|R&B singer Frank Ocean|
Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear."
"Today is a big day for hip-hop. 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?"
- From entertainment mogul and entrepreneur Russell Simmons, in response to the immensely personal and profound coming out Tumblr post of rising R&B music star Frank Ocean.
Like CNN's Anderson Cooper who made a not-so-surprising announcement about his sexuality earlier this week, Frank Ocean shared the story of his sexual identity through a very low-key internet post. The 24 year-old Ocean began his online letter simply and beautifully:
"Whoever you are, wherever you are...I'm starting to think we're a lot alike. Human beings spinning on blackness. All wanting to be seen, touched, heard, paid attention to."
And then he went on to tell the story of his first true love, who, even to Ocean's surprise it seemed, happened to be a man.
As with Anderson Cooper, Frank Ocean's personal revelation brings with it the potential for significant career damage. If Cooper's concerns about his privacy and perceived objectivity were great, Ocean's worries about perceptions of his masculinity must surely have been even greater.
The success of a male R&B singer is driven largely by the performer's ability to sell his primal sensuality. Add to that the notion that the R&B/Rap music scene has been regularly unfriendly to the gay community, and the immense degree of courage and boldness of Ocean's coming out becomes even more apparent.
It was partly these unfortunate soul music industry realities that motivated the legendary Russell Simmons to step up and extol the virtue of Ocean's actions. In addition to praising Ocean's honesty and courage, Simmons challenged the entire R&B/Rap community:
Those are big important questions, and with the release of Ocean's debut album "Channel Orange" on July 17, we'll have our answers soon enough.