We all hear lyrics completely wrong sometimes (and here are two great websites devoted to mis-heard lyrics, Pajiba and Kiss-This-Guy, which comes from the oft-misheard Hendrix line ‘scuse me while I kiss the sky in “Purple Haze”).

After a recent post in which I wrote about how I heard my own version of lyrics in Keith Urban’s “You Look Good in my Shirt,” so that I heard “You Look Good in my Skirt,” I began to wonder if different types of people might be inclined to hear lyrics differently from other groups. These groups might be national, linguistic, racial, local, and whatever-else-you-can-imagine, but I’m specifically thinking of transgendered people and how we might (mis)hear lyrics that no one else hears because these words tap into our subconscious minds in ways no one else experiences.

Sure, there are deliberately ambiguous and playful songs that we are all supposed to notice, like “Lola” or “Walk on the Wild Side,” and I’ll never forget when I heard those songs for the first time — my trans* ears just about jumped off my adolescent head! But there are also little lines that never failed to get my attention like the Beatles’ “Get Back”: Sweet Loretta Martin thought she was a woman but she was another man, or “Polythene Pam”: Well you should see polythene Pam. She’s so good-looking but she looks like a man.

But I’m talking about songs with “normal” lyrics like the Keith Urban song mentioned above, or the song that always had the most intense mis-heard trangender lyrics (for me) of all time, Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl.” The first time I heard it, I swear I thought the singer was saying he wanted to BE Jessie’s girl, which makes this a song that yearns not only for love, but for a change in identity. The song is filled with opportunities to mis-hear, too. Take the chorus of “Wish that I had Jessie’s girl,” which is repeated throughout the song, for example, which I always heard (and still hear) as “Wish that I was Jessie’s girl.”

It’s a forbidden love, even in the “straight” lyrics of the song, but the way I heard it (and still sing it aloud in the car, I must confess) was about a doubly-forbidden love: the singer wants to take the girl’s place, so he not only breaks sexual orientation rules (until his sex change, that is), but he also breaks his vow to his friend, who apparently is happy with his girlfriend. The song is already disturbing for guys and their best buddies, but my version is much, much darker and takes us and the singer to very different psychological and sexual places. The trans* version of the song is less about covetousness, but about jealousy, for the singer is jealous of the girlfriend for a) being female and b) receiving Jessie’s love.

It doesn’t take much to see the trans* version of the song, either — there are lots of little interesting clues that sound like things trans* people say, like lyrics about “playing along with the charade,” “making a change,” “something’s changed,” “loving him with that body, I just know it,” “I look in the mirror all the time,” “wondering what he (she) don’t see in me.”

In the mirror sequence in the video, he smashes the mirror, repulsed by the fact the he can’t look good enough to be desirable, and Rick Springfield is such a pretty boy that it’s not hard to imagine him having trans* inclinations, at least in my version of the song. In his plaintive cry of “Where can I find a woman like that?” I always heard (and still hear) “How can I be a woman like that?”

Finally, at the end of the song, he changes from “I wish I had…” to “I want” Jessie’s girl (which, for me, is a change from the hypothetical wishing I were Jessie’s girl to wanting to be Jessie’s girl), and in this evolution of desire, we realize that this song has been a watershed moment for the singer, as he now understands that what he wants is more than a lustful wish, but a desire for personal change.