a blog by J.M. Cottle
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Paws up: my relationship with Lady Gaga

Note: This post is for the Carnival of Aces, hosted on Neutrois Nonsense in August.


I like Michael because Michael likes girls from New York. I also like Michael because Michael likes boys from New York. Just like Jesus, Michael loves everybody.

— Lady Gaga at The Monster Ball

The story

It was senior year of college and I was in a top hat and tie, dancing badly at the queer-friendly prom put on by my theme house, the Sexuality and Gender Activists (SaGA). A song came on that I didn’t recognize and someone told me, “Oh yeah, this is the chick who never wears pants.” I shrugged and continued shuffling awkwardly. The song was “Just Dance” by Lady Gaga.

Soon I recognized her voice in a pub when I heard “Telephone” for the first time. I discovered that music videos don’t have to suck. I learned that “Poker Face” is about fantasizing about a woman while having sex with a man, and I realized that there was something more than your average dance pop going on here. (I sometimes like listening to dance pop, but it’s not something I usually seek out.) I learned that she is a classically-trained pianist and that her voice is phenomenal live. I spent days — literally, days — watching interviews. I loved how unabashedly strange she was on shows like Oprah and Ellen and Good Morning America.

When The Fame Monster came out, I bought it even though I was completely broke and I listened to it on repeat for months. I found a Gaga song on the Confessions of a Shopaholic soundtrack called “Fashion” and I listened to it 47 times in three days. I started thinking about fashion and how we communicate with each other using appearance; I started wearing clothes that fit my style. I watched cell phone videos from The Monster Ball as they appeared on YouTube. I watched the live stream of the Mugler women’s fashion show because Gaga was making her runway debut. Each single released from the album Born This Way helped me get through rough days at work. “Born This Way” coming on the radio helped me figure out a life-changing personal dilemma.

Basically, the point is this: one of my most important relationships is with Lady Gaga.

I don’t want you to go home tonight and say, “I love Lady Gaga.” I want you to go home, look in a mirror, and say, “I love myself.”

— Gaga at a concert

A strange relationship

I love her music because I love catchy dance beats, especially when they’ve got a dark edge, clever lyrics, and sound as if they belong in a massive stadium, but this relationship is not all about the music. The music is how I found her, and it’s one way she communicates with me and the rest of her Little Monsters since we can’t talk or hang out. (Little Monsters = Gaga’s fans. Paws up = a silly monster paw gesture we do to show that we’re fans.)

Having a relationship with a celebrity is always strange. It’s completely one-sided, but it feels like you know each other. Lady Gaga has made it even stranger with her 12 million Twitter followers. I choose to believe that she is as sincere as she seems to be, since I have no compelling evidence to the contrary. She has made me feel like I have another friend who accepts all my oddities and helps me remember to love myself. Seeing her be a total freak in front of the whole world is empowering. It’s helped me let my own freak out into the public eye a little. Only good has come of that.

As an aromantic asexual, I’ve never had celebrity crushes. While my friends were putting posters of Usher and 98 Degrees on their walls, I put horses and guitar chords. When I became so abruptly and completely infatuated with Lady Gaga, I wondered if I was finally experiencing a celebrity crush, but instead of fiddling around with terminology that doesn’t really seem to fit (and angsting over my orientation, because you know we all love doing that) I have decided to say it simply. I love Gaga.

She feels like a real person, rather than an airbrushed and Auto-Tuned cookie cutter star. She is only one year older than me, and she’s 5’1″ tall, picks up the accents of her interviewers, and has a long, distinctive nose (I think her nose is awesome). She cries freely and trips on her 10″ heels sometimes. She had a dream, which happened to be “become mind-blowingly famous” or something to that effect, and she worked hard and achieved it. She still works hard every day to achieve more and change the world with her fame. I think that’s inspiring.

Lady Gay Gay

Another big reason I love Gaga is that she is putting queer issues right in the mainstream public’s face. For example, I believe that one of the most important lyrics in modern music is from “Born This Way”:

No matter gay, straight, or bi

lesbian, transgender life

I’m on the right track, baby, I was born to survive

I don’t know any other song that uses the word “transgender”. Having these words on the radio makes me smile every time I hear them, especially since my work environment is so generally heteronormative and cisnormative. It’s a breath of fresh air to remember that there is a whole giant community of Little Monsters out there who don’t think like that.

As an asexual who is daily bombarded with sex-related stuff that doesn’t appeal to me, one might think that Lady Gaga would not be my first choice in music. I don’t mind sex in music, personally. I usually don’t even listen to lyrics until the third or fourth time I hear a song. While I do appreciate a song that is about something besides sexuality and romance and all of that, it doesn’t bother me if that’s in there.

I don’t think Gaga’s quite as overly sexual as she portrays herself, anyway; that’s part of the image she is using as a student of fame. She has said that you shouldn’t have sex unless it makes you feel good, and that she sometimes goes long stretches without it. Many of her songs are very sexual — the infamous “disco stick” and “vertigo stick” come to mind — but often it seems that she is making fun of pop culture’s obsession with sex, or commenting on society’s views about sex, more than celebrating them.

It doesn’t matter to me if her songs are about sex or not. I like “Love Game” as much as I like the many nonsexual tracks on Born This Way.

One big poly family

My relationship with Gaga has the pleasant side effect of bringing me closer to cool people I know in person. Since most of my friends are connected to the queer community somehow, most of them like Gaga, too, and this gives us another thing in common. It was suggested to me that I be in a triad with Gaga and one of my friends. Occasionally there will be a small spat about who loves Gaga the most. I never participate, even though I know it’s all in fun, because I’m usually busy listening to whatever song sparked the discussion in the first place.

I know some elitist people who don’t like anything about pop culture and haven’t bothered to look deeper than the genre of Gaga’s music before deciding they hate her as a person, so one more thing she provides me is a way to annoy them in their snobbery. For that, I am grateful.

Don’t be insecure if your heart is pure.

— Lady Gaga, “Bad Kids”

I was a bit nervous to post about this right in public and share it with everyone, but I have decided that I don’t care. I am not one to hide away parts of myself in order to further a relationship. If you like me when I tell you all sorts of weird things about me, yay! If you don’t, then yay — let’s both go find other people who fit us better. No hard feelings. That’s how I do things, my friends.

4 Responses to Paws up: my relationship with Lady Gaga

  1. I believe that it is likely the only “mainstream” song to use the word “transgender” and probably even “gay” and “lesbian” and “bisexual.” Could you have imagined listening to the word “transgender” on the radio? (wait, is it censored anywhere?) I bet some people who sing the lyrics to Born This Way like it’s nobody’s business hadn’t ever uttered those four little words in public, unabashedly.

    And if as you say, she’s not afraid to be queer, you shouldn’t be afraid of it, or of shouting it out in public (along with the 12 million other people who are just as queer as she and you).

    • The first song that springs to mind is “Ur So Gay” by Katy Perry, but that… is really not a queer-friendly song. At all. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard the other words in any mainstream songs. It’s not censored when I hear it on the radio here in New Hampshire, but sometimes people who do covers of it on YouTube leave that verse out, which is a bit upsetting.

      You’re right, no need to be afraid! I’m no longer afraid of telling people about my queer-ish identities, but I was a little afraid of telling people I like Lady Gaga. Strange how the mind works.

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