IN one of those rare defining moments of history akin to the outpouring of grief over Elvis Presley or John Lennon, the untimely death of David Bowie — perhaps music’s most influential artist of the 20th century — has caused a rift in many hearts.

[showads ad=MREC] We all recognise his looks and hairstyles as wild and iconic as the sounds he created, the larger-than-life characters he portrayed you could swear were all real, his timeless film roles and most importantly, the music that — to unashamedly use a fairly worn out cliché — defined a generation.

The fact that Bowie, who was bisexual, appeared to be one of the oddest (and queerest) artists around during his early career yet he still enjoyed mainstream popularity and appeal is a testament to his magic and creative influence.

However, as social media tributes indicates, it is the LGBTI community that may be the most thankful to Bowie.

With a presence, sense of style and vision that advocated for and raised the visibility of many forms of gender expression and sexuality, Bowie’s influence was not only felt musically but also socially.

Following some mixed reporting of his sexuality in the 70s, Bowie later confirmed he was bisexual but his own identity seemed to pale in comparison to the waves of societal change and sexual and gender freedom that his work championed.

Rather than accept a norm of how men should present to society, Bowie dared to tear apart the boundaries and defied all conventions of hypermasculinity.

He essentially bet everything against the house and he won — spectacularly — for the entire LGBTI community’s benefit.

Several LGBTI celebrities took to social media to thank Bowie/Ziggy/Aladdin/the Thin White Duke for the space he had created for them to be proud of who they are.

A photo posted by @jakeshears on

 

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As far as his countless LGBTI fans go, the dream pairing of Bowie with Freddie Mercury and Queen for Under Pressure was a defining moment for the community.

Being proud or at least at peace with being different was a common theme found throughout Bowie’s defiantly and appropriately queer (defined as “different”, “strange” or “odd” in this context) music and glamour.

He made it okay to stand out, to feel like you were from another planet like Ziggy. It seemed to be destiny that the LGBTI community would come to see Bowie as a pioneer and embrace him as one of their own.

Renowned trans poet and novelist Roz Kaveney said Bowie gave her permission to be “loud, queer and happy”.

“I learned how to be a glamorous weirdo to a Bowie soundtrack,” wrote pop culture writer Jennifer Stoy.

“And as I realised that I wasn’t only a glamorous weirdo, I was a lesbian, I had Bowie, too. Being different, finding pleasure in being strange and beautiful, simply having fun while dancing and wearing a metric ton of glitter – these are all gifts the music of David Bowie gave to me.”

In daring us to “turn and face the strange” — my all-time favourite lyrics of his — Bowie implored the world to embrace and explore the freaks inside and around us, to love difference and be loved by the different, and have the courage to craft our own destinies.

Vale.

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