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Guelph student union says its apology for playing Lou Reed was taken the wrong way

In this Sunday, Aug. 9, 2009 file photo, Lou Reed performs at the Lollapalooza music festival, in Chicago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/John Smierciak, File

The Central Student Association (CSA) at the University of Guelph has issued a statement of “regret” that its apology for playing Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” at a campus event was perceived to mean something other than what it intended.

The student union drew international mockery after it issued an apology on Facebook on May 12 for playing the 1972 song at an event where bus passes were being distributed.

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As part of the event, a member of the executive compiled a playlist in order to create a “feeling like a road trip from the ’70s and ’80s.”

Reed’s song includes the following lyrics: “Holly came from Miami F.L.A./Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A./Plucked her eyebrows on the way/Shaved her legs and then he was a she.”

In issuing the apology, it said, “We now know the lyrics to this song are hurtful to our friends in the trans community and we’d like to unreservedly apologize for this error in judgement [sic].”

The student association’s apology became the target of derision from around the world.

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Reed’s friends strenuously objected to the idea that his song is transphobic, The Guardian reported Saturday.

“Lou was open about his complete acceptance of all creatures of the night,” Jenni Muldaur told the newspaper.

“That’s what that song’s about. Everyone doing their thing, taking a walk on the wild side. I can’t imagine how anyone could conceive of that. The album was called Transformer. What do they think it’s about?”

Meanwhile, Roisin O’Connor at The Independent noted that trans actress Holly Woodlawn inspired those very lyrics.

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O’Connor also said that Reed wrote the song Candy Says for trans actress Candy Darling, and that he also dated a trans woman.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the CSA said that its Facebook message was “intended for our internal student audience; we subsequently removed the post from our page after it generated negative and transphobic comments.”

“We recognize Lou Reed’s involvement in and contributions to the LGBTQ+ community, and regret that our post was perceived by some to mean otherwise.

“We appreciate Lou Reed as an artist, and did not speak to his character in our post. Our sole intent was to acknowledge that the lyrics, in current day, are now being consumed in a different society context.”

The CSA’s decision also drew a round of ridicule on social media:

But not everyone was on the same side:

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In its statement, the CSA said, “public dialogue about complex issues is critical to improving understanding and acceptance.

“As student representatives of a public university, we believe it is our role to support respectful debate, discussion and the voicing of differing opinions. The University of Guelph’s Central Student Association remains dedicated to transparency and inclusivity.”

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