The world has known few superstars whose personas could match the gender-fluid extravagance of Prince, who died on Thursday at age 57. The pop and R&B icon inlaid his albums with brazen pansexuality and gender norm coquetry—provocations made all the more potent by his staggering talents as a singer, hook-writer, and guitar shredder. Years before the leaders of the gay and lesbian community began to embrace a more nuanced, less binary notion of queerness—and decades before transgender and genderqueer politics became mainstream topics of interest—Prince presented a living case study in the glorious freedom a world without stringent labels might offer.
“I’m not a woman. I’m not a man. I’m something that you’ll never understand,” Prince sang on 1984’s “I Would Die 4 U.” He was right—few could claim to fully grasp Prince’s easy embodiment of both maleness and femaleness. His schooled evasion of conventional classifiers made him endlessly fascinating. The cover of his 1988 album Lovesexy offers a classic expression of the seemingly incongruous yet thrilling gender bricolage at which he excelled. Read more via Slate