One thing that I’ve always liked about MJ that scared a lot of critics was that he bent gender roles and sexuality in general, even if he was straight. I remember in the early 90’s he was wearing lipstick and eyeliner, and looking like a woman, but still retaining some “manly” qualities, I found him quite attractive. He seemed to blend what was best about each gender. Male performers often take artistic license with certain things like wearing make up, but MJ took it to another level. He could go from being the tough guy in the “Bad” video and aggressively chasing the girl in “The way you make me feel” to being gentle and almost feminine in videos like “Have you seen my childhood”, and exude a certain vulnerability that men are often afraid to show. In the video “In the closet” (interesting title!) he was pursuing a woman, but could have passed for a lesbian himself. When it comes to performers in terms of sexuality, I haven’t seen any other such versatile performer, and for me and for a lot of other fans I know, it was a big part of his charm. We felt like he was breaking certain taboos that we sometimes were afraid to even talk about in his music videos.
Some have speculated that MJ was really gay, but struggled with accepting it because of his strict Jehovah’s Witness upbringing. I wouldn’t be surprised. I know firsthand how repressive religion can make you hate yourself and your sexuality, and from what I have heard, the JW’s take it to a frightening level. Repressing this and trying to sometimes “prove” he was masculine may have led to some of the odd and self-destructive behavior we saw (for the record, I do not and have never believed the allegations against him, but that’s a whole other article). It could also have explained why he sometimes came off as ‘effeminate” to a lot of straight men, and why he seemed almost afraid of his sexuality. Some people actually liked him because despite his gender bending ways, to them he himself seemed almost asexual-like a little boy trapped in a man’s body (which he himself later said he was), who was just coming to terms with sexuality or trying to, and was still “innocent”. I think one reason the allegations where so shocking, besides the obvious, was that for those who believed it, it ripped away at the idea that MJ was innocent at all.
Could he have been one of us-a bisexual? Another strong possibility. When the police raided Neverland in 2003, they found both straight and gay porn. Assuming it belonged to him, and not to one of his employees, this does make me think he may have been either bi or at least trying to figure out if he was. His first wife, Lisa Marie Presley, claims they did sleep together and it seems that even though it didn’t work out he did really fall in love with her, so it seems he was capable of loving and being with a woman, assuming she is telling the truth. If he was bi, repressing this would also have been very difficult just like repressing being gay, and it would have clashed with his religious upbringing. I think that one reason he was so comfortable bending gender roles and “cross-dressing” in his videos was because it gave him a chance to express the sexuality he seemed almost afraid of in real life.
And of course, MJ could have been transgender. It would explain some of the dressing, and maybe even the plastic surgery-before it went totally wrong it did make him look more feminine, more attractive in a female sense, and I wonder if that was as far as he felt he could go with expressing his inner female. Perhaps he liked women, men, or both, but also felt that he himself was really a woman. As many transgender people can tell you, repressing a transgender identity can lead to real pain and self-destructive behavior.
Of course we’ll never know, but I’m glad he broke the gender barriers in the music industry that he did-perhaps more people will follow him and won’t be afraid to come out. I’m just sorry that his sexuality, whatever it was, brought him such pain and that his vulnerability caused so many people to try and take advantage of him and harp on every thing he did. He took us to new frontiers-in both gender bending, and of course, in music. Whatever his sexuality was, long live the king of pop.
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