Through Non-Conformity, David Bowie Boosted LGBTQ Community

Through Non-Conformity, David Bowie Boosted LGBTQ Community

5:51pm Jan 11, 2016

People around the world are celebrating the life of David Bowie after the superstar died on Sunday at age 69. He touched nearly every corner of popular culture, and according to one expert, he had a special impact on many in the LGBTQ community.

Bowie was a chameleon, a man who pinballed through different musical styles and fashion trends, taking artistic risks at every turn.

But his willingness to play openly with gender and sexuality – he variously identified as gay, bisexual and straight – made him a pivotal figure for the LGBTQ community, too.

WFDD’s Sean Bueter sat down with Wake Forest LGBTQ Center director Angela Mazaris to talk about Bowie’s legacy beyond his art.


Interview Highlights

Mazaris says it’s hard to overstate Bowie’s importance to the LGBTQ community after he exploded onto the music scene in the 1960s and 1970s.

“There was something so powerful about seeing this person performing on stage wrapping his arms around the man on stage he’s performing with and gazing into his eyes. That sounds so trivial in some ways to us now in 2016, but it was so powerful in those moments when it was happening for the first time.”

Bowie’s sexual and gender identities seemed fluid at the height of his fame. But Mazaris says that fluidity challenged norms that gave people perceived as "different" hope for the future, even if many of those norms are still in place.

“I think what’s funny in some ways is that it’s still not really mainstream to think about [these] things outside of the binaries. And that’s what David Bowie did, right? He pushed outside of those binaries. He showed us that for some of us, it’s not a binary. You’re not gay or straight. You’re not a man or woman... that there are all of these different places in between where you might exist and those are all beautiful and fabulous and glamorous and we can celebrate them.”

Mazaris says Bowie’s now-legendary Ziggy Stardust album and character opened her eyes to what was possible in the world. And when his life is examined in full, she believes his social influence for the LGBTQ community – and the rest of the world – should be taken into account.

“I think his legacy is one of creating possibilities for anyone who is different, for the people who are weird, the people who are outcasts, the people who are queer, the people who are genderqueer, the people who are trans, the people who are gay, the people who don’t know what they are. To be able to see some other vision of what it can mean to be beautiful, to be successful, to be a star.”

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