Aerosmith’s Vince Neil-Influenced Song Created The Trans Revolution, Desmond Child Says

During a recent Zoom conversation with Ultimate Classic Rock, the veteran songwriter and producer Desmond Child stated that Aerosmith‘s ‘Dude (Looks Like A Lady)’ massively contributed to the trans revolution.

Aerosmith released the song, ‘Dude (Looks Like A Lady),’ as the lead single from their 1987 album, ‘Permanent Vacation.’ The track’s intended title was ‘Cruisin’ for a Lady’ and was about a feminine-looking man who was mistaken for a woman. As the story goes, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler ran into Mötley Crüe’s Vince Neil at a bar and thought he was a woman with long blonde hair.

However, when Neil turned back, Tyler was shocked that it was actually a man. The incident inspired Tyler to write the song along with Desmond Child, who worked with the band as the songwriter at the time. Although the song did well on the charts, it has also become the subject of debate for being transphobic. During an interview, Child reflected on the song’s writing process and addressed these famous criticisms.

He stated that the band members were unsure about the title as it could offend the gay community. However, as an openly gay figure, Desmond Child relieved them by saying that he knew what it meant and there was no problem with it. Child explained that the song was a significant contribution to the trans revolution rather than being offensive. He referred to the lyrics to further clarify his point and stated that the guy chose to stay with the trans woman instead of running away, so it was undoubtedly a revolutionary moment.

About ‘Dude (Looks Like A Lady),’ Desmond Child said:

“Steven kind of sheepishly said, ‘Well, when I first started singing the riff, I was singing ‘Dude Looks Like a Lady.’ I was like, ‘What? That’s a hit title!’ Joe said, ‘But we don’t know what that means.’ I said, ‘I’m gay. I know what that means. Trust me with this.’ I got them into telling the story of a guy that goes into a strip joint and sees this gorgeous, very buxom blonde up on the stage.

He falls in love, goes backstage, and then she whips out her gun and tries to blow him away. Dude looks like a lady. I mean, we were so ahead of the trans revolution with that song. Because the second verse, the guy doesn’t run away; he sticks with it and stays. The second verse, which was in ‘Mrs. Doubtfire,’ with the broom dance, says, ‘Never judge a book by its cover / Or who you’re gonna love by your lover.'”

He continued:

“If you like the way it looks, then go for it, you know? So that’s why he sings, ‘My funky laaady/ I like it like it like that.’ That was revolutionary. Because the setup was for the guy to run away because he was so shocked and all of that. But no, he liked it, and so he stayed. That song evoked a lot of things, but nobody thought about it that deeply. Because everybody loved it.

They imagined he was singing about himself because he did sort of look like a lady with those big lips and the painted nails and all of that. John Kalodner was in a wedding dress in the video with a long beard. It was like all of this strange kind of imagery. They had these boyish-looking girls with short haircuts with square jaws. It was so ahead of its time. The fun of it all opened the doors to them being able to get more and more songs.”

You can listen to Aerosmith’s ‘Dude (Looks Like A Lady)’ below.