#FlashbackFriday and Gay History all in one post. Thats a BINGO!
“Johnny Are You Queer?” is a 1980s song credited to the writing team of Bobby and Larson Paine.[The song was first performed live by the Go-Go’s, and eventually recorded by Josie Cotton, who released the song as a single in 1981 and 1982, and as part of her 1982 album Convertible Music.[The song was featured on the Valley Girl soundtrack and stirred some major controversy.
The controversy centered around the lyrics of the song, which some viewed as mocking and derogatory towards the gay community. The chorus of the song includes the lines, “Johnny, are you queer? / ‘Cause when I see you dance with your friends / I can’t help but wonder.”
Many in the LGBT community felt that the song perpetuated harmful stereotypes and trivialized the struggles and discrimination faced by gay people. Some also argued that the song was an example of cultural appropriation, as it was written and performed by a straight artist who was profiting off of gay culture without truly understanding or empathizing with the experiences of gay people. The Village Voice and The Advocate were both highly critical of “Johnny, Are You Queer?”; The Village Voice criticized the work in an article titled “Josie, Are You a Bitch?“
Cotton was also also accused by multiple conservative groups of promoting homosexuality, and one network claimed that “there was no Josie Cotton and that she was actually a gay man who was trying to convert unsuspecting straight men into a homosexual lifestyle.
“‘Johnny’ was banned in Amsterdam, but went to number 2 on AM radio charts in Canada,” Cotton recalled. “In America, on the West Coast, it became an anthem in the gay community, empowering folks to come out of the closet. But on the East Coast, some gay groups and gay publications really believed ‘Johnny’ was homophobic. Radio programmers were nervous because they thought it was a gay record. The religious right televised on their TBN network that Josie Cotton was actually a gay man promoting homosexuality, and ‘Johnny’ was used for brainwashing purposes in sleep deprivation programs for Christian re-education camps in the South.”Josie Cotton
Regardless of the intentions behind the song, the controversy it generated highlighted the complex and often fraught relationship between straight artists and the LGBT community. It also demonstrated the power of music to spark debates and conversations about important social issues, including discrimination and representation.
Cotton has spoken out about the controversy many times, expressing regret for any harm that the song may have caused.
Today, “Johnny, Are You Queer?” remains a controversial artifact of gay pop culture history