"It was opening people’s minds": Songwriter Desmond Child sees Aerosmith's Dude (Looks Like a Lady) as an early trans anthem

Desmond Child and Aerosmith
(Image credit: Danielle Del Valle/Getty Images | Barry King/WireImage)

Songwriting superstar Desmond Child believes that Dude (Looks Like a Lady), the 1987 global hit he co-wrote with Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry can be viewed as an early trans anthem. 

Child, who has co-writing credits on some of the biggest anthems in hard rock history, including Bon Jovi's Livin' On A Prayer and You Give Love A Bad Name, Alice Cooper's Poison, Joan Jett's I Hate Myself For Loving You and Kiss' I Was Made For Loving You, shared his take on the Aerosmith classic in a new interview with The Guardian.

The original origin story behind the song, which began life anchored around a Steven Tyler lyric which ran "Cruisin’ for a lady", was that it was inspired by by the sight of Motley Crue's Vince Neil on the prowl on the Sunset Strip. 

"There’s definitely some truth to that story," Joe Perry told Classic Rock in 2016. “I know that Steven saw Mötley Crüe and that lyric came into being afterwards. Steven used that as a jumping-off place. It wasn’t like they were the total inspiration for the song but it definitely moved the lyrics along."

In the same interview, Perry admitted that Aerosmith were initially reluctant to work with Child -  "We fought it all the way, but once we got to know Desmond it worked" - and Desmond Child now argues that the lyric echoes the open-minded attitude that the band took in accepting him into their camp.

"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," he says. "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."

Child says that as a gay man he rarely experienced homophobia from hard rock artists.

"While they were off at their AA meetings or whatever,” he says, “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."

Child is releasing a memoir about his storied life tomorrow (November 2). Livin’ on a Prayer: Big Songs Big Life is being published by Radius.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.