Ever the performer and style chameleon, whether you liked him or not Bowie always said and did what he believed was right

 

From 1947 to 2016, David Bowie has been an icon, a legendary songwriter and an inspiration. The songs we love including ‘Heroes’, ‘Let’s Dance’ and ‘Changes’ will remain in our hearts for decades to come.

Fans have lined the streets of Berlin, New York and London to commemorate the work of David Bowie and his influence on British culture. And though we mourn the loss of this incredible pop star, it is clear that future generations will not forget his influence which exists not only in music but extends also to the LGBT community.

Bowie not only led the way towards a new rock genre but also to the acceptance of the homosexual community. Early 70s society was a difficult place to be gay. From arrests to public disapproval, homosexual behaviour was definitely frowned upon. As times have certainty changed, with gay marriage becoming legalised, we look to David Bowie to see where this progression began.

As Bowie started to challenge the rejection of LGBT people, he became a role model for thousands of struggling individuals living in Britain. His nonconformist definitions of sexuality and modernised masculinity left a lightning strike on the UK as we knew it. Cultural Critic Mark Simpson [1] expressed that Bowie’s performance on Top of the Pops in 1972, with his arm around lead guitarist Mick Ronson was the biggest ‘Gay Parade’ moment in history. This along with his cross-dressing, meant that a new identity for men was born, which spiralled into a surge towards acceptance of the LGBT community and ultimately brought us to where we are today.

Whilst Bowie did express deep regret in coming out as bisexual, the impact this had on society was incredible. Tony Visconti, Bowie’s lifelong friend expressed in the Times in 2013 that ‘there was such homophobia back then’ and that Bowie did his best to shock and remain mysterious. As this mystery remained consistent in the media, it certainly didn’t to thousands of teenagers back in their bedrooms.

Although Bowie did tell Rolling Stone he was ‘always a closet heterosexual’, regardless of his real sexuality he became an icon for the entire gay community for years. A book released in 2014, titled Bowie by Wendy Leigh, concluded that Bowie was in fact a sex fanatic, a trait that was ‘amped-up’ by his cocaine addiction.  However, Tony Zanetta, Bowie’s ex assistant argues that ‘To him, it was about being adored … I don’t think sex mattered to him’. Bowie’s gender-bending and sexual ambiguity kept the press entertained for the duration of his life. From hoping for a new ‘gay Elvis’ by the LGBTs to varying amounts of acceptance amongst the older generations, Bowie certainly gave everyone an opinion.

This mix of opinions even surfaced on the day of his death. Scottish nationalists celebrated the singers passing just hours after the news, saying: ‘maybe unionism gives you cancer’, following Bowie’s Brit Awards speech where he pleaded for Scotland to stay part of the UK. Thousands of fans were outraged at this insensitive and rude outburst so soon after his death. The nationalists however, proceeded to describe him as someone who ‘pokes his noses into other people’s affairs … good riddance’.

Whilst there will understandably be mixed emotions about the death of this controversial and unique figure, surely politics should stay out of this one?

 

Sources:

[1] marksimpson.com