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Comparing Anderson Cooper And Frank Ocean's Respective Coming Outs


In case you're just joining us, it was a big week for coming out.

Both journalist Anderson Cooper and singer Frank Ocean did the deed, causing a flurry of news stories and commentary within seemingly disparate cultures.

Looking at the impact, however, journalist and MSNBC commentator Touré says he believes Ocean's honesty will have a more monumental impact on a culture in which homophobia often runs rampant.

From Touré's article in Time:

…For me and many others, the popular young singer Frank Ocean’s coming out this week on his Tumblr was even more powerful, courageous, seismic — and totally unexpected... But his coming out is no marketing ploy or attempt to grab attention; it’s a spiritual and personal release. “I don’t have any secrets I need kept anymore,” he wrote. “I feel like a free man.”

Ocean is an effortless heartthrob who sings in a hip-hop idiom. Hip-hop culture is notoriously homophobic, and asking the community to be nuanced on the issue of sexuality is like asking a middle-schooler to discuss metaphysics. Hip-hop is a parade of alpha men who use the dominance of women to enhance their manhood and seem to know nothing of the concept of anima, the feminized part of masculinity.

There's little doubt that Ocean's coming out will have an impact on a different population than Cooper's, but either way you cut it, both events will have a positive effect on American culture at large, because in the end, for all our sub-cultures or varied interests, we're one nation.

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  1. I have a hard time taking anything seriously when it's written by someone with only one name. Unless you're Madonna, or Cher... queen, please.

    Posted by: The Milkman | Jul 6, 2012 8:59:34 AM

  2. I keep hearing Ne-Yo's coming out very soon, and at least I've heard of him.

    Posted by: MrJ | Jul 6, 2012 9:02:38 AM

  3. The very HINT that a journalist respected the world over would come out "as a marketing ploy" while in the same breath treating some relatively unknown singer's coming out like the Second Coming is laughable.

    Posted by: Joey Y | Jul 6, 2012 9:29:14 AM

  4. My response to each coming out:

    Anderson: Finally.

    Frank Ocean: Who?

    How is this still news?

    Posted by: John | Jul 6, 2012 9:39:12 AM

  5. To Touré: It's not a contest. Kudos to both.

    Posted by: Matthew Rettenmund | Jul 6, 2012 9:52:00 AM

  6. @Jory Y: i don't take that phrasing as making any (clearly Inaccurate) hint about Cooper. It seems to me that he's just saying that, despite all the attention a Frank's story has generated, it wasn't done as a ploy to sell something.

    His story wasn't what I normally think of when I hear that someone "came out," though. The public doesn't know his sexual orientation (yet), nor do we need to. His story of having four years ago once loved a man is enough for now to do a world of good in opening some eyes and hearts.

    Posted by: Gregv | Jul 6, 2012 10:09:21 AM

  7. JOEY Y and JOHN: Y'all need to understand better what's going on. Y'all need to expand a bit to better understand hip hop as music and as part of many cultures (not only tied to one specific race/ethnicity in 2012). So yes, Ocean may not have the commercial success and presence that artists such as Snoop Dogg or Nas have (i.e. two artists that should be well known even for people that aren't into hip hop), but he already has made a substantial presence behind the scenes writing or singing alongside people like Jay, Kanye, John Legend, even Justin Bieber (citing JB as someone outside of hip hop music).

    We'll all have to see how well this album does financially or with sales, but I guess all I'm asking people to do, white people to do (on this site it seems to be mostly white people who have this concern/criticism), is to go a little bit beyond the issues of Cher on twitter or Madonna crying in Germany and attempt to put Ocean's coming out in context of the hip hop CULTURE and with 2012. Ocean coming out at this point in his career (i.e. much IMMEDIATE support from members, unofficial "leaders", or patriarchs (see Russell Simmons) from hip hop WHILE just releasing his first studio album) is very different from Cooper who has a substantial foundation, presence, money, and established career built around alternative components to his identity. Additionally Cooper is operating in an environment that is more likely (not completely likely though) to accept, understand, and find supporters (e.g. Kathy Griffin, etc.). Don't get me wrong. BOTH coming outs are great and will help be examples for different types of youth to have representation and feel comfortable (myself having been in the hop-hop "type" and knowing that for many years I didn't come out because the word "gay" didn't seem to match my identity nor the mirror).

    But I wish we all could take steps back from our individual worlds and/or from places of entitlement to see or attempt to understand how these changes are important. The hope with Ocean is that with the support of many credible backers from the hip hop community, with his authentic talents, with his honesty, Ocean's presence will help shift hip hop and parts of our world to a place where homosexuality is considered normal and part of the fabric. Hope that all those people who were hatin on 50 Cent and T.I.'s ambivalent (but growing) comments about sexuality will see how powerful evoling their views are and how they will get on board with this even more, and possibly grow to become advocates for LGBT within hip hop. So Toure did not say "second coming" (at least within this selection of the writing) so please calm down. Will there be major and reverberating effects thanks to Ocean's confidence? Definitely. Even if the sales don't take off (which I hope they do), now there is yet one more example for other young individuals within the hip hop community to either use when they are coming out or to see as part of our fabric and become more appreciative of, so that as time goes on, more come out etc. Let's not deny the economic and social dominance hip hop has in the world. But good for Anderson too...he definitely was coming out at a time that is a little more safer in his career, but you know what? We need people like him to win over those who might be cautious to here someone being identified as a "gay reporter" (we know that always happens and will probably start to happen with Ocean as well) but can now be open to the idea of a reporter and television anchor who happens to be gay.

    This is a time for celebration, education, and appreciation for all.

    Posted by: JonathanJamal | Jul 6, 2012 10:37:05 AM

  8. "the feminized part of masculinity."

    There is no such thing, stupid.

    If "it" is feminized, "it" is no longer masculine, by definition.

    And this really gets to the heart of the problem with so many gay men. Because they had no guide for how to be homosexual and masculine at the same time--and society pushed the idea that the two were incompatible and mutually exclusive--they simply began thinking of themselves as pseudo-women and of their sexuality as "feminine"--in other words, they did just what the homophobes wanted them to do.

    And this led to the culture of effeminacy, with idolization of women as its principal feature.

    I really wish we could just wipe the slate clean and start over and not be burdened by this legacy of oppression, but we can't, so it is going to be very difficult to wean gay men from this mentality and get them to re-claim their masculinity again.

    Posted by: Rick | Jul 6, 2012 10:41:25 AM

  9. Every time Rick comments, I picture him with one hand on his hip and the other snapping in the air.

    You go, girlfriend!

    Posted by: endo | Jul 6, 2012 10:48:51 AM

  10. Soooo... now it's a contest? Whose Coming Out was done BETTER. Whose Coming Out is MORE Important.
    Next up: Who wore what or who when Coming Out.

    Posted by: JimmyD | Jul 6, 2012 10:49:54 AM

  11. Rick,

    The concept the writer is talking about (the anima) is something that operates within straight men. The typical phrase is "being secure in your masculinity."

    See here:

    Posted by: David | Jul 6, 2012 10:52:52 AM

  12. With all the attention being payed to Anderson Cooper's and Frank Ocean's coming out,it seems that singer Diane King's coming out as lesbian has been largely overlooked.

    Posted by: RJG | Jul 6, 2012 11:14:59 AM

  13. I get what Toure is trying to say here .I don't think the story has anything to do with how significant their respective careers are and what they have achieved so far, even if they are both important people in their own right. This is about courage and authenticity, which is what coming out is always about.

    Speculations have been made before about previous stars and starlets coming out stories on what the motivations or timing of their actions were ...publicity stunt or else….
    You can't possibly make that argument about Mr Ocean's coming out story; he has more to lose and little to gain by coming out for certain.

    The manner and the context, by which he came out ooze authenticity and courage at its best regardless of how known or unkown you preceive him to be or many twitter followers he has or doesn't have

    Posted by: John | Jul 6, 2012 11:35:47 AM

  14. Anderson wants some chocolate luvin'

    Posted by: Qweef | Jul 6, 2012 11:59:03 AM

  15. Frank Ocean is mostly known for being a writer, he's written for Beyonce, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Justin Bieber, and other current popular artists. I don't think that the article is trying to make a competition out of their coming out stories, since this is something that is good for both of them, and both will have an impact on a lot of people.

    Posted by: cadence | Jul 6, 2012 12:06:01 PM

  16. Kudos to both - two more brothers standing up to be counted.

    Fun Fact - the "femme hating gays" are too f***ing cowardly to stand up to be counted so their much-wished-for revolution will never come. So, yay.


    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Jul 6, 2012 12:18:22 PM

  17. 'Anderson wants some chocolate luvin'"

    Why not? People thought his mother did.

    But either you are having an Emily Latella moment, QWEEF.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Jul 6, 2012 12:43:31 PM

  18. RJG: Thanks for the head's-up on Diana King!! Not only has she come out... she has, more importantly: A NEW ALBUM!!!! LOVE HER!
    I hope the US will one day discover her brilliance!

    Posted by: JimmyD | Jul 6, 2012 1:24:19 PM

  19. @ JonathanJamal: Thank you; your statment is powerful. Being a kid who grew up on hip hop and now being a man of the hip-hop generation; Frank Ocean's coming out speaks to me and to many others. I am a huge fan of Anderson Cooper and Frank Ocean. I wish them both continued success and personal fulfillment.

    Posted by: TruthHurts | Jul 6, 2012 1:33:41 PM

  20. Why do we have to compare? Is it a competition. One thing--Anderson came out as gay, Ocean came out as having had a same sex relationship when he was 19.

    Posted by: Daniel | Jul 6, 2012 1:38:02 PM

  21. Frank Ocean is a young artist, certainly not as well known as Cooper but known to many music fans, and he's at the beginning of his career. To me that's the biggest difference here, not race or relative fame- that a young artist at the start of career made this announcement, d*mn the consequences, and that was a really brave thing to do. And based on what he wrote it was something he felt he NEEDED to do, to clear the decks and let go of his secrets.

    I don't really *get* why people are trying to minimize what he said. Would an otherwise straight guy feel the need to announce a one-time crush from 4 years ago? It's possible I guess but it seems unlikely.

    The whole reason he released that part of his liner notes was that reviewers were buzzing because the lyrics on his new album used the pronouns he/him when talking about people he was attracted to instead of the expected she/her. Whether he identifies as gay or bi is up to him but it doesn't sound like that crush or attraction was a one-time thing.

    Anderson Cooper is much further on in his career and his sexuality has been speculated about for years. Actually it was more than that- everybody pretty much knew already but he'd just never made it official even though he was doing good work reporting gay issues in the news. Which isn't to take away from his announcement, but stating fact. It's odd that after all the hounding and criticism from certain quarters and widespread speculation and smirking from others that much of the response has been either "Well DUH!" or (from straights) "Ewww, I didn't need to know that!" (Even some "Who cares? I don't know why people have to come out anyway," which is quite dismissive and homophobic in its own right.)

    Two men at different stages of their lives and careers, different levels of fame. Rather than argue which one has more impact or was more brave, why not appreciate both of them for what they've done? Two more voices added to the chorus of those who want to stand up and be counted. Good for them.

    Posted by: Caliban | Jul 6, 2012 1:39:03 PM

  22. no matter how long i go without reading towleroad comments whenever i do take a look it's the same tone, shallow hostility towards anything and everything.

    Posted by: robert | Jul 6, 2012 3:10:55 PM

  23. Robert: THIS! Astounding but not yet shocking..

    Posted by: Rowan | Jul 6, 2012 3:25:11 PM

  24. Frank Ocean - a very young man early in his career. His very brave decision to come out could cost him everything.

    Anderson Copper - a middle aged man from the richest family on THE PLANET. He has no need to earn any more money - he already has more than he can spend yet he was too chickens@it to come out ! Pathetic. He deserves no respect. He had no risk attached to coming out. What a weak, selfish, pathetic loser.

    Posted by: Icebloo | Jul 6, 2012 4:55:41 PM

  25. Ocean had a lot more to lose that Cooper did in coming out.

    Cooper has been in the business for years and is an established name in journalism. Also, he's in a very gay-friendly business and is BFFs with gay icons like Kathy Griffin and Lady Gaga.

    Frank Ocean is new to the music business and works in the hip-hop industry, which can sometimes be hostile to gays.

    Even if Cooper was fired (which could have happened 20 years ago, but not today), he still has the Vanderbuilt name and money to fall back on. Frank Ocean doesn't.

    So yes, Frank took a bigger risk and did it a LOT sooner than Andy did.

    Posted by: FuryOfFirestorm | Jul 6, 2012 5:09:59 PM

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