The University of Guelph’s Central Student Association put Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” on its list of songs to be played while bus passes were being distributed recently, MRC-TV reported, to lend a 1970’s road trip feel to the event.
These are not the 1970s.
The song, shockingly “progressive” in its day, is apparently nowhere near sensitive and inclusive enough for modern times. Despite reports that no complaints were made, the CSA issued the following statement: "It’s come to our attention that the playlist we had on during bus pass distribution on Thursday contained a song with transphobic lyrics (Lou Reed, 'Take a Walk on the Wild Side'). 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.”
The student association also said that it is committed to being even more “mindful” of the music it plays during upcoming events and promised to feature songs that are “more inclusive.” The group also posted a statement on Facebook, since taken down, saying “Walk on the Wild Side” was selected for the playlist in “ignorance.”
Someone pointed out to the CSA that the song was revolutionary and possibly the first to promote transgender acceptance, and that Lou Reed wrote and performed the song as a paean to the wild, anything goes nightlife of New York City. To which the student union responded by saying the song is “understood to be transphobic” because it “devalues the experiences and identities of trans folks,” and “minimizes the experiences of oppression” by describing a person who transitioned by changing his appearance. The CSA wants to make it very clear that becoming transgender does not mean having to alter one’s appearance in any way. After all, you are whatever gender you identify as at any given moment, regardless of physical characteristics or mode of dress.
The Ontario university’s student association observed: “Additionally, stating that conversing, spending time with, or having sex with a trans person is ‘taking a walk on the wild side’ is also problematic. It labels trans folks as ‘wild’ or ‘unusual’ or ‘unnatural,’ which is a dangerous rhetoric,” adding that this could “dehumanize and fetish” transgender people. It concluded by saying that, though the song promoted transgender acceptance long ago, “it is now being consumed in a different societal context,” and is therefore “not always consumed in the ways that it was intended.”
Sounds like the group was consuming something else- in ways other than intended- when it wrote this unprovoked transgender manifesto.
The lyrics to “Walk on the Wild Side” were written about Reed's friends from Andy Warhol's (counter-cultural, at the time) “Factory,” including the iconic trans actresses Holly Woodlawn, and Candy Darling. The song’s lyrics also are an ode to those engaged in kinky sex, prostitution and drug use.
So, the fact that some now don’t consider it inclusive enough, and think it a remnant of the bad old days when straight, Calvinist white males ran roughshod over Western Lands, shows how far we’ve “progressed.”
Want to try something truly revolutionary, legitimately rebellious, crazily kinky?
Proclaim yourself to be purely heterosexual and gender non-conflicted. And don’t apologize.
Hey, babe, take a walk on the wild side.