Underappreciated by cultural critics at the time, Burns stands now as an impressive queer trailblazer and icon. He was not "out" in the way that Jimmy Somerville or Marc Almond were understood; his reality was more complex. His vocal style blended a 'feminine' gospel house diva style with his 'masculine' baritone register. Pete was very butch -- and a screaming queen. It didn't fit into the categories of the time. His queerness splurts out all over the video for "Save You all my Kisses" to see the gay stereotypes of flamboyance, camp and hypersexuality, with an audiences of rough trade pretty boys and the looming titillation of sexual violence. Not to mention Burns rubbing what looks like a razor strap underneath his crotch.
Burns greatest notoriety came after pop music success, with a series of well publicized plastic surgeries. These became infamous as examples of 'plastic surgery gone wrong,' and he had reparative surgeries as well. Burns' augmentations and refinements were resolutely, ostensibly, 'feminine.' Yet, he never claimed a transgender identity. He built up his lips and cheeks, but not breasts. He asserted unequivocally that he was a man - but a man who looked different that societal expectations. This is revealed best in his appearance on the BBC's Celebrity Wife Swap reality TV show. Burns and his husband roll their eyes when people debate whether he's a man or woman. Burns reveals himself to be far from the stereotypical 'wife.' He's inept at housekeeping and childrearing, and more comfortable bantering in a T-shirt with his swapped 'husband," a former UK footballer. Their time together in many ways comes across as more of a bro-bonding lad house (until Burns demands equal support in household duties).