Written by Calum Conner Jones.
Almost everybody remembers when they came to terms with their sexuality, but how many people remember when they finally became confident about it? About themselves? Unfortunately, many have to hide themselves in a mist of straight identity, behaviour, and mannerisms, they fear the backlash and ostracisation from their straight friends, colleagues, and even family members.
The fear comes from a feeling of isolation. Feeling like you are all alone, like you’ve let people down, you don’t think you fit in as no-one around you is going through the same transition. Having those people around you is the best support system as you have a sense of unity and group confidence. That’s why LGBT representation in the media is so important as it gives the LGBT community the knowledge that there are others just like them, that are going/have been through the same struggle, and may even help them become confident with their sexuality. They could find this solace in any form of media, from books to film, TV to music it doesn’t matter as long as it helps THEM with their experience. With that being said, LGBT representation shouldn’t be used and manipulated as a virtue signal to entice and keep fans (looking at you JK Rowling).
The media that has always helped me find comfort in myself was music. This is especially true in the topic of my sexuality. Specifically, two hip-hop albums: The first being ‘Flower Boy’ by Tyler, The Creator. Tyler’s sexuality has been a topic of debate upon the release of this album. However, it isn’t the references to coming out that resonated with me, it was the relatable pain of unrequited love and being who you want to be. The main ethos of Flower Boy Tyler presents is the idea of growth and expression. In ‘Where This Flower Blooms’ Tyler raps, “Tell these black kids they can be who they are/ Dye your hair blue, shit, I’ll do it too”. To me this lyric is Tyler using his platform to let young black kids know they don’t have to conform to the plague of hypermasculinity that is endemic in society. Flower Boy is a journey of self-discovery, resonating with me as it tackled a boisterous façade that hides my personal fears of isolation and loneliness on songs like ‘911/ Mr. Lonely’. “I say the loudest in the room/Is prolly the loneliest in the room (that’s me)”, The loud and rambunctious persona is never a power play, instead it’s almost a craving for attention; a desire to be wanted and loved, if anything it’s Tyler gearing away from his typical abrasive style and having a moment of self-awareness. A moment that I needed and a moment that this album assisted in sparking.
The second album is ‘American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story’ by Kevin Abstract. Before delving into the album and how it affected me, I want to say: This man is beautiful as fuck. An industry filled with toxic masculinity and homophobia makes openly gay rappers a rarity, but that’s what makes Kevin Abstract such an inspiring artist, he explores the vulnerabilities of being a minority, these vulnerabilities compliments his music but doesn’t define it. He is constantly finding new ways of sounding unique and pushing the boundaries of his music whilst also staying true to himself. ‘American Boyfriend…’ explores the insecurities of romantic relationships and what you want out of them, the album contextualises how society’s struggle with accepting you can project and create a struggle with accepting yourself. “Can’t tell my family I’m bi/Can’t tell my mother I’m gay/The hardest part of my day/Is wishing I was fucking straight,” he raps on ‘Papercut’, delivering quite possibly the most powerful lyric on the album that made me pause and take a moment of inner reflection.
Both albums mean a lot to me, they weren’t the SOLE reason I accepted myself and started a path of self-love. A lot of it can be attributed to puberty, maturing and the amazing people I now surround myself with (they know who they are). But these albums will always be special to me as they provide me with the knowledge that we are never alone in our experiences, there’s always someone who loves us. Also, sentiments aside, they are just good fucking projects musically. If you have a chance, give them a shot, I hope you won’t be disappointed.