As a not-yet-uncloseted teenager growing up in a rural area of the Bible Belt, I stumbled upon David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” and “The Man Who Sold the World” albums and was instantly entranced. Here was a guy who stretched all the boundaries of sexuality and gender; who wore makeup and dresses and wrote songs about loving both men and women. It sounds sappy to say that it felt good to not be alone in being different, but it’s the truth. When you’re a kid who knows zero GLBT people and you find yourself questioning your own sexuality, you grasp onto role models like life preservers. David Bowie, Ellen Degeneres, Melissa Etheridge and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”—these were the rafts that buoyed me through the frightening experience of coming to terms with being gay after being raised as a fundamentalist Christian.
There’s not much more I can say except that I feel an immense sense of sadness at Bowie’s untimely death. I haven’t listened to a lot of his more recent music, but there is still a great sense of loss of someone who had a huge impact on me. I’ve read several articles today that discussed how many other GLBT people feel the same. An interview I listened to earlier today contained this quote, which said it best:
“He became a father figure or an older brother figure or an uncle figure to all the kind of strange kids who wanted to know more about how you can live as a strange person and his embrace of strangeness, and his assertion that strangeness had a legacy and a lineage that you can find was kind of the big gift that he gave to kids around the world.”
—Carl Wilson, Slate music critic, in an interview with CBC Radio