Prince, or how to be both conservative and an iconic game-changer for LGBT populations

A true icon has gone! Prince was an incredible multi-instrumentalist, a musical genius, and an amazing performer. But more than that, he had a unique style, a diva-inspired attitude and a singular sense of fashion. His behavior has always raised some questions about his sexuality.

First, he was without any complexes by appearing extravagantly dressed in public and as made up as some of his wives. These ones were describing him as an elegant, romantic and respectful lover. Yet, people were assuming for a long time that he was bisexual.

Later, he made some misunderstanding statements against the LGBT when he was asked to take a position and, like Donna Summer in the 80s, had to face a similar controversy. So, Prince was he an LGBT icon like Madonna, Cher or Freddy Mercury? Was he a provocative and a real game-changer for the gender and sexuality debates? Was he a conservative profiteer and homophobic pop-star? Or maybe just someone obsessed by sexuality but who never accepted his own one?

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Although his looks were androgynous, his size surprisingly small for such a charismatic icon (157cm), and that he was totally assuming and playing with his feminine part, it was not an impediment for Prince to conquer the hearts of some of the most beautiful singers, actresses, and dancers between the 80 & 90`s: Madonna, Kim Basinger, and Carmen Electra, whom by the way consider the “Purple Rain” interpreter as her mentor. Of course, the list of his feminine conquests is longer than this!

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Prince‘s deliberated will of having a surrounding atmosphere of mysticism and mystery was enough to burn the flame and conquer his straight and queer fans’ hearts around the globe. From “Little Red Corvette” deep guitars to the poetic art lyrics of “Purple Rain”, both were resembling a starry night with your partner (whoever you choose the gender can be). “Raspberry Beret” evokes great upbeat feelings compared to your first love, and is in contrast with the funky addictive “Erotic City”, with its characteristic sensual bass.

His personal life, which features a lot of weddings and divorces with different women, and a lot of rumors about other conquests or a supposed bisexuality, was never officially related or proved. The last months before his death, he was working on a memoir, “The Beautiful Ones”, where maybe he was going to clarify some points. In any case, this lack of information always helped the singer to play on his sexual ambiguity. No one ever saw him with a man. Nevertheless, his attitude still enables him to be ranked among the shadiest divas in the world. He was as feminine as masculine and the ambiguity of some of his songs, like the lyrics of “Uptown” for instance, were still opening doubts. He left a mark as one of the most talented artists of all time. His music and style were unique, mixing groove and funk, smooth and torrid images, cool and sensual emotions, extravaganza and self-confidence. With his incontestable talent and his ambiguity, he was able to both touch the LGBT community, the women and the other fans in general.

Prince doesn’t have to justify anything about his sexual preferences and actually, no one should have to! Never! Do you ask your neighbor or someone you meet for the first time, if he or she is straight? He was a musician and not an insignificant one. One can think that he just wanted to be considered for his music and by avoiding to answer questions about his sexuality, he showed that sexuality preferences shouldn’t be the main topic about him. But was it real?

Nevertheless, he was aware of all this buzz around him and it is not by chance that he named his fourth album “Controversy.” His attitude and his silence were maybe a smart part of his marketing plan. The opening title track of this LP tries to explain that he has never understood all these questions about his sexuality, gender, religion, and racial background. For him, everything that he was doing was supposed to be natural and for that, he was a calculating provocateur. Below, you can watch his orgiastic performance of “Gett Off” at the 1991’s MTV Video Music Awards

Prince introduced the ideas of sexual feminism and femininity to me, to a generation of men, to culture.” kris ex, in an article of Pitchfork.

Without answering any questions or taking positions, a lot of people have identified with him, or at least supported him. His silence and his behavior let the multiple audiences interpret the answers to a lot of questions. By identifying themselves with him, a lot of LGBT people assumed that he was gay or at least a gay icon.

Prince was raised as a Seventh-day Adventist but he later became a devout Jehovah’s Witness until his death. This conservative ideology considers homosexuality as a sin and claims that these people have to refrain their feelings, and must remain single by isolating themselves from people of the same-sex. During one of his speech, he shocked a lot of people by quoting the Bible and saying that “God doesn’t approve of people ‘sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever”. A quote that for most people made this open-minded and extravagant diva came out…as an anti-gay.

People thought that a man wearing tight-fitting bodysuits and makeup was necessarily gay-friendly. As the scandal was expanding, it was said that he had been misquoted and misunderstood: what the MTV megastar and religious evangelist really wanted to set was a statement related to loving everyone and refrain judgment. Then, he decided to stay particularly quiet on the topic, but already, a part of his fanbase was gone.

In 2013’s book “I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon”, it was said that Prince intended sexuality to be linked to God and religious topics, so he was looking forward to filling his music with all kind of classic Christian messages, who sometimes used images of sex and profanity to cause an invitation that anyone can hardly resist. He wanted to invite his fans into sublime musical conversation and delight about the power of God, which he believed could be healing and empowering. Madonna did the same during her whole career, and especially on her album “Like A Prayer”, which was, by the way, partially produced by Prince. Except that contrary to her, who has always stood up for the cause, he recidivated in his 2013’s single “Da Bourgeoisie”, which features anti-bisexual lyrics

Our beloved Prince Rogers, iconic entertainer and provocateur, sex symbol and legendary gender-bending icon, will be hard to forget, an unbelievable talented human being with such a complex, contradictory, calculated and religious personality. He is probably sitting now, somewhere, next to another uber-stylish and progressive icon, David Bowie. But are they peacefully discussing or roughly arguing on the topic? Who knows…Now that no one can watch and judge him, maybe he assumes more what he really was…

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When people ask me if I am gay, straight or bisexual? I do like Prince, I just answer that I am just sexual, like anyone else. Why do people need to know and to label other human beings? No one wants to be considered or sum-up by his sexuality. Moreover, no one is 100% straight or gay, and your sexuality keeps on evolving during your whole life. LGBT people don’t create controversy or discussions about straight artists because they are straight. By the way, I never saw an interview where this question was asked!

For an artist, creating this kind of debate is reductive, a bit like when the first thing you mention about Justin Bieber is his cuteness and not his music. Prince was maybe a calculating pop-star or someone who has never accepted himself. But still, his career is smartly the source of varied questions: What does it mean to a man to be feminine? Why would that even be bad? In which way, does it make him bisexual or gay? He was both a pioneer on the gender question and a conservative on the same-sex wedding debate. Besides his legendary musical legacy, I think he should be remembered not as a gay icon, but still as a game-changer for the gender and straight-normalcy contested topics.