June 9th, 2017

I’ll confess that in my ignorance, I sometimes don’t get why someone is offended, but I’m a 62-year-old white guy living in the United States of America privileged by an accident (no, really, I was an accident) of birth, so that’s not an uncommon state.

When I read The Central Student Association’s apology for playing the transphobic Take A Walk On The Wild side, however, just couldn’t see the harm. Here’s what they said:

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). The playlist was compiled by one of the Executives with the intent of feeling like a road trip from the 70s and 80s. The song was included solely on those terms and made in ignorance as the person making the list did not know or understand the lyrics.

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. We have committed as an organization to be more mindful in our music selection during any events we hold. We will be meeting to discuss how we can create better playlists in the future. If you have gone through this process before or have any advice on creating more inclusive playlists, we’d love to hear from you (csapresident@uoguelph.ca).

If there are students or members of the campus community who overheard the song in our playlist and were hurt by its inclusion and you’d like to talk with us about it and how we can do better, we welcome that. We also recognize you may not want to talk with us and we acknowledge that it is not your responsibility to educate us. Please know that we are taking the steps to educate ourselves further to ensure this error is avoided going forward.

What was hurtful? This:

The lyrics appeared to be “problematic” because the “dehumanise and fetish” transgender people by suggesting they are “wild”.


The comments suggest that I was not alone.

Why do people insist on apologising for things on behalf of other people. There was nothing remotely transphobic about the song. It was observational lyrics written by a musical poet. I am trans and i wish so called well meaning people would stop apologising on my behalf. Get over yourselves. —Roisin Red Zen Pitman

Funny how times change. When this song came out it was considered a very trans positive statement. The phobics were outraged that it mentioned trans women in a favorable light. —Karen

Meh… I’m trans and I loved that song when I was younger, and I loved Lou Reed too (still do). —Elagabalus

FFS. This is ridiculous. This is a part of LGBT history that should be embraced. A singer songwriter who was on our side and singing openly and non judgementally about a culture that at the time it was written would have been absolutely vilified by nearly all in society. This knee jerk censorship and decontexualisation is just plain wrong and frankly sinister, and completely disrespectful to those who have come before us who have contributed to us having the greater freedoms we have today. —Gavin

Is this generational? Perhaps. Historical context, however, still counts for a lot to me.

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