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David Bowie saved me from becoming invisible

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David Bowie, Jan. 8, 1947 – Jan. 10, 2016

Make a wish, and see yourself on stage, inside out. A tangle of garlands in your hair. Of course you are pleasantly surprised.

For the first 13 or so years of my life, I attempted to become invisible. I wore clothes that looked like clothes everyone else was wearing. I had one or two close friends. If there was to be a movie made of the children at the schools I attended, you wouldn't notice me as I passed by in the background. I felt wrong, but I didn't know how to fix myself. So I wanted to disappear.

By the time I was 16, I was dressed in mostly dark colors, and a natural white streak of hair lay flush down the side of my face. My hair was long. I was comfortable in leather and silk. I found myself sitting on the roof of my girlfriend's father's house, staring into dark Cincinnati nights and seeing invisible fireworks as this and that coursed through my brain. I was scared of dying, and I was scared of the future, but for the first time I felt like it was OK to be someone. I felt like it was fine to be fabulous and bold and to love art and living.

I had found myself in the grooves of a record. David Bowie changed my life.

I can't even imagine him right now. Which David Bowie comes into your head as you read this? Is he young and shirtless? Is he older and stately? Is he Ziggy Stardust? He created himself so many times, but the cold, alien stare of the man was always there. He was the thin white duke, and he only grew more attractive and enigmatic as he grew older. In an age of Facebook and Twitter he still remained something of a mystery.

During one of my favorite Bowie interviews, from 2000, he talked about how the characters ultimately got into the way of his writing, so he tried to write as and for himself, David Bowie. Except David Bowie, the artist, was an invention of a young man named David Robert Jones. His identity itself was a rabbit hole, and it was impossible to know which songs were sung through a mask, and which reflected the artist.

Which was fine. I never needed to know who he was, because that was beside the point. I was energized by the idea of who he could be, and what that meant for what I could become. You can wear makeup, and leather. You can go out to clubs and listen to loud, banging music, or you can stay in and dance by yourself.

Bowie helped me learn the art of personal creation, the idea that you can take the raw materials inside yourself, including the pain and hurt, and build them into something bigger, into something powerful and raw. If you didn't like who and what you were when you were born, you could always become someone who fell to Earth.

David Bowie was the first man I was ever attracted to sexually, and this fact stretched what I understood about myself. The idea that you could be attracted to beauty and art and spirit despite what was going on between the person's legs. As a young artist who got his start in poetry and spoken word, I wasn't sure if I wanted to sleep with David Bowie or if I wanted to become him, but I was absolutely sure of what he meant to me. He stopped me from becoming invisible forever and told me I wanted to be beautiful.

If I was a puddle of gasoline, Bowie was the match. And ever since I listened to that first record, I've burned, and I am grateful.