Brendan O’Neill on the attempt to portray David Bowie’s career as something other than music, showbiz, and a set of unevenly brilliant self-marketing abilities:
Poor David Bowie. Barely 72 hours dead and he’s already being misremembered. Turn on the TV and you’ll see cultural talking heads telling the world he was the granddaddy of transgenderism. Open a newspaper and you’ll come across 800-word PhD theses masquerading as op-eds, informing us Bowie paved the way for the “gender fluidity” of the 21st century, the fashion for declaring oneself neither male nor female, but rather non-binary, or genderqueer, and whatever the other post-gender labels are. (It’s easy to lose track. Last year Facebook increased its gender options from 50 to 71, overnight. Presumably some professor suddenly discovered 21 hitherto unknown genders.)
It is a blot on Bowie’s good name to link him with the politics of transgenderism. Just because in the early Seventies he rocked the cultural world by coating himself in makeup and donning dayglo jumpsuits with vertigo-inducing platform shoes, that doesn’t mean he was transgender, far less that he facilitated modern transgenderism. On the contrary, there’s a stark difference between Bowie’s cross-dressing antics and today’s seemingly catching gender dysphoria: Where Bowie and other queens and freaks in the Sixties and Seventies were flipping a beautifully manicured finger at authority, modern transgenderism seeks to become its own form of authority, chastising and censoring those who dare dissent from its theology. The glam crowd broke boundaries; the trans elite enforces new ones.
Bowie’s death had barely been tweeted before people were hailing him the trans messiah. A British newspaper said that 40 years ago Bowie had flown “the flag for the non-binary movement.” Which is patent nonsense, since nobody — certainly not this contrarian lad from Brixton in South London — was using the turgid phrase “non-binary” in the early 1970s.