Although Frank Ocean has avoided labelling his sexuality, his music is an antidote to the bisexual invisibility that is part of our culture.
In recent years, the idea of bi invisibility has gained some ground in LGBTQ discourse. Bi invisibility/ bi erasure describes the tendency for people who are attracted to more than one gender to experience less understanding and support from their communities. Self-identified “B”s are the biggest population within the LGBTQ community, but you wouldn’t know it from the way their identities are represented in our culture.
Exclusion from queer spaces like Pridefest, underrepresentation in the media and public policy, and cultural stereotypes are just a few of the mechanisms that fuel bi erasure. And bi erasure is more than just bi erasure: It affects a wide range of sexual identities–pansexual, queer, questioning, and those who prefer, like Frank, no label at all.
For bi and fluid people, Frank Ocean’s music is a cool drink of water, an expression of self that we didn’t even know we needed. Most recently, Frank’s single “Chanel” is perhaps his most overt expression of an identity that breaks the mold. Frank starts off singing “my guy pretty like a girl”, and later, “I need that bitch to grind on my belt”, describing his relationships and desires without clarifying his identity for those who might be confused.
The chorus of “Chanel” contains a clever illustration of Frank’s dynamic identity: “I see both sides like Chanel.” Comparing himself to the Chanel logo, in which two letter C’s link to face opposite directions, Frank celebrates the beauty of bisexuality. Showing us that his preferences allow him a wider scope of vision, Frank illustrates bisexuality as a gift rather than something to be ashamed of.
Ocean’s work shows how queer artists can counter biphobia through honest self expression. As bi and fluid people hear “Chanel” and hear themselves reflected in the lyrics, our community gains an example of the pride and self-love necessary to survive in a culture of bi invisibility.