Let me begin by admitting that I once had a tough time listening to Goblin. Shortly after Scum Fuck Flower Boy leaked, though, I came to a startling realization: Tyler, The Creator has been steadily charting my coming out story.
Throughout his discography, Tyler has captured the storms of self-loathing, frustration and voicelessness, which has resulted in him staking an identity that an entire swath of society despises.
For many, the act of "coming out" is the climax of the LGBTQ+ experience. It's like you’re not actually gay until you’ve told someone else. Of course, there are other intermediary steps: joining a forum, watching The L Word, buying your first hat, and biting your nails down to the cuticle. But nothing carries as much weight as coming out to your family. When I say family, I mean my blood relatives. The ones who met my coming out with dismissive remarks like “I really don’t think you are,” “don’t worry, this will pass,” or the more direct “no, you’re not.”
With my own personal experiences in mind, the once off-putting homophobia that Tyler displayed on Goblin now reminded me more and more of the homophobia I had to feign around my family. After their initial rejection, our every interaction turned into a performance. No one was demanding I sling slurs, but anytime we crossed paths with a gay couple, I felt a crushing pressure to make a twisted face or a homophobic comment.
I’ve never yelled “dyke,” but I have crafted more lies than I can forgive myself for. I’ve never called someone a “faggot,” but I have betrayed certain people in my life beyond reproach out of desperation and fear. Was this desperation akin to how Tyler, The Creator felt when he wrote Goblin? For the sake of understanding myself and Tyler in tandem, I’m inclined to say “yes.”
When I say family, I also mean Tyler’s fans. In an era where a confessional art form like hip-hop is often times mistaken as a direct invitation into the artist’s private life, it’s easy to consider the fans a natural extension of Tyler, The Creator’s proverbial family. We share his successes and failures and take a general interest in his goings-on.
In the age of new media, we are his next of kin. That might explain why his fans—if they’re anything like my family—have had such an easy time brushing off his numerous attempts at coming out. They’re operating under the age-old gimmick that if you don’t look at something, it just might disappear.
But it doesn’t.
Aside from listening to his music, I also went down the interview rabbit hole. Nothing struck me as more illuminating than Tyler’s 2014 interview with Larry King, where he emphatically exclaims: “If [a rapper] wants to fuck dudes, why does that shit matter? Why do we care?”
His line of questioning raises a point I’ve grappled with accepting for most of my life: the way someone chooses to react to your coming out should not deter you from living your truth. For eight years, my closet had a revolving door. The yes-no tug of war my family played with my gayness was exhausting. There were countless times where I was reduced to tears, wailing that I just wanted them to love me back.
Eventually, the coming out fiasco became my strongest comedic bit. Just like with Tyler's career, there came a point in my coming out journey where reception stopped mattering. I arrived at a moment where coming out transformed from the pinnacle of securing gay identity to a huge and inconsequential joke. Dark humor and chilling punchlines granted me a stronger sense of self than any familial encouragement. I actually discovered myself within the absurdity of the situation.
Ernest Baker captured this principle best in his Rolling Stone profile: “Only Tyler is completely sober, and—even though he jokes about doing drugs almost as much as he jokes about (not) being gay—he always has been.” Baker describes Tyler’s humor as having its own “lewd absurdity,” and in response to that, I attest we’re both better for it.
By now you may have gathered that this entire article hinges on Tyler, The Creator actually being gay. It doesn’t. And that’s the point; that’s always been the point.
Coming out is a deeply intimate and seminal experience, but Tyler’s relationship to homosexuality has brought to light what I’ve been saying for years: we shouldn’t have to come out.
Last week, The Internet's Steve Lacy tweeted that we should delete the whole concept of a closet, and he’s right.
In creating Scum Fuck Flower Boy, Tyler affirmed that, in the end, my identity will never hinge on anyone else’s appraisal.
I came out for myself.