It’s unfair that those who are different from what society deems normal often don’t get a voice. However, there are some bands and artists out there who sympathize, or at the very least, are aware of the unconventional culture around them. Here are five songs that seem to be about transsexuals and the transgendered.
Number Five: “Born a Girl” by Manic Street Preachers. Manic Street Preachers are a unique band in that they’ve created many songs which reject the masculine-god archetype and embrace those whose gender-identity is not set in stone. A prime example of this is their beautiful song “Born a Girl,” off of their 1998 album This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours. The main line repeated in the song is, “I wish I had been born a girl / And not this mess of a man.” At first glance, one could surmise that this song is about a man who’s sick of being a man because of the stereotypes pushed upon him by society; thus, he wishes he’d been born a girl.
Evidence of this can be found within the persona of band member Nicky Wire, who wrote all the lyrics for this particular album and who would wear skirts and dresses at live gigs in the band’s heyday (although he has admitted to not being a transvestite.) Here are some other notable lyrics from the song: “The censorship of my skin / Is screaming inside and from within / There’s no room in this world for a girl like me.” So it seems like the narrator is saying that even if he was a girl, he still wouldn’t know if he’d consider that his true identity. No matter how you perceive this song, it’s clearly about someone who doesn’t feel right being in the skin of a male or female; someone struggling to find a place to belong- a place where gender doesn’t define them.
Number Four: “Androgynous” by The Replacements. “Androgynous” is a track by The Replacements, off of their 1984 album Let it Be. This piano-laden track could easily be seen as an anthem for those who consider themselves neither boy nor girl. The opening lines are, “Here comes Dick / He’s wearing a skirt / Here comes Jane / You know she’s sporting a chain.” The lyrics go on to say, “She’s happy with the way she looks / She’s happy with her gender.” Eventually the lyrics go on to describe these characters wearing what their gender would normally wear, suggesting that these people are perfectly happy switching their identity whenever they feel the need to.
The main line of the chorus is: “They love each other so / Androgynous.” In essence, this couple loves each other because they’re different, and furthermore, androgynous love could be seen as love where there are no boundaries or definitions. There’s one verse that’s particularly significant: “Mirror image see no damage / See no evil at all / Cupie dolls and urine stalls / Will be laughed at the way / You’re laughed at now.” These beautiful lines describe how it’s perfectly ok to be different than the rest of society, and how, in the future, there will be no concrete division of the sexes. Over thirty years later, one must wonder if Paul Westerberg was right.
Number Three: “Carnival” by Threes and Nines. Hailing from California, Threes and Nines is an underrated indie/alt-rock band, led by singer-songwriter Jake Brebes. Their song “Carnival” is essentially about two “freaks” that fall in love. The chorus goes, “They met at the carnival / They were both drunk / …They were both in love.” But the main reason I chose this song was for the following lyrics: “He kissed her lips / And held her hand / He walked her home / And then found out she was a man / But they’re in love / What in the world / He checked his pants and just by chance / Turns out he was a girl.” Essentially, this is a folksy love song, about two people falling in love who aren’t afraid to be freaks in these eyes of the world.
Number Two: “Lola” by The Kinks. “Lola” is a track off of The Kinks 1970 album, Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One. We can see from the lyrics that at first the man in the song is unsure of the identity of a woman he met in Soho: “Well I’m not dumb but I can’t understand / Why she walked like a woman and talked like a man.” But by the end of the song, he figures it out: “I know what I am and I’m glad I’m a man / And so is Lola.” Even though he knows Lola is a man, he still seems into her, evidenced by the lyric, “I’m not the world’s most masculine man.” Perhaps the best lyrics of the song are, “Girls will be boys and boys will be girls / It’s a mixed up muddled up shook up world.” Indeed. Supposedly Ray Davies wrote this song after his band manager admitted to dancing with a transvestite. This song is a classic.
Number One: “Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed. “Walk on the Wild Side” is a track by Lou Reed off of his 1972 album, Transformer. Besides singing about oral sex, drugs and prostitution, Reed also talks about transsexuality in the first verse: “Plucked her eyebrows on the way / Shaved her legs and then he was a she.” Other mentions of transsexuality can be found in the lines, “Candy came from out on the island / In the barroom she was everybody’s darling.” This is a clear reference to Candy Darling; a trans woman who starred in a few of Andy Warhol’s films (The Velvet Underground also did a song about her called “Candy Says.”) “Walk on the Wild Side” came out at a time when androgynous artists like Lou Reed and David Bowie were in their prime (Bowie even produced this song.) Even though the track involved people he knew first-hand, Reed has stated that the song was influenced by the 1956 Nelson Algren novel, A Walk on the Wild Side.