By Jon Wiederhorn
Frank Ocean has written a passionate and heartfelt essay in reaction to the personal pain he felt from the mass slaying at an Orlando gay nightclub, and the thoughts and memories the incident has triggered. In the piece, which he posted Tuesday (June 21), Ocean addresses atrocities committed against the LGBT community in other countries and in America, as well as the homophobia he experienced as a youth and how prejudice still deeply affects him.
“I read in the paper that my brothers are being thrown from rooftops blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs for violating sharia law, he wrote. “I heard the crowds stone these fallen men if they move after they hit the ground. I heard it’s in the name of God. I heard the crowds stone these fallen men if they move after they hit the ground. I heard it’s in the name of God. I heard my pastor speak for God too, quoting scripture from his book. Words like abomination popped off my skin like hot grease as he went on to describe a lake of fire that God wanted me in.”
Ocean continued by mentioning the details about the killings at the Pulse nightclub that have deeply affected him. “I heard on the news that the aftermath of a hate crime left piles of bodies on a dance floor this month. I heard the gunman feigned dead among all the people he killed. I heard the news say he was one of us.”
Then, the singer, who won a Grammy for his 2012 album Channel Orange, shared some one of his earliest experiences with homophobia — the incident that caused a permanent rift between him and his father.
“I was six years old when I heard my dad call our transgender waitress a faggot as he dragged me out a neighborhood diner saying we wouldn’t be served because she was dirty. That was the last afternoon I saw my father and the first time I heard that word, I think, although it wouldn’t shock me if it wasn’t.”
Ocean follows by reacting angrily to the homophobia that still exists in some pockets of this country.
“Many hate us and wish we didn’t exist,” he writes. “Many are annoyed by our wanting to be married like everyone else or use the correct restroom like everyone else. Many don’t see anything wrong with passing down the same old values that send thousands of kids into suicidal depression each year.”
Ocean strives to gather strength from within, but is left reeling and confused by the state of the world. “We say pride and we express love for who and what we are,” he writes. “Because who else will in earnest? I daydream on the idea that maybe all this barbarism and all these transgressions against ourselves is an equal and opposite reaction to something better happening in this world, some great swelling wave of openness and wakefulness out here. Reality by comparison looks grey, as in neither black nor white but also bleak.”
Ocean ends the essay with feelings of betrayal and confusion about how such violence and hate can exist in a modern religious society. “We are all God’s children, I heard,” he writes. “I left my siblings out of it and spoke with my maker directly and I think he sounds a lot like myself. If I being myself were more awesome at being detached from my own story in a way I being myself never could be. I wanna know what others hear, I’m scared to know but I wanna know what everyone hears when they talk to God. Do the insane hear the voice distorted? Do the indoctrinated hear another voice entirely?”
Most recently, Ocean was featured on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo on “Frank’s Track.” He is currently working on the follow-up to his second album, Channel Orange.