men realized their mistake, interviewers started questioning the singer's sexuality. He played coy, often saying he preferred a "nice cup of tea" to sex at all. But by flaunting his flamboyance in music videos and on stage, he helped push gay culture toward its rallying days of "We're here and we're queer." There's certainly no question about his sexuality now, having quipped in 2006 that he's "militantly gay."
In the early '90s, Etheridge was a powerful icon for all women, finding fame with strong and personal songwriting. She got her start performing in lesbian bars and came out to the world while supporting then-President Clinton at the Triangle Ball in 1993. And since coming out, she's remained a prominent activist for gay and lesbian rights.
Back in the late '90s, everyone made fun of N*SYNC for being gay. But in 2006, it was a shock to many boy band fans when member Bass came out in People magazine. He was awarded the Human Rights Campaign Visibility Award later that year, and even published an autobiography. In a post-millennial world, being honest about yourself won't kill your career. It can even give it a boost.
She's been a female hip-hop icon since the early '90s, but she hasn't been a gay activist for very long.
The rumor of Queen Latifah's sexuality first heated up with her return to music in 2008, when the title of her comeback album was rumored to be The 'L' Word. She said she did it to mess with people's heads, and she did it again this year when she performed at the Gay Pride 2012 parade in Long Beach.
Since that show in March, Latifah's denied actually being a lesbian. If she really is hiding her true identity, we think she should take a page out of Lance Bass's book and be straight-up about being queer.
And finally, here is that most modern of men, who came out a couple nights ago with a poetic Tumblr post. He admits to having fallen in love for the first time when he was 19 with another man, who wasn't so comfortable accepting his feelings.
In the blog, Ocean talks about how he's finally overcome his insecurities and become ready to announce his true self to the world. Because, in the end, it doesn't matter who the love song is about, who it's sung to, or who's singing it. Love only matters when it's real, and when it's real, you just know.
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