Queer Women Remember Their David Bowie
Queer Women Remember Their David Bowie
The Thin White Duke blurred lines of gender and sexuality and spoke to so many.
Since Sunday night news of David Bowie's death has dominated social media with outpourings of condolences and memories of what Bowie meant to so many different kinds of people. To honor and remember Bowie we have gathered stories of his impact on queer women – some in first-person narratives and others in Tweets from celebrities. We welcome you to share your stories in comments.
Monday morning, in a post Golden Globes stupor, I couldn’t sleep, so I rolled over to check the time on my phone. My sister, who lives in Connecticut, had texted me at 6 am EST (3 AM my time) to tell me that David Bowie had died. Of course, I never did get back to sleep. Like anyone touched by his genius, I was in shock. Just last week I was blaring “Blue Jean” and “Heroes” from my office in honor of his 69th birthday. I had not heard that he was ill. I thought he was immortal.
It’s fitting that my big sister Pam was the first to tell me about Bowie’s death. It was her Changes One Bowie album I absconded with to wear out on my portable turntable in my childhood bedroom. I was nine when I’d heard Pam playing that album and I became obsessed with “Space Oddity.” Beyond Major Tom I latched on to the lyrics of “John, I’m Only Dancing.” “She turns me on…” Bowie crooned, and at nine, that paean to bisexuality wedged itself deep inside of me. I related to something in the song, although it would take me a few more years to wholly understand it.
Later, when I was 11, I watched gob smacked as he performed with legendary performance artist Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias on Saturday Night Live. Bowie wore a woman’s skirt suit for the first live performance of the night while make-up clad Nomi and Arias sang backup and channeled essential movements (lines) of German expressionism. I was both freaked out and fascinated for weeks and years after I saw it. As a young girl who never felt comfortable in skirts ( they weren't practical for climbing trees afterall), Bowie in a skirt on live television validated those face-offs I'd had with my mother about why I wouldn't wear a skirt and tights to school.
Years later, when I was just coming out, I rented The Hunger, not for the famous 'lesbian' love scene between Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon (I’d had no idea it even existed), but because Bowie was in it playing an ultra-cool vampire. There's a beautiful symmetry in my love for Bowie, the man whose same-sex attraction lyrics first spoke to me, leading me to that iconic sex scene between women in The Hunger.
Tracy E. Gilchrist - SheWired EIC
One evening in boarding school, a friend (on whom I was nurturing a massive crush) sat me down and made me listen to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Even though the album was old news to everyone else at the time, it was an exhilarating discovery to me. From the ominous opening of "Five Years" to the dramatic crescendo reached in "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide," I was transfixed and disoriented in an intensely liberating way. The theatricality of the album appealed to my angsty teenaged self. But the lyrics also referenced blatantly gay imagery: boys in makeup, a queer throwing up at the sight of a cop kissing a priest's feet, a male singer named "Lady Stardust" and, poignantly for me as I listened with the object of my unexpressed desire, the line "I smiled sadly for a love I could not obey."
Bowie's much-celebrated androgyny was part of his appeal. I could safely proclaim my love for him without revealing to others that it was his feminine side that attracted me. Bowie prompted me to take a baby step towards coming out -- starting with a girly boy while steeling my nerve and working my way towards an actual girl.
Most wonderfully, I wasn’t alone in responding to David Bowie in this way. Music is an important part of creating community for teens. I was drawn to others for whom Bowie’s music also struck a chord. His music was the secret signal that let us know that we would find safe haven in one another. I will always love him for that.
Doria Biddle, co-host of The Frank DeCaro Show on SiriusXM Radio.
David Bowie... *sigh* I was too young to really experience most of his chameleon changes. My first memory of him was watching him as the Goblin King in Labyrinth. It was one of my favorites as a child. I used to watch it over and over. Looking back on Bowie's life and artistry -- and incredible courage -- I am in awe. His life is an ode to being unapologetically your Self. I am so grateful to live in a time where this wonderfully openly bisexual man lived and loved out loud. A man who spoke out about imbalance and championed marginalized people. A man who used his privilege to shine light. His willingness to do so transformed the world... And made it a gentler landing place for a magical Bisexual Black girl's spirit to take root and blossom"
Dalila Ali Rajah - Actress, Producer
He was mysterious, his voice and music very erotic and I think even for queer women very, very sexy. He gave you permission to be what you wanted to be and to wear what the fuck you wanted to wear. He gave you permission to come out and be you.
That's what he was for me. I loved this man. I didn't even love all his music. I loved him more for what he was and stood for. Looking at his gentle beautiful love for Iman was admirable to me and what I always wanted for myself. His creativity was unbelievable. And he was a beautiful man, not just to look at but in the way he treated all kinds of people. To me, he was the James Bond of music.
Connie Kurtew - Photographer
\u201cMy heart goes out to his family & fans, how can this be? RIP Thin White Duke\u201d— Lea DeLaria (@Lea DeLaria) 1452528449
It's impossible to not feel like an outsider growing up gay. I spent my elementary and middle school years being relentlessly bullied for looking like a boy. I didn't know how to fit in and I paid for it. Then I found my heroes in music. David Bowie. And Prince... the people who blurred sexual identity and were celebrated for it. They made me feel safe, accepted. They made me feel like someday I'd be appreciated for being different. Thank God for those heroes.
"Got your mother in a whirl cuz she's not sure if you're a boy or a girl."
Jami Smith - Stand-Up Comedian
Whatever you want to call him - icon, legend, innovator, hero - it is not as though he sought to be any of these things. These epithets would only be applied as our best attempt to put him into words, to keep up with him in a world that until him had thirsted for such creativity. While others imitated or were inspired by, he oozed. He radiated. Whatever "original" could possibly mean, he was it. An effortless self in all of its perpetual, unapologetic expression. To have been present in a world where literal stardust collided with pure art to create this being, what a time for us to be. Rest in peace.
"The truth is, of course, is that there is no journey. We are arriving and departing all at the same time." - David Bowie
Kimberly Eaton- Social Media Presence and Pop Culture Maven