The recent passing of David Bowie sent shivers down my spine and brought me to tears. Bowie’s music was the soundtrack to many of my intimate friendships, and a defining feature of my childhood memories of road trips with my father. His words gave me solace and galvanized me as I struggled through growing up as both an offbeat and emergently bisexual adolescent. David Bowie fought for me.

The outpouring of grief and shock that followed his death has shown that I am not the only person who feels this ardently about Bowie and his music. However, the numerous criticisms of Bowie that have since flooded social media—from instances of fascist and racist remarks to allegations of statutory rape in the ’70s—belie his status as a purely benevolent force.

To many of us upon whom Bowie’s music has left a tangible imprint, the juxtaposition of feelings has been extremely difficult to deal with. The questions of how to be respectful of survivors and how to criticize and condemn rape culture and white supremacy while also navigating through this period of mourning are not easy to answer.

But I hope to remind you all today that our heroes are complex, and not infallible. Their sins do not negate their offerings to society, and the reverse certainly isn’t true either. It is up to us to both praise and criticize our idols, and the media we consume, from a wide and multifaceted perspective.

So, please: continue to mourn his passing and cherish his melodies. It would be foolish to ignore the immoral actions of his past, yet we are not terrible people for having fallen in love with Bowie’s music.

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