Sad Boy Solitary: How Frank Ocean’s Blonde is an Account of Transboy Mania
The cerebral quality of Frank’s new album has me feeling like I’m separated from others by a literal ocean. I’m walking and walking, going nowhere in particular. Listening to it again and again. There’s a psychic barrier between me and Everything. I would compare this human, emotional isolationism to the state of being that is trans.
On the song Pretty Sweet, which is arguably one of the most phonically jarring on the album, Frank sings, “Fuck the other side/I’m on this side/How it feels to have arrived/I’m inside, I’m inside.” Of course, there are many viable interpretations to Frank’s work, and I’d ask that the reader suspend disbelief over the course of this article in order to explore specifically the possibility of allusions to transness within the album. The words cis and trans quite literally translate from the Latin to, respectively “on the same side” and “on the other side.”
When you realize you are transgender it is as if the whole world has been flipped inside out, and suddenly, for the first time, there is the possibility that your existence can fit into the order of things. The person you aspire to look like makes sense to the person “inside” you, the person you are, have always been. Even the title of the album, Blonde, could refer to a willful modification of a non-blonde’s body in order to better express one’s identity: an appropriation of one’s body.
As Frank says on the banger Nights, “Round your city/Round the clock/Everybody needs you.” The notion that “Everybody needs you,” that you matter, in the form of the person you truly are, forms a trans revelation. Along with the revelation that you can be properly accepted and embraced by those you love, there is simultaneously a prevalent sentiment of anger reserved for the world that for so long suppressed your soul in the form of a violent assault — a robbery. You also learn that you will always feel bitter discomfort within that world at large. Frank says on the same song, “No, you cannot make everybody equal.” As a trans person, you are not “equal” to the cis majority. You contain more than cis people, just as a black woman contains more within her than a white woman. More being the degree of personally experienced knowledge that this world is a fucking dystopia. As Frank has shown us all, boys do cry, and perhaps he feels as a result of his atypical sensitivity that his self has been the victim of a similar kind of robbery. This world is a vampire.
This summer I had a stint in the psych ward following a manic episode.
The manic episode (with psychotic symptoms) occurred as a result of realizing, finally, that I’m a transboy, after a lifetime of considering myself a confused, self-hating non-binary presenting lesbian. I had a psychosis off of a surplus of sudden Wokeness. I was smoking 10 joints a day and filming videos for my Instagram in which I tried my best to myth-bust the contemporary Western assumptions of the privileged, heteronormative, white, rich idiots who run things. It felt like just as my world was opening up, the world at large was caving in — the second feeling being one which anybody who has seen Donald Trump’s voracious and putrid face on any website this year knows well. As Frank says on the track Solo, “It’s hell on Earth and the city’s on fire/Inhale, in hell there’s heaven.” The videos also acted as a chance for me to perform, fully, my new rightful gender identity (which was stolen from me as a result of these systems).
I wasn’t sleeping or eating. I was avoiding my parents at all costs — though we lived in the same house. The lines “It begins to blur/Summer’s not as long as it used to be/Everyday counts like crazy,” off of the track Skyline To remind me painstakingly of this point in my summer.
My parents were always staunchly against the consumption of marijuana. The skit track Be Yourself, which consists of a mother figure persuasively banishing her son from ever consuming marijuana or alcohol, was very relatable to me. In my parents’ case, the banishment was a matter of the link between consuming marijuana and mental illness. In most hip hop, any caution against the consumption of marijuana is reacted to with humorous irony, intended to demonstrate the absurdity of such a statement. Interestingly, in Frank’s case — though Frank does not make hip-hop, he runs in those circles — though truly he runs in his Own Lane, the mother’s warning is made to be valid by his statement on the final song of the album, Futura, in which he says “I ain’t smoked all year.”
In my case, (and seemingly in Frank’s too), weed is legitimately something I need to stay away from on the regular. Both of us, it seemed, had a love affair with weed that wounded up becoming abusive — specifically in the sense that it facilitated our isolation. On the track Solo, Frank discusses this love affair in detail, repeatedly with mention to the fact that he’s chilling alone. “Bones feeling dense as fuck,” he says. Perhaps he has become seemingly “lazy, stupid and unconcerned” like his mother warned him on Be Yourself.
In both our cases though, weed facilitates a kind of manic imaginative quality which is beautiful unto itself but actually incompatible with living and surviving in the real world. While baked alone Frank has visions such as the previously alluded to, “It’s hell on Earth and the city’s on fire/Inhale, inhale there’s heaven/There’s a bull and matador dueling in the sky/Inhale, in hell there’s heaven.” It is, as I said, beautiful to manically see so much truth — but it is dangerous to see too much. No one else can sit on the top of that sad boy mountain with you. You have been confined to sad boy solitary.