Juan Gabriel Left Behind A Legacy Of Sparkling Gender Fluidity

Viva

On August 31, 2016, musical icon Juan Gabriel passed away at age 66 of a heart attack. The beloved artist left behind a legacy of challenging cultural prejudices and sparkling gender fluidity.

While Gabriel was admired for his artistic flamboyance, effeminate persona, and aesthetic defiance of machista culture, he never identified as gay in any interviews or records. Throughout his career, rumors swirled about the singer’s sexuality—it wasn’t until the early 2000s that Gabriel publicly addressed them, according to the Huffington Post.

In a recorded interview, reporter Fernando Del Rincón boldly asked Gabriel if he was gay. The journalist started by quoting a Mexican historian who noted that Gabriel “explored the feminine side” when entertaining onstage.

READ: Latino Community Mourns The Loss Of Music Icon Juan Gabriel

In response, Gabriel stated, “All art is feminine […] look, if you’re handsome and young and beautiful, well, people are always going to say that you’re gay.”

When Del Rincón finally questioned Gabriel about his sexuality, the singer gave this answer: “They say that what you can see, you don’t ask, son.”

Del Rincón then followed up with what he saw: a successful singer. Gabriel response? Sheer brilliance:

That’s what’s most important because your worth isn’t based on the things that other people can hold against you. Because everything that one does is what stays, what matters. Actions are what’s most important.  To transcend and be yourself…I have no reason to tell you, and others, something that is not of interest to you. I think I am an artist. I think I am Juan Gabriel, who has given so much with my songs. And I’m going to tell you something, Fernando, I’m not a saint, but I’m also not the little devil that many think I am.

In a memoriam piece, Yezmin Villareal of the Advocate noted that Gabriel was indisputably an icon for queer Latinx folks. “To queer Latinos, El Divo de Juarez symbolized that it is possible to exist outside of the confining expectations of gender and sexuality. Juan Gabriel never tamed his feminine appearance nor his flamboyant dancing, despite the gay rumors throughout his career.”

Gustavo Arellano of OC Weekly, agrees. “Gabriel is without comparison—and while the same was true of his recently deceased peer in gender-fucking, Prince, there is simply no parallel to JuanGa (what everyone called him, and how I’ll refer to him here). His songs were the soundtrack to aching hearts, suffering women, and closeted folks for nearly 45 years, and gave them solace and comfort when few others would. He was proudly flamboyant in an era, in a country, synonymous with machismo, and made its power wane through him being him—as I tweeted today, Mexican boys are taught to ridicule Juan Gabriel, while Mexican men learn to respect the legend.”

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Before the interview ended, Gabriel commented as to how the industry delved to deeply into matters that shouldn’t interest them:

I think, today, television is asking too many loaded questions, pushing further for ratings. I’ve learned during my life that if I am in hell, I make my own glory. I’ve also been in glory and perhaps I’ve made my own hell, but I certainly don’t take anyone down with me. And [I’ve learned] that I’m not a liar. What I say is what I feel, whether anyone likes it or not. But there’s something else that I have to say as a human being, and that’s that you only get one life and you have to live it, and if we have to eventually pass to a better life then it has to be an honest one. Let others worry about their own lives, and let the rest of us live.

Watch the interview below.