Read Frank Ocean’s letter. Read the part where he talks about being 19. Read the part where he talks about the few people he told his story to. Read the gut wrenching words about unreciprocated attraction and confusion and frustration and despair. Read who he says kept him alive. Because he means it. Read this young black man’s letter to the world and think of what he is risking by sharing it. Think about what is at stake for him. Maybe your teens don’t know who Anderson Cooper is, but there’s a very good chance they know Frank Ocean, Odd Future and OFWGKTA.
Part of being a young parent, for me, is that I had my kids while I was still figuring out who I was. I mean, yes, we’re all figuring out who we are all the time. It’s a never ending process. But those big “I” statements? The ones that we use to first understand ourselves and need to be able to say out loud so that we can find other people who love and like that part of us- those take some time. And if you’re someone who’s “I” statements match the ones we’re assigned to at birth, or if you agree with what those labels mean, then yay for you. Congratulations, you’ve won the identity lottery. A lot of us haven’t.
Talk with your teenagers about his letter by thinking about the “I” statement he is making. Then think about your own, and think about how you make those “I” statements to your children. Think of the gift you can give them by showing them how to be brave and strong. At the end of the letter, he thanks his mother for raising him to be strong and brave, and says to her, “I know I’m only brave because you were first.” We have to be that first brave person for our kids.