In 1978 I received my first David Bowie album — David Live from 1974 — as a hand-me-down from a family friend. I was 12 and I didn’t understand it, but intuitively knew it would be important when I was ready. During winter break in 1986, I listened to Diamond Dogs on cassette as I walked around Paris, slowly coming to understand that everything I’d been taught about life was wrong. Watching hustlers work near Trocadéro, I started to understand something about power and sex and “Sweet Thing/Candidate” narrated what I was witnessing.
More than offering an example through his own sexuality, whatever it may have been, his artwork held space for people silenced by the culture. He saved me at a critical moment simply because his work validated a way of being, my way of being, when I was trapped in a world that wouldn’t tolerate me, much less acknowledge me. He was the first to point me toward transgression’s potential — both in the ways it could make life joyous and could allow my actions to matter in the lives of others. And he taught me that shifting personae enable expression of the fantastic contradictions that contain a life’s wholeness.
I trusted him because he never made it seem easy. In death he continues to let me know how fiercely I need to keep working. To the very last breath.