As a funky queer child of the universe and visionary paradigm-shifter…my kindred spirits are the sensuous poets, the fearless dreamers, the gothic children, the feminists who’ll call your shit out, the gender-fuckers who smash boxes and sneer at limitations.
Where did I learn to do that in a world that loves its boxes and needs to categorize everything—a world where to defy categorization is a brazen act of self-possession that confuses the conformist masses?
Growing up in the 70s and 80s, I was fascinated by Annie Lennox in her suits, fierce hair and severe look. I was obsessed with Prince, his oozing sexuality and his absolute defiance of convention. And Bowie. In his elegant artistic vision and seemingly bottomless imagination that permeated everything he did. I was a huge fan of metal and glam rock and spent a lot of time on the Sunset strip in my teens and 20s. Make-up, glitter, fashion, fun, play, rebellion, being different were the values of the day.
These performers were the inspiration for all of us GenXers who were ourselves committed to defying cultural expectations and norms, or who wished we could be brave enough to do so. Some don’t love Bowie’s music but adore who he was. He kept himself out of the boxes and he challenged the status quo, always choosing not to be one thing—knowing he could be many things and all things if he chose. He was the master at “Yes, and.”
In college, I was in a way-too-white town and was in my first interracial relationship. I was experiencing racism for the first time first-hand, getting small glimpses of what everyday life was like for my then boyfriend and other people of color. The micro-aggressions and plain old aggression was so evident. I remember what a beautiful relief it was when David Bowie started dating Iman. It inspired me and supported me at a time when we got glaring looks and huffy attitudes because people didn’t like that a white girl was dating a black boy.
David Bowie’s music created worlds and alternate characters. He showed up in all matter of drag and outrageous costume because he could, because he was committed to living a creative life and expressed it in all he did. He worked with many of the visionary rebels: Lou Reed, John Lennon, Freddie Mercury in some jaw dropping collaborations. The 80s brought a gay norm to music that was actually missed by so many because the labels weren’t attached. What Boy George is gay? George Michaels? All that hair gel. All that glittered was gold.
I loved the gender benders even then. The pretty pretty boys and the ones who grew their hair long. The theatrical women like Madonna and Annie, and the fierce boyishness of Joan Jett next to the strength of Pat Benatar. What a time for music. Yet what made it so special was beyond the music. It was the challenge to convention. It was the fuck-you that fuels youth culture. At the time, I was too young to fully comprehend all the drugs and sex and the layer upon layer of how that vanguard would forever impact music. And how deeply sexuality was a part of it all. I was just fascinated even when I didn’t always know why. It was rock stardom, yes, in which sexuality is a cornerstone. But it was more than that. It was a time when queerness was boldly beautiful without ever limiting itself by calling it a name.
Bowie will always live on as a cultural icon who never shrunk from trying something new, unafraid to create the weird and unpalatable because it moved him. He even challenged MTV for not playing Black artists with unrelenting smarts, using his privilege for good. (Sadly, still so relevant today over 30 years later) To be so fully yourself is a feat few really live. We must rise to that charge with the seriousness it deserves.
David Bowie will preside over the pantheon where only the best, most authentically weird and strange will live on in our imaginations and on records forever.
We, the freaks, know that boredom, fear and stagnation are the suckers of the soul’s nectar. Let us continue to truly find comfort and joy in stepping out of bounds and discovering and creating life in each moment, to revel in transformation and movement. Let us always create beauty and fun in the world. Let us dance in our multiplicitous sexuality and push against the walls of convention.
As my favorite protagonist Molly Bolt said, I want to “tower over the masses of the mediocre”. To live full out, fully turned on, and bold as fuck for 69 years is a life well-played even in all its flaws. We have so damn short a spin here in the grand scheme of this world. What will you do with your time here? Are you living full out with your sexuality blazing like the fire it is, guiding you towards the most magical of human experience?
David Bowie, you did it ALL the way in every way. Ziggy Stardust is eternal. Spiders, guitars and a satellite of love orbit your spirit. You are a shining example of how to live a fully turned on, self-expressed life. Thank you Mr. Stardust. You will be missed gender bender blue-eyed-brown. You go take your rightful place in the galaxy now. Damn you did us right.