Cultivating community : content analysis of Frank Ocean's coming out and ensuing commentary

On July 4th, 2012 musician Frank Ocean posted an open letter on his tumblr explaining he once fell in love with another man. The announcement was notable for several reasons. Ocean an up and coming artist, known for his work with the LA-based hip hop collective, Odd Future, acknowledged his same sex attraction in an industry/genre popularly regarded as homophobic and misogynist. Moreover, Ocean made this announcement one week before the debut of his studio album, Channel Orange.. The impact of Ocean’s announcement on album sales in addition the artist’s overall popularity was proposed to be a litmus test of the current state of homophobia in hip hop as well as larger society. Therefore, the ensuing commentary on his identity and its symbolic meaning is the focus of this thesis. As such, I examine how Black gay, bisexual and “same sex attracted” men construct their identity and how Ocean’s announcement was interwoven in this discursive practice online. At the intersection of race, sexuality and gender performance in online speech communities, lays a complicated conversation that has contributed to the how Black gay/bisexual men navigate the politics of masculinity in Black and in gay cultures. In this work, I analyze online discussion concerning Ocean as it relates to Black male queer identities to further explore representations of selves, prevalent stereotypes and implications for social advocacy, self efficacy and health outcomes. Finally this project interrogates whether Ocean’s eschewing the label of “gay” and donning others, such as “same sex” love, in his announcement elucidates progress in larger society by recognizing Black gay/bisexual males, especially in hip hop?