I always thought if I ever met Bowie one day, I might carefully, quietly, ask him the question… “So… were you… I mean… were you… were you ever REALLY gay?” And I imagine he would look at me and say, “Well, I thought I might be, but I wasn’t really sure.” As far as I could tell, he’d never really answered the question except for being defensive about it in interviews, well into the 2000’s.
Yesterday I came across this interview from 1993, originally published in Arena. It’s lengthy, terribly interesting and cut and pasted in its entirety from the Exploring David Bowie blog (with thanks). I posted it on this site under the articles heading because there’s lots of great stuff in there… answers to about every question you’d ever want to ask Bowie except what is up with Coco, anyway?
So his answer is pretty much what I would guess and assume… and remember this is 1993, so he uses absolute statements like, “with gays it is like x, y or z…” It’s the loose kind of language we wouldn’t use today, much as we would never say, “among blacks it’s like this…” or “among women it’s like this…” But the point is there. The answer to my question, in a way.
(Bolded text is the interviewer, Tony Parsons – whom to me is a television broadcaster from my childhood – non-bold text is Bowie).
And funnily enough Brett Anderson of Suede has just given his “I am bisexual” statement in Melody Maker, almost exactly 20 years after you did.
That’s extraordinary. I won’t say I knew that because I didn’t. But there’s something in the writing; I felt that he understood very deeply the ambiguity of sexuality.
He said, ‘I see myself as a bisexual man who has never had a homosexual experience. That’s the way I approach my songwriting. If you are asking am I insincere to pose as a sodomite when I’ve never had someones cock up my arse, then no, I’m not. The sexuality you express is not limited to the things you’ve experienced. I mean, if you’re a virgin, does that make you asexual?” He’s been accused of hijacking gay imagery. Blurring the borders to make things more interesting for everybody.
It amuses me that gays are often so protective about being gay. It has got to be black or white. There is often a limited response among gays to people who have ambiguities about their own sexuality. You have to come out and be one thing or the other.
The Brett quote came in a debate about sex in music. Funnily enough, your name came up quite a bit. Boy George was there and he said that in the early Seventies you gave him something to hope for, you showed him that there were other people like him in the world. But George also said that he always thought you were more gay than you actually were. And then later, when it became clear how much you liked women, he was disappointed in you. You were not the gay Elvis after all.
Yeah, with gays it is very much us and them. That’s unfortunate. In the States, towards the end of the Seventies, I think the gay body was pretty hostile towards me because I didn’t seem to be supporting the gay movement in any kind of way. And I was sad about that. Because I had come to the realization that I was pretty much heterosexual. Now I even have a problem relating to my life and my sexuality in the early Seventies.
But it annoys me when people say, oh, but you were gay, like it was something bad to have been. And I say – well, what’s wrong with that? Although I no longer consider myself gay or even bisexual it shouldn’t be assumed that therefore I have decided that heterosexual is correct and gay is wrong. That is the furthest thing from my mind. It is just that psychologically it was a decision that was made for me, in my head somewhere. There was never the thought, oh well, I’ll be straight now. Because life isn’t like that. And gays will tell you that. They didn’t wake up one day and make a decision to be gay. They are gay. It just happens to be the reverse for me.
I was exploratory and there was so much that fascinated me. I guess it came from my own ambivalence about what my sexuality was when I was young. And then I remember reading – sometime in the late Sixties – City Of Night by John Rechy. A gay novel. A stunning piece of writing. I found out later that it was a bible among gay America but I didn’t know it at the time.
There was something in the book akin to my feelings of loneliness. I thought this is a lifestyle I really have to explore because I recognize things in this book that are really how I feel. And that led me a merry dance in the early Seventies, when gay clubs really became my lifestyle and all my friends were gay.
I really opted to drown in the euphoria of this new experience which was a real taboo with society. And I must admit I loved that aspect of it. But as the years went on it became a thing where, sexually, I was pretty much with women the majority of the time. But I still had a lot of the trappings of gay society about me. In terms of the way I would parade or costume myself or my attitudes in some of the interviews I did. I remember doing the Russell Harty show – and I was definitely doing my gay bit on that show.
I remember that, you were really camping it up.
Yeah, in a really decisive way, to make a point. It seemed to be the one taboo that everyone was too afraid to break. I thought – well, if there’s one thing that’s going to put me on the edge, this is it. Long hair didn’t mean much any more. So I thought – right. Let’s really go into the gay lifestyle and see what that’s about and see how people relate to me. If they can.