Prince Made Me Free

For queer people like me, Prince was a road map

No one can tell you that you are queer. But, somehow, Prince showed me how to be queer.

There are a lot of queer people out there, but they weren’t so visible when I was younger, and there weren’t any people who were queer the way I was, like a combination of a small boy and a very fancy lady. I knew people who were more masculine, and people who were more feminine, but there weren’t any people in my life who were both.

But there was Prince.

Prince was beautiful and feminine and raunchy as hell, and he had a pompadour and a crafted mustache and always looked like he knew something amazing and just didn’t feel like telling you. In “Purple Rain,” he plays The Kid, and he does so while grinding onstage to a song about a woman masturbating to a magazine in a hotel lobby. That song is why we have Parental Advisory stickers, by the way, because Prince was dirty as hell. And very pretty. All at once. He wanted to be just as gorgeous as any woman, and then he wanted to get with her.

When he opened for The Rolling Stones, he came out in a trench coat and bikini briefs and got booed off the stage. He wore stilettos because he liked them. And he was a musical genius who played all 27 instruments on his first album, and he was deeply religious, going door-to-door as a Jehovah’s Witness. Prince was complicated. Prince was too much. Prince remodeled your house without asking and painted everything purple and wore assless chaps and played a three-hour show for the WNBA-winning Minnesota Lynx before riding off into the night on his bicycle.

Prince performs "Gett Off" at the 1991 VMAs:

And I wanted to be just like Prince. Fuck, I’m a 28-year-old married lady and I still want to be like Prince.

Prince wasn’t effortless. Everything about Prince was the result of a lot of hard work, and thought, and a large closet. Prince would never just put on a pair of jeans. Prince wasn’t Springsteen, wasn’t Kurt Cobain. Prince WOULD wear a full leather suit and stare soulfully out at a Minnesota river, looking fabulous as hell. Prince was what happens when you create yourself exactly as you want to be and you just don’t give a single solitary fuck what anyone else thinks about it. He crafted himself in his own image, brick by brick. I can’t think of a better way to explain being queer.

People are going to use the word “flamboyant” to describe Prince. Technically, “flamboyant” means “strikingly bold and showy,” but we sometimes use it to say “fuck, we don’t know, this person didn’t do what we thought they would.” A lot of times, we’re talking about their performance of gender. Well, Prince performed the hell out of his.

He was gorgeous, you see, and he knew it, and he knew you knew it too. And he told me I could be, too, somehow, some way, my way.

Prince on MTV: