As we all know by now, one of the world most creative and innovative rock stars, David Bowie, has passed away following a hidden battle with cancer just two days after his final album release, and 69th birthday.
The news shocked the world with every media outlet recounting the personal and artistic life of the creative who changed the face of music and sexuality entirely throughout pop culture.
His persona Ziggy Stardust was created alongside the release of Space Oddity in 1969. His androgynous look and multitude of personalities immediately gained him gay icon status.
Regarding his persona persona, he said: “Offstage I’m a robot. Onstage I achieve emotion. It’s probably why I prefer dressing up as Ziggy to being David.”
In 1971, long before the like of even Elton John, or Freddie Mercury hit the gay scene, Bowie debut his eccentric alter ego Ziggy Stardust and told the world “I am gay”.
Though stars may be more lenient in coming out nowadays, this announcement came just a mere few years after the legalisation of homosexuality. Even in the very beginnings of his career he presented himself as a multi-sexual space alien, instantly cementing his name in gay history forever.
From here on gay boys, along with the other freaks and misfits of society dragged up in their best regalia, painted their faces, and doused themselves in glitter to leave the world for a few hours at one of him eupitimous concerts.
This was perhaps one of the first times a persons sexuality was discussed openly with such vigour throughout the media and wider society. His androgynous style and shocking antics (such as touching a mans shoulder on Top of the Pops, yep that was shocking a few decades ago) would provide a different way of living for people outside of the straight-laced world we lived in.
Though he was married at the time, the star man told Melody Maker, “I’m gay, and I always have been”. Later, during the same year the magazine called it “the year of the transvestite” in his honour. 1971 also saw 700 people walk from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park in the first annual Gay Pride march.
Four years later Bowie changed the game once more, telling Playboy magazine that he was actually bisexual, a term not much used as people were still coming to the terms of homosexuality. He announced: “It’s true—I am a bisexual, but I can’t deny that I’ve used that fact very well. I suppose it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”
In 1973, the artist struck up an affair with French singer and gay icon, Amanda Lear, who was assumedly a trans woman, though her early life was somewhat of a mystery. The relationship lasted a year while the star was still married.
During the late 70’s the star moved to Berlin for three years after falling for transsexual Romy Haag, who had become his muse. Ex-wife Angie Bowie said he was so obsessed with her he could focus on almost nothing else. Once more, this was a first in popular culture. If gay people were just getting their rights, trans members of the LGBT community were years behind!
It was not until several years later in a 1993 interview with Rolling Stone magazine the singer described coming out as bisexual as the “biggest mistake I ever made”, he declared in the interview that he was “always a closet heterosexual.”
It was here be began distancing himself from the Ziggy Stardust persona, stating: “That was just a lie. They gave me that image, I didn’t ever feel that I was a real bisexual. I was making all the moves, down to the situation of actually trying it out. I wanted to imbue Ziggy with real flesh and blood and muscle, and it was imperative that I find Ziggy and be him. The irony of it was that I was not gay. I was physical about it, but frankly it wasn’t enjoyable.”
In 2002, speaking in an interview on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, Bowie was asked by the host about his sexual orientation, and whether he thought sexuality was a fluid notion.
He responded: “I was just happy… I just got my leg over a lot.”
On whether he had relationships with the men in his life, he said: “Not if I could help it. I was incredibly promiscuous, and I think we’ll leave it at that.”
Playing coy, he joked to Ross: “Why would I go into that when I could make a fortune by writing a book about it.”
When Ross asked whether Bowie thought he himself should try having sex with a man, Bowie said: “Such a serious and a life-challenging and changing question. The answer that I have for you would probably create such turmoil in your soul. I’m afraid I have to politiely not answer that question.”
Years later rumours of a bond between Bowie and Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger were seemingly confirmed in a tell-all biography, where first wife Angie allegedly caught the two naked together in bed. The details came courtesy of by Christopher Andersen in Mick: The Wild Life and Mad Genius of Jagger, and later supported by Bowie’s back up singer Ava Cherry.
Regarless of his sexuality, Bowie presented to a wide audience the idea of fluid sexuality, and sexual experimentation, along with gender bending and fluidity. Though he may have later presented as straight, it was during the early, more daring years of his career that he restlessly pushed the boundaries surrounding previously taboo subjects that made the most difference in society.