A reasonable amount of gender bending has become common place in the music business, whether it’s David Bowie in a ridiculous amount of rouge and a spandex jump suit as Ziggy Stardust, Davey Havok’s (Vox and lyrics for AFI and Blaqk Audio) more physically significant gender blurring, or Scott Weiland in a blue swing dress and eyeliner for all the world to see back in the bad old heroine days (or did I just imagine that last one?). And few seem to be bothered by it. Asheville may be a fairly rainbow friendly zone, but in much of the country, that “c’est la vie” attitude about straddling the gender divide might seem a little out of place on main-street.
Certainly, the country is changing. Of the under 30 set, very few will go on record as being against gay marriage. The sexual revolution has nearly come full circle. Girls may be boys and boys may be girls. Or anything in between. And music has always been at the forefront. Isadora Duncan rocked popular culture in the twenties by dancing barefoot and (what was considered at the time) scantily clad. Elvis’s gyrating hips made good church girls swoon in the fifties, even if they weren’t quite sure why they were sweating (and i think he may have lined those smoldering eyes of his a time or two). The twin twiggy-doll look that dominated the early seventies glam rock/experimental scene (think the velvet underground) had to have resulted in a few very confused 20 somethings. In the eighties, Madonna made herself an instant sensation and eventually a mogul by commanding the stage in only her lingerie and matching a Vogue-worthy face with (what were then considered Sexually Explicit lyrics.
Whether we realize it or not, this broadening of our gender related horizons has had a massive effect on gender equality over the years. Girls like Madonna, Grace Slick, Roberta Flack, Patti Smith, Janis Joplin, Mama Cass, and Donna Summer paved the way for a lot of the standing women now enjoy in this country (although, apparently we’re still ok with “being paid slightly less and raped slightly more” or as one fox pundit recently put it “too much”)…. Without these ladies, it might still be considered off for a woman to ask a man out, or for an unmarried man and woman to travel together. If you’re thinking “oh c’mon, we’ve come a long way from that,” think about how our views on the religious issues surrounding gay marriage may have changed forty years from now. Already, if you ask a sixty year old man and a twenty year old heterosexual couple for their opinions on the issue, you’ll likely get two very different answers.
I think as human beings, we’re preprogrammed to accept behavior we see as divergent more easily from the creative, the innovative; the artists, the inventors. Davey Havok, Placebo’s Brian Molko, Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan, and so many others over the years have taken one for the team, literally. They are constantly expanding the roles and opportunities available to, and accepted within the LGBT community. Whether it’s as simple as walking out onstage in eyeliner (and simultaneously making my heart go pitter-patter), or as massive as coming out publicly and defending your choices and your freedoms, these trend-setters have been maps of where our society is heading.
Note: As a mostly straight female, I have to add that there’s something undeniably sexy about a straight guy who isn’t too concerned about his image to wear a little make-up in public. In my experience, it usually indicates an open mind, a reasonable level of sensitivity, and a willingness to see the world a little differently. Well, aside from the obvious one…. they now know why you spend ten minutes in the bathroom getting ready (because the blasted lines will not go on even!) and stop pestering you for it quite so much.