Just under three months ago a wildly talented, rising young star called Frank Ocean did something utterly extraordinary: he told the world, freely and fearlessly, that he had loved another man. What made Ocean’s announcement particularly inspiring were three things.
Firstly, the grace and the beauty with which he spoke about his experiences. Secondly, the fact that he worked in a world – namely hip hop – not widely known for its comfort with gay or bisexual men. Thirdly, that his career was still on the rise, that he must have been surrounded by advisers telling him he had everything to lose professionally by his “confession”.
We were so inspired by Ocean that he is the main reason this blog was born, with our first entry posted within the next week. This is what we wrote back in July: “Our head spins to think of what Ocean’s honesty will mean to young kids who find themselves drawn to people of the same sex, particularly young black kids, Like Zachary Quinto, another talented, up and coming star who came out last year, his example will shine. Given those huge suicide rates for gay teens, it is surely no exaggeration to say that Ocean and Quinto will have saved countless lives with their courage, and made many more much more bearable.”
Now we can add Orlando Cruz to that list of new gay or bi revolutionaries after he revealed he was gay to a boxing news website. Like Ocean and Quinto, Cruz is a star on the ascendant. He is currently the fourth ranking featherweight boxer on the planet, and just a game away from a potential world title fight. And like Ocean he works in a macho world where he risks almost certain ridicule from large numbers of his audience.
Cruz couldn’t be clearer or more admirable about why he has taken this bold step: “I want to try to be the best role model I can be for kids who might look into boxing as a sport and a professional career. I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man.”
These are brave words from a man who must surely be at least a little frightened. When Frank Ocean came out he wrote that at times when he considered his step into the unknown he thought he could hear “the sky falling.” The beautiful thing is that it didn’t, that an extraordinary number of his peers pledged their public support, and that fans not only stood by him but flocked to him in far greater numbers. We can only hope that Cruz’s courage will be similarly rewarded, that the boxing community will also support him and that professional success rains down on him.
But even if he wins the world title, there’s every chance that his greatest achievement will still be that he was the first boxer to come out while still competing, and the hope and inspiration that will provide to thousands of young people across the world.
We live in extraordinary times.