In a conversation with the Guardian, Desmond Child recently talked about the backstory of Aerosmith’s 1987 hit ‘Dude (Looks Like a Lady)’ and labeled it as an early trans anthem.
Child, who co-wrote the track with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, suggested that the song played a role in challenging societal norms and perceptions, particularly about the transgender community:
“When Steven Tyler sings, ‘Never judge a book by the cover or who you’re gonna love by your lover,’ it was opening people’s minds because it was a very conservative time. And nowadays, they’re getting people revved up that somehow trans people are coming after your children. It’s a bogeyman, like with antisemitism. They implant it in the mind. It’s not logical, but it generates hatred. And then people find the candidate that hates everything and vote for them.”
Despite being a gay man in the rock industry, Child also mentioned that he rarely experienced homophobia from artists:
“While they were off at their AA meetings or whatever, I’d be talking to their wives, and by the time they came back, I’d rehung their paintings and rearranged their furniture. It’s like the palace eunuch. I was not a threat to the king.”
‘Dude (Looks Like a Lady)’ emerged from a misunderstanding when Steven Tyler mistook Mötley Crüe’s Vince Neil for a woman at a bar. Although the song had a mainstream success and cultural impact, it has not been without its critics. There were accusations of transphobia due to the song’s lyrics and music video. However, Child, who is openly gay, rebuffed concerns that the song’s content would be offensive and reassured the band members:
“It was Steven who came up with the title ‘Dude (Looks Like a Lady).’ But he had turned it into ‘Cruisin’ for the Ladies’ because they thought that ‘Dude (Looks Like a Lady)’ would be offensive to the gay community. I said, ‘I’m gay. It’s not offensive. It’s great.’ And I convinced them to go down that path.”