One of the things that bugged me about the Harvey Milk movie was when they played Bowie’s “Queen Bitch” as backdrop for the street life scene. It’s a great song and of the era but you would have never heard it in the Castro in the 1970’s.
The lumberjacks at the time were too busy picking out the right shade of flannel shirt to wear, sanding the crotches of their jeans so they could show a thread bare bulge, and arranging their keys from their belt loop to hang just so. It took a lot of effort to be naturally butch.
Butch and femme classifications were holdovers from the self-loathng 50’s gays when you pretty much had to declare yourself to be one or the other. And in the 70’s it was decided that it was the macho man stereotype that would best suit the PR campaign for acceptance. Ergo, the drag queens who gave us a bad name were swept under the carpet. I wasn’t buying it.
Neither was Bowie who basically struck his pose for commercial success. But he did it so brilliantly I never begrudged him his greed. He just capitalized on the confusion of the times, something I felt whenever I opened my mouth.
Being young and androgynous I could usually look fish. Having no falsetto or act, however, I always spoke naturally in my deep voice. The “what the….?” looks I would get were beyond thrilling.
Those times passed but Bowie’s longview paid off. By the 1980’s the butch/femme thing started to melt away with newer generations of gays thriving on blurred lines. And in hazy retrospect David Bowie became a god, a constant to the communinty.
In the beginning, though, their was only a hard core sect of queers who really loved him. I was one of them. And I liked his music too.