A year ago today, I found out that David Bowie had passed away. (Honestly, ‘transcended the mortal plane to escape the garbage fire of 2016 that he almost definitely saw coming’ is a description I prefer, but let’s be real.)
Anyone who has known me for more than ten minutes is probably aware that Bowie was my favourite artist. Those who have known me for a significant amount of time, however, know that it was never just the music that I loved.
Bowie had an impact on me that is hard to describe, and I know I’m not the only one who can say that – many friends of mine would say the same, and in fact it was bonding over Bowie that cemented our friendships. I also don’t think it’s coincidence that I’m pretty sure all of those friends are LGBT, but I digress.
I saw something of myself in Bowie – not just the fact that he, too, had wonky eyes (mine aren’t quite as exciting, just a lazy left eye, but it was still a nice comparison). The fact that he flitted between projects like a manic bat, never seemed to be able to settle in one place too long figuratively or literally, just wanted to make art he loved without giving a shit if anyone else liked it, refused to be bound by convention in his work, gender, sexuality … that all hit a note in a small, scared, fifteen-year-old me that still resonates now, seven years later.
If it weren’t for Bowie, I would still be wrestling with the idea that it’s okay for me to fit no genders and all genders, depending on the day, and that gender doesn’t matter when it comes to love. I probably wouldn’t still be writing. I don’t know if I’d still be drawing. I almost definitely would never have learned to play guitar.
Bowie was more than an artist. To me, and so many others like me, he was a symbol: if Bowie could break the mould and still be one of the biggest cultural icons of our time, so could we. Bowie looked at all of us – the outcasts, the people who were lost and alienated and struggling to come to terms with who they were – and said, “Give me your hands, ’cause you’re wonderful.”
Once, I performed Space Oddity for a small audience; afterwards, someone told me that they’d watched Bowie do the same: just himself and his guitar, sat on the edge of a stage, and that he would have loved it. To this day I well up at the thought of that, because everything I do now I do because of David Bowie. And you can bet I’ll keep doing it, and keep living proudly as pansexual and genderfluid and everything that society says ‘don’t do that’ about, if only to make him proud.