Lou Reed’s transgender muse, Rachel

At Dangerous Minds today, a post about "The source of inspiration for most of the songs on Coney Island Baby, Lou Reed’s trans lover and muse Rachel," who has has always been "somewhat of a mystery figure."


    1. The former is more of a historical medical term at this point– it’s not generally used as an identity and it’s not used as a diagnosis.  Unless the author managed to track down Rachel, there’s no way to know how Rachel identifies.  Transgender would be the broadest term that probably includes Rachel, but again, you can’t know if you can’t ask the person in question.

    2. The word transvestite gives me the knee jerk cringes. Not because people don’t identify as such sometimes, but because it was often used as a blanket term historically for transwomen, instead of just calling them women. 

      I read the article, and it seems to focus on othering this person, and using that as a focus on how freaky she was, and by extension how freaky Reed was in his association with her. 

      The way it was written was . . . uncomfortable to read. I’ll just say that. 

      1. That was my reaction: Lou Reed had the relationship with her. Gender identification, sexual orientation, the length of her hair, it seems so gauche to make it anyone else’s focus. Its not just “Lou Reed had a muse (who didn’t care that he was Lou Reed btw)”, its “zomg transgendered!1!” 

    1. Nowadays ‘transgender’ and ‘transsexual’ are kinda interchangeable, although transgender’s the more ‘polite’ one.

      1. That depends on who you ask.

        The *general* understanding I have is that “transsexual” implies the person has gone through physical transition to at least some degree, and transgendered is more general term (in which “trans” could mean “transition”, “transcending” or “transgression”).

        But it always comes down to what the individual person says they are.  In fact, many who have gone through a full physical transition don’t consider themselves trans, but simply a woman or simply a man.

        And historically it’s all muddled even worse than this.

  1. Yes, there is a difference. Transvestites like to wear the opposite genders clothing and may or may not have any thing to do with orientation, preference or physical sex (outward or inward gender identity).

    Transgender typically refers to a person who either is physically intersex (hermaphroditic), or has a gender dis-morphia/gender identity issue and may or may not have had surgery to make the body match the mind.

    The two are not the same thing at all, but also not mutually exclusive either. That is to say that one could be both but one does not follow on from the other. And there is certainly no need to conflate the two as it’s obviously confusing.

  2. So, why should it matter to me as a long time BB reader whom Lou Reed loves and what that persons identity or gender is? Is the goal to spread awareness of the “outing”? How is this beneficial to me as a Lou Reed & BoingBoing fan? How does it support Lou or Rachael (The latter of whom appears to want no public face)?

      1. It works out because there is not a critical mass of gender rageaholics.  Otherwise you get the flaming and the mind reading and the stalking and the banning. 

  3. Lou Reed for Congress!  As a “Family Values” Republican!  He’ll fit right in! I can hear the chants from the Senate Gallery:  LOOOOOOOOOU!

  4. I’m not sure of transvestite’s cultural meaning at the time, but transvestite wasn’t always used as restrictively as now.

    For example, STAR, founded by Sylvia Rivera and Marsha Johnson, initially reclaimed the term transvestite before switching over to transgender, and from what I’ve heard STAR was intended to include people who were transsexual and other people who would face the same discrimination, and many gender-nonconforming people on the street.

    1. totally relevant and thanks for the reminder. It was different times and that moment helped make this moment. 

  5. Personally, transsexual is how I identify though I fall then under the larger transgender umbrella.

    I tend to not like the term transvestite as I’ve always heard it used in a negative and insulting manner. But that’s just me.

  6. In researching Rachel’s life, there is little to draw upon. She is referred to both as a transvestite and transsexual in the various articles or quotes I have managed to find on her.

    As a long-suffering Lou Reed fan, I find his relationship to Rachel fascinating in the same way that I find most of his life fascinating. I wasn’t “outing” Rachel. She did that  quite well on her own. She was a prominent figure in New York City’s nightlife of the 1970s. A regular at Max’s. She was photographed by Mick Rock for a fashion spread in Penthouse magazine.

    The most surprising thing about the life of Rachel is that we know so little of it. Here’s a woman who lived with one of rock’s biggest stars for three years and no one even knows when, where or how she died. I couldn’t even find out her full name. 

    I think Rachel’s anonymity has more to do with Lou than Rachel wanting her privacy. Reed made a conscious decision to go “straight” (the bi-sexual thing had served it’s purpose as a fashion statement) and Rachel didn’t figure into his public personae anymore. She disappeared as quickly as she had come into his life. The scene was fickle and she was no longer a part of it. 

    I think Rachel deserves some recognition. She inspired some of Reed’s best songwriting and managed to keep him happy at a low-point in his life.

  7. Eddie Izzard is a transvestite. A quite proud one. He’s a straight man who enjoys dressing in women’s clothing, and makeup. Or, rather, feminine  clothing, because they are often styled to his liking, rather than just woman’s clothing bought off the rack.

    Executive Transvestite!

  8. She was photogenic.

    Looking at the photos and considering what she’d dealt with as a full time trans in that era, I’d give 10 to 1 odds she could have kicked Lou’s ass in less than 30 seconds. 

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