Before his unfortunate death, Prince was viewed as a huge icon for the LGBTQ+ community, due to his sexually fluid image and androgynous persona. But was the legendary singer gay?
It is unknown whether Prince was gay, bisexual, straight, or any other sexual orientation. While his whole persona throughout his career as a musician challenged the notions of sexual conformity, Prince never stated his sexual preference or orientation.
Want to know more about Prince’s sexuality? Keep reading for more details on sexual fluidity throughout his career, hints in lyrics of his songs, and conservatism later in life that confused many in the LGBTQ+ community.
Queer Symbolism Throughout His Career
Prince’s debut album as a professional artist was called For You, and Prince the album came shortly after. This second album featured hits like “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and “Sexy Dancer”.
Prince reached platinum status, and he had instantly made his mark on the music industry as a force to be reckoned with.
There’s no doubt that Prince contested the ideals of a straight man through the way he dressed and the lyrics he sang during the late ‘70s, and throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. HE wore makeup and often donned gender fluid clothing.
In 1980, he released his third album titled Dirty Mind. It had a promotional single on it which was called “When You Were Mine”.
In this song, Prince sang lyrics that suggested involvement with another man: “I never was the kind to make a fuss / When he was there, sleeping in-between the two of us.”
The following year, Prince continued questioning the notion of his sexuality with lyrics: “Am I Black or white / Am I straight or gay?” within the song “Controversy” in his album with the same name.
Despite these suggestive lyrics, Prince was yet to provide any direct or concrete answers on his sexuality.
1984 came around, and Prince was in his prime with both the Purple Rain album and similarly titled song.
“I Would Die 4 U” was a big hit, and featured more lyrics that nodded to his gender fluidity: “I’m not a woman, I’m not a man / I am something that you’ll never understand”
“If I Was Your Girlfriend” came out in 1987, as part of his album Sign O’ the Times, and was yet another symbol for gender flexibility.
“If I was your girlfriend, would you remember / To tell me all the things you forgot when I was your man? / Hey hey, when I was your man”
Confusion and Homophobia Accusations
Despite being labelled as a queer icon, Prince began distancing himself from the LGTBQ+ labels in his later years.
In 2001, the singer and songwriter became a Jehovah’s Witness. This was confusing for many queer people, as this faith is known for considering same-sex relations as sinful.
He was suspected of homophobia in 2008 when he made a statement that seemed to look down on same-sex relationships:
“God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was like, ‘enough’.”
No matter how he identified, Prince clearly had an impact on many people, and other artists, who were and still are struggling with their sexual identity.
R&B artist Frank Ocean paid tribute to Prince after his overdose and subsequent death in 2016, explaining how the legendary artist made him more comfortable about coming out with his own sexuality.
“he was a straight black man who played his first televised set in bikini bottoms and knee high heeled boots, epic. he made me feel more comfortable with how i identify sexually simply by his display of freedom from and irreverence for obviously archaic ideas like gender conformity”