Guys, I have a secret. I’m gay.
Okay fine, it’s hardly a surprise. Those were in fact my Dad’s exact words after I went through an exaggerated and angsty ‘coming out’ speech I had being preparing for weeks, vigilantly expectant of a giant Eastender’s style shouting match, and subsequent weeks of drama.
This is kind of what I was hoping for.
Instead I received ‘Hugh, this is hardly a surprise’, followed by some ill-concealed sniggers and a faux-caring smile upon seeing my extremely disappointed face.
“Why won’t you throw me out the house or something? God, you’re so tolerant”
You may have also been aware of this fact if you’ve read this blog, which seems to feature a topless Olly Murs an unreasonable amount or been lucky enough to see me dancing.
On a dancefloor, I’m all six of them.
That considered, I don’t actually like to go on about it too much. No, really. You’re unlikely to find me grinding away in rainbow hotpants in a nearby Pride March. In fact, people who don’t know me particularly well are often surprised when I tell I them (usually because they’ve just asked me if I’d rather shag Jodie Marsh or an actual man)
I’m not sure which this is.
In fact, there have been three times recently where people didn’t realise, and gave me the shocked expressions I have been sorely looking for to sustain me since the age of sixteen. A work colleague genuinely justified this shock by commenting how I hadn’t asked him to carry anything heavy for me.
It’s always quite fun to wait for the same questions and reactions to appear: When did you realise? I didn’t really. How did your family take it? Fine. Can we go shopping? If by shopping you mean McDonald’s, then yes.
Luckily, whether it was a surprise to people or not, I had a good experience. Everyone at school was fantastically supportive. Even teachers who hated me with a passion had to sit me down and tell me how okay with it all they were, which is probably one the sweetest pieces of revenge I’ve ever experienced. I was about as scared as Katie Holmes currently is that she might ‘have an accident’. Oh, wait that’s actually a lot.
The only time I ever received any abuse was from someone I didn’t know at a party, who, as if I was living in a TV show where the most homophobic person turns out to be gay, I ended up actually snogging several years later.
PLEASE LET ME LIVE IN TV
However, not everyone is so lucky. Many, many people do experience extreme intolerance and are terrified of telling people their true sexuality. It is a sad fact that LGBT youth are around 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers, mostly due to fears surrounding their acceptance in society. There are still professions, institutions and indeed countries around the world that are completely, sometimes violently, homophobic.
I was about as scared as Katie Holmes currently is that she might ‘have an accident’. Oh, wait that’s actually a lot.
Often the most powerful weapons against these beliefs can be through the changing of public attitudes, and there have been great improvements recently. A spate of teen suicides in America led to the ‘It gets better’ project, started in 2010 which now includes nearly 30,000 videos, and encouraged stars like Zachary Quinto to come out the closet.
Sylar can steal my powers any day.
Yet in the past week it is possible that something extremely significant has been achieved. First there was Anderson Cooper, the American TV anchor admitting his true sexual orientation. This is pretty great, not only since Cooper is quite a dish, but also as he is a prominent media figure in America, and able to bring light to many key issues on the LGBT agenda.
However, yesterday he was absolutely eclipsed by the singer Frank Ocean, an underground darling who came out on his Tumblr through a simple and eloquent, if badly misspelled, open letter, detailing a heartbreaking relationship with another man who met when he was 19.
Frank Ocean, an underground darling who came out on his Tumblr through a simple and eloquent, if badly misspelled, open letter, detailing a heartbreaking relationship with another man
What is significant about this is that Ocean is a singer with Odd Future, an American alternative hip-hop collective who through gained prominence through the internet around 2010. Their popularity was cemented when one of their founders, Tyler the Creator won an MTV best new artist award.
This means that Ocean, real name Christopher Breaux, has come out in a world that is notoriously hostile to gays. Odd Future themselves have been accused of including homophobic lyrics in their songs,(even though they include Frank and a lesbian associate, Syd Tha Kid) so ingrained are these words in the language of their musical genre.
Indeed, the furore surrounding Eminem’s lyrics in the early 2000s is still fresh in our minds. Or more recently, the profound words of Li’l Wayne, who on 2004’s ‘Go Dj’ commented: ‘Yo homo niggas, getting AIDS in the ass’, managing in eight words to offend about fifty percent of the world. We must remember however that this is a man who also believes that ‘a menstrual bleed is a venereal disease’ (‘A Milli’, 2008).
It makes having girlfriends hard.
Ocean has challenged these ideas outright, and support from his peers (including Tyler the Creator who made up for his past indiscretions by hilariously tweeting: “My Big Brother Finally Fucking Did That. Proud Of That Nigga Cause I Know That Shit Is Difficult Or Whatever. Anyway. Im A Toilet.”) is a complete game changer. He’s taken out a vast swathe of homophobia in public entertainment almost instantaneously.
For those not as lucky as I was, it gives them hope that it’s okay in any situation. If you can be gay in hip-hop, you can be gay anywhere. To dedicated hip-hop fans who may have previously been afraid of coming out, it hopefully removes the fear, knowing that their friends may now be more accepting. As much as we debate it, role models and public figures do have an effect on our values, especially in our youth.
Today we have seen a momentous occasion. It’s one small step for Frank Ocean, one giant leap for tolerance everywhere. (I’m a toilet).
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