Tuesday, January 09, 2007
David Bowie made me bi
Oh dear, late again, with this blog as with life. It was David Bowie's 60th birthday yesterday. I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can post things that are, y'know, timely and here I go and miss one.
So, David Bowie made me bi. Well, no, obviously not. No one can form your sexuality just like that. And there were other significant people (Kate Millett etc) later on. But he was My First and let's just say he helped. A lot.
I don't remember how I first knew about DB - he was sort of there throughout my early adolescence. But I do remember the first time I really thought about him. In 1973, when I was 16, my then-boyfriend Martin gave me a copy of Aladdin Sane. It was like having a bucket of water thrown all over me, like nothing I had ever heard before. Then I discovered shortly after that Bowie had said he was bisexual (or gay, or something, exactly what was immaterial; he denies it now anyway) and you could see him cosying up to male musicians... Wow - my eyes were opened.
Time... it's waiting in the wings
Last night I was lying in bed listening to various Bowie tracks on my iPod and it wasn't bisexuality I was thinking about first and foremost, it was my youth. In particular, all the people I used to know and don't see any more. Martin - who came to hate me for being better educated than he was; Robin, a wonderful, funny man who died in 2005 and I don't know why; Jane, his dancer girlfriend who's now a signer for deaf people and has, apparently, "a lovely life"; Trevor, my Diamond Dogs-loving ex-boyfriend who became a born again Christian. Back when Bowie was king, we were all a seething mass of potential, waiting for our lives to start.
But I also thought about how downright impossible it was to be a suburban bi-girl in the 70s. Some of my male friends experimented sexually with each other - they told me so, it wasn't a secret, just something that would-be bohemian boys did - but when I told Trevor that I was attracted to girls he simply laughed and told me I was trying to make him jealous. I filed my own bisexuality away for the future, for the life I was going to have when I could get the hell out of there. When, at about 17, two of my female friends did kiss each other in public (at a girls-only event, interestingly), I thought they were simply trying to attract attention. They were both a bit outrageous anyway, but I was furious. I knew that I wouldn't be able to get away with that myself: I had a "bad reputation" - it didn't take much in those days - and I wanted people to carry on speaking to me. I had no inkling that those girls might have actually fancied each other, and I don't suppose they did, but as one of them later had a 12-year relationship with a woman no doubt I was being harsh.
The prettiest star
Going back to David Bowie again, it was mainly because of him that I started to connect bisexuality with creativity, with androgyny and glamour and excitement, with rejecting what I perceived to be the suburban values of everyone around me. I didn't see him in concert till 1983, so missed by more than 10 years the über-bisexuality of Ziggy Stardust and those amazing clothes. Bowie looked great though. Still does.
And the music sounds as fantastic as ever.