The first article I ever wrote for Acclaim was about iLoveMakonnen. He’d just released that music video for ‘Back Again‘, from DRINK MORE WATER 6
, an ethereal, hazy and almost-melancholic vision. I admit that I didn’t know much about Makonnen Sheran, a 27-year-old residing in New York, at that time, but something about him still intrigued me. I thought he was a storyteller.
Nearly a year has passed since that article and I now find myself writing about Makonnen again, but for a very different reason this time.
The hip-hop artist recently came out as gay on Twitter. “Someone said to me next time they see me, they was gonna f*** me ,” he initially tweeted on 20 January. “I said next time I see me, I’m gonna love me up.”
“As a fashion icon, I can’t tell u about everybody else’s closet, I can only tell u about mine, and it’s time I’ve come out,” he continued. “And since y’all love breaking news, here’s some old news to break, I’m gay. And now I’ve told u about my life, maybe u can go life yours.”
And since y’all love breaking news, here’s some old news to break, I’m gay. And now I’ve told u about my life, maybe u can go life yours❤
— Oceanic Makonnen (@iLoveMakonnen5D) January 20, 2017
Some may argue that this isn’t news anymore. Others may say that it’s not an important point of discussion in today’s society. Well, I contend the contrary. Makonnen’s coming out experience highlights why it is still important to be open and vulnerable about one’s sexuality on a wide-reaching platform, especially in 2017.
In today’s climate, LGBTQI folk face a period of uncertainty, especially when concerning people of colour and trans folk. It’s hard not to think about the potential plight of the LGBTQI American identity under Trump’s reign. In fact, just two days ago, the ‘LGBT rights’ page had already been deleted from WhiteHouse.gov website.
Australia can’t be complacent, either; when we look at our own backyard, there is a similar uncertainty. The marriage equality debate still runs rampant throughout the community. The ‘Safe Schools’ program is being contested in NSW and Victoria. ‘Gay panic’, a self-defense excuse to downgrade a homicidal act through the claims that sexual advancements were made by the victim, is still a viable excuse in Queensland and South Australia. These instances perpetuate the belief that non-heterosexual identities are unworthy of equal respect.
Ignorance breeds fear, and it’s easy to be opposed to something when one hasn’t been exposed to it. Subsequently, it’s only through the high-profile coming out stories, such as iLoveMakonnen’s, that increase LGBTQI visibility. When LGBTQI representation within popular culture grows, another voice is heard and another person is gained for questioning folk to look up to for guidance.
Our kids need role models, now more so than ever. I desperately wanted a role model when I was younger, someone who could teach me about their experiences with sexuality, but I couldn’t find one, so I went through it by myself. It was a lonely experience.
This is why Makonnen’s coming out is still important news. For my own questioning self, I would have benefited greatly from Makonnen’s guidance. Trivial to most, his honesty would have made me feel less alone. At this point, it is also important to note that some hate speech has been circulating the web following his announcement, and this only further proves how important it is to establish open and honest dialogues regarding sexuality.
So thank you, Makonnen; your courage will inspire younger girls and boys who are struggling to come to terms with their own sexuality. To lead by example is to share the unsaid truths felt by many. “It doesn’t matter if u stopped fucking with me, cus I fuck with me, like I’ve always have and I always will,” he recently wrote online. He sure is a storyteller. Thank you for allowing us to hear it, Makonnen. Let us be empowered by our differences, not punished. Keep speaking your truths and spreading the word.
Takes one to know one?
— Oceanic Makonnen (@iLoveMakonnen5D) January 22, 2017
- Image: NIK POPP