Lou Reed was the minstrel boy to the wars of the sexual revolution. His haunting 1972 anthem urged young Americans to “Take a Walk on the Wild Side.” It celebrated the polymorphous perversity of Andy Warhol’s New York:Holly came from Miami F.L.A.Hitchhiked her way across the U.S.A.Plucked her eyebrows on the way,Shaved her legs and then he was a she.She said, “Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side.”Lou Reed was transgressive, progressive, and prodigiously talented. And yet somehow over the weekend Reed became the poster child of “transphobic” intolerance? How?It’s a strange story.
Meet Chelsea, Emily, Becca and Kayla. They’re the executive officers of the University of Guelph Central Student Association in Ontario, Canada. Guelph is one of Canada’s top five universities. Last Thursday, these young women held an event to distribute summer bus passes. One of them (they won’t say which one) prepared a playlist. It included Reed’s anthem.
Apparently a transgender student complained. The young executives posted a heartfelt apology on the CSA’s official Facebook page. They said that the song appeared because of “ignorance as the person making the list did not know or understand the lyrics.”
We now know the lyrics to this song are hurtful to our friends in the trans community and we’d like to unreservedly apologize for this error in judgement. We have committed as an organization to be more mindful in our music selection during any events we hold.
The next paragraph is both precious and appalling:
If there are students or members of the campus community who overheard the song in our playlist and were hurt by its inclusion and you’d like to talk with us about it and how we can do better, we welcome that. We also recognize you may not want to talk with us and we acknowledge that it is not your responsibility to educate us. Please know that we are taking the steps to educate ourselves further to ensure this error is avoided going forward.”
The post went viral, to vast ridicule. “I don’t know if Lou would be cracking up about this or crying because it’s just too stupid,” Reed’s producer Hal Willner told The Guardian.I was reminded of a paragraph from my own post two days ago:
But we really are into some uncharted territory now. We have people assuming an air of great self-righteousness in their proclamation that we all ought to become fungible beings with no reason to find each other attractive in any natural sense, yet still craving the stimulation that we'd experienced in each other's company back when we were still boys and girls - and had some dignity and common sense. Just automatons existing for gratification and to perform whatever technocratic task the state deems us fit for.. . . when I read Gallagher's depiction of the two "big ideas" of this bizarre post-American age:
Our emerging morality has two big ideas: First, our most important job as a society is now to create good gender-neutral workers who have equal access to good jobs. This is the social task that is critical and must be accomplished. Second, our identity as sexual beings is socially unimportant except to the extent it brings us personal happiness. Sex accomplishes no important social task. Therefore it follows as marriage once followed sexual love that everyone must support all our sexual identities. There is no objective standard a reasonable outsider can apply. Even the intent of the artist doesn’t really matter. The consumer might hear it differently.She nails it with the last two lines of her piece:
The old . . . codebreakers threw out the Biblical baby with the bathwater (often literally).
But at least they understood one great and obvious truth: You can’t take a walk on the wild side in a safe space.Exactly.