“[A]nybody who’s listened closely to Ocean’s ‘Thinkin Bout You’—a track sung in his affecting falsetto—didn’t see his news as a total surprise,” writes Carl Swanson in this week’s New York Magazine, which is preposterous, because “Thinkin Bout You” gives no tip-off that Frank Ocean is singing about a man (unless you look real hard at the line, “You know you were my first time, a new feel”). Moreover, that line is in a toss-off essay(-ish) about how Anderson Cooper and Frank Ocean both came out as gay last week (which is full of problems as Ocean has not said anything so explicitly), and how “the world, thrillingly, mostly yawned.”
I am really tired of this new narrative in which coming out is no big whoop; that is, after all, the crux of the Entertainment Weekly cover story which somewhat inspired Anderson Cooper’s coming out via an email to Andrew Sullivan. Can we not forget that it’s not hard for famous people to come out of the closet, primarily because when they come out publicly, they are not actually coming out? They are just lifting a very thin veil; presumably, no one on the cover of that issue of EW came out to both People Magazine and their families at the same time. (And, please, let’s not take the current leadership of The New Republic as an indication of it getting at all better—if anything, it speaks of the ongoing issue of corporate influence over publishing, which takes a new turn in this post-Facebook world.) And, honestly, in what world is Swanson living in that a male hip-hop performer with a budding career is met with a “yawn” in response to his coming out? Is he reading the same internet I am?
Meanwhile, Will Leitch has a great conversation with Spike Lee, in which the director comes across as a mellowed version of his former rabble-rousing self. Lee says:
The stuff I have done and said has never been for—and this is a word I really detest—controversy. I think the word is misused. I was raised in a household—we were all encouraged by my parents to speak your mind. Now, that does not mean you should speak every time there is an opportunity to. And so it has been a learning experience over the years that, even before this Twitter thing, I said, I cannot talk about everything. I cannot do it. I cannot do it, cannot do it.
It made me think of, naturally, Larry Kramer, someone whose opinions (and desire to shout them as loudly as possible) I greatly expect. And it made me think: where is Larry Kramer? Are we going to have to wait around for another revival of The Normal Heart to get him shouting again? Or is he just tired, ready to take a break? Because I don’t want that to happen. There’s no one willing to step up to the mic with the same ferocity as him; now, the activism we see is lame, focusing on making websites to honor Ivy League graduates who died from AIDS or boring profiles of high-profile same-sex couples with political aspirations and more money than they know what to do with.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking in the last few weeks about this, and I don’t know what the result is. I am too shy and reserved to shout at people in real life, and I don’t think I have the energy to do it, either. And maybe I’m a part of the problem here: maybe my generation does lack the motivation to figure out what we need to do; I don’t think it’s because we “cannot talk about everything,” but it’s that we don’t know how to do it. And, perhaps, I have my head so far up my ass as everyone else and am too self-centered to figure out how to get across to these urban gays that New York is not the world, that there’s a huge country in which people live without the luxuries we do, that there are still kids fleeing to the cities because they have to, that a lot of them are helpless because they aren’t the clean-cut, beautiful gay men we prefer to see. And they’re not famous, either, which means we don’t even care about them enough to yawn when they come out.