LGBT People Reveal Why David Bowie Was So Important To Them

“He was an artist that made me feel OK to be trans, bi, and an outsider.”

First he came out as gay. It was 1972, just five years after Britain decriminalised homosexuality.

Elton John and Freddie Mercury were still in the closet. Boy George and George Michael were still at school. But in an interview with Melody Maker, Bowie, as ever, trailblazed. “I’m gay,” he told the journalist Michael Watts. “And always have been, even when I was David Jones.”

Steve Wood / Getty

Jack Kay / Getty


He would revise this description four years later and announce: “It’s true – I am a bisexual.” His first wife, Angie Bowie, would claim he had an affair with Mick Jagger.

In 1983, Bowie told Rolling Stone magazine that in fact he was a “closet heterosexual” and that announcing his bisexuality was the “biggest mistake [he] ever made”. But by then the impact of his statements – profound, political, and far-reaching – was already cemented.

Not least because there was the image that he entwined with the words – a succession of characters and costumes that defied gender boundaries, subverting everything that men were supposed to be.

He was called, in the 1970s, a “gender bender” – a term today we might shudder at. But he became a beacon for all who felt straitjacketed by having to be straight, or a man, or having to conform to any imposed definition of gender or sexual orientation. He made being different possible.

On Monday, LGBT people celebrated the scope of Bowie’s identity revolution by paying tribute to an artist who proved that to give gender constraints the middle finger was the ultimate liberation. To be different no longer meant being a victim; it meant triumphing.

Rebecca Root, star of the BBC’s trans sitcom Boy Meets Girl wrote: “A man who lived his own life, making his own rules…RIP”

I want every single person who doesn't think representation matters to look at queer folk mourning Bowie and try to believe those words.

— REBEL REBEL (@Wolferfly)

I had a picture of Bowie and trans woman Romy Haag when I was little. My mum threw it away in disgust, but I knew David was OK with me.

— Anne Cognito (@a_cognito)

Back in the 70s there were so few positive stories about trans people. It was lonely. I drew so much comfort from that pic of Bowie and Romy

— Anne Cognito (@a_cognito)

David Bowie with Dutch transgender actor Romy Haag in Paris in 1976 Pictorial Parade / Getty Images

Facebook / Paul Burston

as a trans non-binary boy i am so thankful for bowie's consistent rejection of hypermasculinity and the fluidity of his gender presentation

— raine (@bugbae)

I can't tell you how much David Bowie meant to me growing up. He was an artist that made me feel OK to be trans, bi, and an outsider

— Ana @ #SweetsJam (@SpaceDoctorPhD)

Fuck, rip David Bowie. I don't know how I would've survived being a queer trans youth without your music and inspiration xoxo

— James Darling (@JamesDarlingxxx)

Hulton Archive / Getty Images



I feel really emotional about the death of David Bowie. He helped me understand myself as bisexual. He helped me accept myself.

— Krissy Kneen (@krissykneen)

I first read the word bisexual in relation to Bowie, the relief of knowing it was a thing, and a thing the coolest human possible was

— 13GirlsAwaiting (@Waitingirl13)

The first in-person trans meet up I went to in 1999 included a David Bowie sing-along led by me (we also watched BBC Two's Doctor Who night)

— Quarries & Corridors (@quarridors)

Is not only about his music, it's about what he represents. Bisexual icon, he represents also the freedom and liberty of gender roles.#Bowie

— Carolina B. ☾ (@carolinabllstrs)

If I've been able to come out as a trans man, it's b/c I have such absolutely gorgeous, sexy, confident men like David Bowie to look up to.

— Checkmark Becks (@ArchivistBecks)

Many cis or straight folk loved David Bowie but he saved LGBT lives. He gave us a reason to keep fighting. He means something special to us.

— Checkmark Becks (@ArchivistBecks)

Growing up...David Bowie was the first bisexual I ever heard of besides myself. And it made me feel so not alone. Thank you David.

— Space Oddity (@TrancewithMe)

I can't even begin to imagine how many bi/gay/trans trans people, outcasts, & misfits are alive today because of Bowie.

— Ilana Steinberg (@lanibirdtweets)

Reuters / Str New

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Patrick Smith is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Patrick Smith at
Patrick Strudwick is a LGBT editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Patrick Strudwick at
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