Gay icon

Gay icon

A gay icon or LGBT icon is a historical figure, celebrity or public figure who is embraced by many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities; the term "Dykon", a portmanteau of the words "dyke" and "icon," has recently entered the lexicon as a word to describe lesbian icons.Euan Ferguson, [,,896296,00.html Daniela's still dying for it] ; February 16, 2003; Retrieved on 2007-02-08:"All over the South-East men fell in lust with the idea of a fast lippy sexy Scot, and I'm told she also became something of a dykon, a female gay icon."]

Qualities of a gay icon often include glamour, flamboyance, strength through adversity, and androgyny. Such icons may be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or transgendered; they may also be closeted or open with their sexual orientation and gender identity. Although most gay icons have given their support to LGBT social movements, some have endorsed their opposition, advocating against the perceived homosexual agenda.

Historical icons are typically elevated to such status because their sexual orientation remains a topic of great debate among historians. Modern day icons, who are predominantly female entertainers, typically garner a large following within the gay community over the course of their careers. The majority of gay icons fall into one of two categories: the tragic, sometimes suicidal figure or the prominent pop culture idol.

Historical examples


Marie Antoinette was an early lesbian icon. Rumors about her relationships with women had been circulated in pornographic detail by anti-royalist pamphlets before the French Revolution. In Victorian England, biographers who idealized the Ancien Régime made a point of denying the rumors, but at the same time romanticized Marie Antoinette's "sisterly" friendship with the Princesse de Lamballe as—in the words of an 1858 biography—one of the "rare and great loves that Providence unites in death." By the end of the 19th century she was a cult icon of "sapphism;" her execution, seen as tragic martyrdom, may have added to her appeal. Allusions to her appear in early 20th century lesbian literature, most notably Radclyffe Hall's "The Well of Loneliness", where the gay playwright Jonathan Brockett describes Marie Antoinette and de Lamballe as "poor souls... sick to death of the subterfuge and pretenses."cite book |last=Castle |first=Terry |title=The Apparitional Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture |publisher=Columbia University Press |year=1993 |location=New York |pages=126–149 and 261n56 |isbn=0-231-07652-5 ] She had crossover appeal as a gay icon as well, at least for Jean Genet, who was fascinated by her story. He included a reenactment of her execution in his 1947 play "The Maids".cite book |last=Fraser |first=Antonia |authorlink=Antonia Fraser |title=Marie Antoinette: The Journey |publisher=Anchor |year=2001 |location=New York |pages=449 |isbn=0-385-48949-8 ]

Modern examples

Modern gay icons in entertainment include both film stars and musicians, most of whom have strong, distinctive personalities, and many of whom died young or under tragic circumstances. These individuals may be homosexual or straight, closeted or out, and male or female. The women most commonly portrayed by drag queens are usually gay icons. Lesbian icons are most often powerful women who are, or are rumored to be, lesbian or bisexual. However, a few male entertainers have also had iconic status for lesbians. James Dean was an early lesbian iconcite journal |last=Pramaggiore |first=Maria |title=Fishing For Girls: Romancing Lesbians in New Queer Cinema |journal=College Literature |volume=24 |issue=1 |pages=59–75 |url= |date=February 1997 |accessdate=2007-02-09] who, along with Marlon Brando, influenced the butch look and self-image in the 1950scite book |last=Kennedy |first=Elizabeth Lapovsky |coauthors=Madeline D. Davis |title=Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community |publisher=Penguin |year=1994 |location=New York |isbn=0-1402-3550-7 |pages=212–213] and after.cite journal |last=Blackman |first=Inge |coauthors=Kathryn Perry |title=Skirting the Issue: Lesbian Fashion for the 1990s |journal=Feminist Review |issue=34 |pages=67–78 |year=1990 |accessdate=2007-02-09 |url= |volume=0 |doi=10.2307/1395306 ] [cite book |last=Halberstam |first=Judith |title=Female Masculinity |publisher=Duke University Press |year=1998 |location=Durham, NC |pages=330 |isbn=0-822-32243-9] One critic has argued for Johnny Cash as a minor lesbian icon, attributing his appeal to "lesbian identification with troubled and suffering masculinity."Ortega, Teresa. "'My Name is Sue! How do you do?': Johnny Cash as Lesbian Icon". In cite book |last=Tichi |first=Cecilia |title=Reading Country Music: Steel Guitars, Opry Stars, and Honky-Tonk Bars |publisher=Duke University Press |date=1998 |location=Durham, NC |pages=222 |url= |doi= |isbn=0-8223-2168-8 ] Science fiction author Forrest J Ackerman was dubbed an "honorary lesbian" for his help during the early days of the Daughters of Bilitis. He also wrote lesbian-themed fiction under the pseudonym Laurajean Ermayne.

The definition of what it means to be a "gay icon" has come under criticism in recent years for a lack of substance, as Paul Flynn of "The Guardian" comments "the concept of gay icon is a cheap ticket... [and] the idea of gay iconography itself is currently replaceable with the idea of popularity and the ability to carry a strong, identifiable, signature look".cite web |url= |title=Margret Thatcher: Gay Icon |last=Flynn |first=Paul |work=The Guardian |date=2006-05-16 |accessdate=2007-01-15] Author Michael Thomas Ford depicts a similar attitude in his work of fiction, "Last Summer".

How many gay icons are actually gay? Think about it. Bette Davis. Judy Garland. Joan Crawford. None of them were gay. And none of them were men. Gay men might as well be straight women when it comes to actors they love. They want big butch heroes too. They don't want the sissy queens or the old men whose careers couldn't possibly be damaged by their coming out. They want Bruce Willis and Collin Farrell and Vin Diesel, not Danny Pintauro and Rupert Everett and Nathan Lane. It's only the dykes who throw their cash at someone just because she eats pussy. Melissa and k.d. owe their whole careers to lesbians. But even in Hollywood you won't find many lesbians who are out of the closet. [cite web |url= |title=Last Summer |work=Kensington Books, ISBN 0758204051 |first=Michael Thomas |last=Ford |date=2003 |accessdate=2008-07-10]

Though the term "gay icon" is most commonly seen in the United States, the concept is to be found in other cultures, as well. Dalida, the Egyptian singer of Italian origin, had a career-long gay following that extended out of Paris and well into the Middle-east. In the years since her death, her iconic status has not diminished.cite web |url= |title=Gay Montmartre Tour |accessdate=2007-08-01] cite web |first=David |last=France |url= |title=Dying to come out:The war on gays in Iraq |work=GQ magazine |date=February 2007 |accessdate=2007-02-07] Likewise, Bollywood actor Abhishek Bachchan was recently declared to be a gay icon in a national poll in India. Though homosexuality still carries a stigma in India, he was quoted as saying that "Appreciation and love from any quarter is welcome," and that though he is straight, himself, he was comfortable with having a large fan base among gay men.cite web |url= |title=Abhishek ready to be gay icon | |date=2006-09-05 |accessdate=2007-02-07] cite web |url= |title=Gay Icon Embarrassment |work=Asian |date=2006-11-24 |accessdate=2007-01-15] In the Netherlands, Willeke Alberti is widely embraced as a gay icon, due to a combination of her song repertoire, her durability, and her performances in support of manifold gay causes. [ [ Foot and Hand Prints in Rotterdam] ; Accessed 2008-07-04] Spanish actress Carmen Maura, Italian singer Mina, Scottish pop singer Jimmy Somerville, German singer-songwriter Marianne Rosenberg and English singer Dusty Springfield are also considered to be gay icons. ["The Guardian" (August 13, 2006). [,,1844362,00.html 'Sex was my way of coping with death'] (interview with Pedro Almodóvar). Retrieved on 2008-06-14.] [cite web |url= |title=El Papa es impopular entre gays |work=Los Tiempos |first= |last= |date=2007-01-17 |accessdate=2008-06-22] citation |title=Joss, Lionel & Jimmy Play Dublin... |url= |date=April 11, 2004 |accessdate=2007-11-26 |periodical=ShowBiz Ireland] [James Christopher Monger, [ Yahoo! Music biography] . Retrieved 2008-04-13.] cite news |first=Michele |last=Kort |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=The secret life of Dusty Springfield |url= |work=The Advocate |publisher= |date=1999-04-27 |accessdate=2008-04-10 ]

In entertainment


The 1930s saw a number of writers, political activists, and celebrities garner reputations as gay icons. Poet and satirical writer Dorothy Parker reportedly had a large gay following. Though the phrase "friend of Dorothy" was made popular in later years by Judy Garland's role in the "The Wizard Of Oz", some speculate it originated with Parker. In Lee Tannen's book "I Loved Lucy: My Friendship with Lucille Ball", the author describes his experience when he witnessed Lucille Ball being labeled a gay icon for the first time by a mutual friend.cite web
url=,M1 |title=I Loved Lucy: My Friendship With Lucille Ball |work=St. Martin's Press, ISBN 0312302746 |first=Lee |last=Tannen |date=2002 |accessdate=2008-01-24
] Ball was told of the adoration she received from gay men, as a bar in West Hollywood was known for routinely playing episodes of her television series "I Love Lucy" every weekend. In an interview with "Out" magazine, Tannen expressed his opinion that Ball's television character Lucy Ricardo was the true gay icon, as "Lucy Ricardo was the underdog who was always trying to prove herself, and I think many gay men can identify with that."Citation |last=Smith |first=Bob |title=We Love Lucy | newspaper=Out |pages= |year=2001 |date=Nov 2001] Actress Bette Davis' performance in "Dark Victory" (1939), was dubbed by Queer theorist Eve Sedgwick as "the epistemology of the closet".cite book |last=Sikov |first=Ed |title=Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis |publisher=Macmillan |date=2007 |pages=139 |url=|isbn=0805075488] Davis' portrayal of the melodramatic Judith Traherne made her talent for playing someone with a secret revered and her "camp-worthy" dialog reflexive of the "flamboyant gay queen of the dramatic arts". Ed Sikov, author of "Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis", comments twentieth century gay men developed their own subculture following Davis' example.

In Marcella Althaus-Reid's "Liberation Theology and Sexuality", Marlene Dietrich, who is considered to be the first German-born actress to receive critical acclaim in Hollywood, is a model of liberation and subversion, as well as beauty, perfection and sensuality.cite web |url= |title=Review: 'Dietrich' beautiful photo collection |last=Dunn |first=Andrew | |date=2001-12-25 |accessdate=2007-08-01] cite book |last=Althaus-Reid |first=Marcella |title=Liberation Theology and Sexuality |publisher=Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. |date=2006 |pages=134 |url=|isbn=0754650804] In Rio de Janeiro, Althaus-Reid discovered a statue of Dietrich dressed as "Nossa Senhora de Aparecida" in a gay bar in Copacabana beach. The image of Dietrich as the black Virgin Mary represents her overcoming duality. According to Althaus-Reid, it is a figure which sanctifies Dietrich while simultaneously liberating Mary. Other icons from this time period include actor Cary Grant, who endured speculation over his alleged relationships with men,cite web |url= |title=Gordon Ramsay 50th most popular gay icon |last=Grew |first=Tony |work=Pink News |date=2007-01-05 |accessdate=2007-08-01] Marilyn Monroe,cite web |url= |title=Queer, Isn't It?: Gay Icons: Judy Who? |date=2006-11-16 |accessdate=2007-08-01 |first=Michael |last=Abernethy |work=PopMatters] Bette Midler, and openly gay actor and composer Noel Coward. [ [ Noel, Noel - Noel Coward's conveyed a homosexual aura, although Coward never admitted being a homesexual himself - Brief Article | Advocate, The | Find Articles at ] ]


An archetypal gay icon is Judy Garland.cite web |url= |title=Cher: Last of the Gay Icons? |first=Michael |last=Westley |work=Salt Lake Tribune |date=2002-08-13 |accessdate=2007-08-01] Michael Bronski, author of "Culture Clash: The Making of Gay Sensibility", describes Garland as "the quintessential pre-Stonewall gay icon".cite book |last=Bronski |first=Michael |title=Culture Clash: The Making of Gay Sensibility |publisher=South End Press |date=1984 |pages=104 |url=|isbn=0896082172] So revered is she as a gay icon that her best known film role, that of Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz", became used as code among homosexuals in the 1950s.cite book |last=Cage |first=Ken |coauthors=Moyra Evans |title=Gayle: The Language of Kinks and Queens, A History and Dictionary of Gay Language in South Africa |publisher=Jacana Media |date=2003 |pages=10 |url= |isbn=191993149X] The expression, "Is he a friend of Dorothy?" was slang for, "Is he gay?" The character Dorothy met an odd group of friends during her journey through Oz—the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow—and so referring to an individual as a "friend of Dorothy" meant that they were "unusual or odd" and thus "queer". Though Garland has been noted for her embodiment of camp in her acting roles, Bronski argues that she was the "antithesis of camp" and "made a legend of her pain and oppression. As Bronski observes, the bleak setting of 1950s Hollywood had replaced the "sauciness of the 30s and the independence of the 40s". Garland, as well as women such as Lana Turner and Susan Hayward epitomized the idea that "suffering was the price of glamor... [and] the women stars of the 50s reflected the condition of many gay men: they suffered, beautifully". Garland's reputation as a gay icon has also generated interest in the ex-gay movement. In the book, "A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality", authors Joseph Nicolosi and Linda Ames Nicolosi argue icons such as Garland give "prehomosexual boys (as well as gay men)" a form of escapism.cite book |last=Nicolosi |first=Joseph |coauthors=Linda Ames Nicolosi |title=A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality |publisher=InterVarsity Press |date=2002 |pages=98 |url=|isbn=0830823794]

Gay men are invariable captivated by larger-than-life feminine images, and they do not choose men as their icons. Instead, they become enthralled with Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Bette Davis, and Bette Midler (tough, assertive, "phallic" women) or Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland and Princess Di (tragic, misunderstood women). As children, the are captivated by images of Pocahontas, the Little Mermaid and Cinderella. Adulation of female icons permits an escape into the secret feminine fantasy of childhood, providing an evasion to escape the challenge of developing their masculine potential.

Garland's daughter Liza Minnelli would later follow in her mother's footsteps as a gay icon, as would fellow musical artist Barbra Streisand. Joan Crawford has been described as the "ultimate gay icon - the martyr who suffered for her art, and therefore enabled herself to bond with this all-important faction of her fan-base".cite book |last=Bret |first=David |title=joan crawford: Hollywood Martyr |publisher=Da Capo Press |date=2008 |pages=192, 287 |url= |isbn=0306816245] In "Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography", author Lawrence J. Quirk describes Crawford appealed to gay men because they sympathized with her struggle for success; in both the entertainment industry and in her personal life.cite book |last=Quirk |first=Lawrence J. |coauthors=William Schoell|title=Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography |publisher=University Press ofKentucky |date=2002 |pages=235 |url= |isbn=0813122546] Though Crawford had been a notable film star during the 1930s and 1940s, according David Bret, author of "joan crawford: Hollywood Martyr", it was not until her 1953 film "Torch Song" that she was seen as a "complete gay icon, primarily because it was shot in color". Bret further explains seeing the actress' red hair, dark eyes and 'Victory Red' lips linked her to "gaydom's other sirens: Dietrich, Garland, Bankhead, Piaf, and new recruits Marilyn Monroe and Maria Callas". Other icons from this time include Liberace, Julie Andrews,cite journal |journal=Genders |url= |title=Stage Door Jennies |last=Farmer |first=Brett |year=2003 |volume=38 |accessdate=2007-08-01] Shirley Bassey,cite web |url= |title=Call Me Miss Bassey |work=Gay Times |first=Vicky |last=Powell |date=December, 1997 |accessdate=2007-08-01] Debbie Reynolds,cite web |url= |title=Debbie Reynolds To Say Goodbye |first=Leigh |last=May |date=2006-08-24 |] Barbara Cook, [ [ Express Gay News Online ] ] Rock Hudson, and Elizabeth Taylor. [cite web |last=Shoffman |first=Marc |title=Gay icon Elizabeth Taylor close to death|url= |date=2006-04-28 |publisher="Pink News" |accessdate=2008-04-24]


The first gay icon of the underground gay disco scene in the 1970s was the "Queen of Disco" Donna Summer, whose dance songs became anthems for the clubbing gay community. Her number one hit single "Love To Love You Baby"—regarded as an "absolute disco epic"—not only became a gay anthem because of its "unabridged sexuality", it brought European-oriented music to the United States and influenced the course of direction the recording industry would take in the following years. [cite book |last=Creswell |first=Toby |title=1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time and the Artists, Stories and Secrets Behind Them |publisher=Thunder's Mouth Press |date=2006 |pages=175 |url= |isbn=1560259159] However, Summer became immersed in controversy when it was announced she was reported saying homophobic remarks after becoming a born-again Christian during the 1980s and was subsequently abandoned by the gay community. Summer reportedly stated that "AIDS was God's punishment to homosexuals".cite book |last=Cohen |first=Cathy J. |title=The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics |publisher=University of Chicago Press |date=1999 |pages=223 |url= |isbn=0226112896] The factual accuracy of this statement has since been disputed by Summer as well as other people within the recording industry and the gay community.

During the mid-1980s after such rumors began circulating, many statements denying such remarks were issued by Summer's publicist. Summer, however, never issued any statements herself until several years later. In a 1989 interview with "The Advocate", Summer stated a number of people she has working with throughout her career are openly gay and she has never judged them for it. Summer also commented "I don't look at people by their sexual orientation. I don't judge people because they are gay or straight. My love for people is based on my compassion as a person". Summer's 2008 single "Stamp Your Feet" from her studio album "Crayons" has been regarded as "high-quality pop, with major gay appeal". [cite web |last=Rule |first=Doug |url= |title=Summer's Day|date=2008-05-22 |publisher="Metro Weekly" |accessdate=2008-07-14] Fellow disco singer Gloria Gaynor was embraced by the gay community because of her single "I Will Survive", which served as an anthem for both feminists and the Gay Rights movement. [cite book |last=Sagert |first=Kelly Boyer |title=The 1970s |publisher=Greenwood Publishing Group |date=2007 |pages=183 |url= |isbn=0313339198] Artists such as Summer and Gaynor would later be followed by Diana Ross,citation |title=Stop! In the name of love |periodical=The Advocate |date=May 11, 1999 |first=Judy |last=Wieder |url= |accessdate=2008-01-11 ] Grace Jones, Charo, [ [ Charo: From 'Love Boat' to Pride parade float] Carolyne Zinko, San Francisco Chronicle; 29 June 2008.] Elaine Paige, [cite web |url= |title=You ask the questions (Such as: so, Elaine Paige, have you ever sung in a karaoke bar?)|work=The Independent |date=2000-06-07|accessdate=2008-01-29] , and Dolly Parton.cite web |title=Lesbian and Gay Icons |accessdate=2007-07-24 |url=] Two gay Britons, writer Quentin Crispcite web |last=Frank |first=Steven |url= |title=What Does It Take to Be a Gay Icon Today? |date=2005-09-25 |publisher="After Elton" |accessdate=2008-04-24] and singer Freddie Mercurycite web |url= |title=Be My Idol |work=Time Out |first=Tony |last=Leboeuf |date=2005-05-03 |accessdate=2007-08-01] of Queen also became popular icons.Disco and popular music star and actress Cher, became notable in the gay community not only for her music, but for receiving an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of a lesbian in "Silkwood".cite book |last=Bernstein |first=Robert |title=Straight Parents, Gay Children: Keeping Families Together |publisher=Thunder's Mouth Press |date=2003 |pages=166 |url= |isbn=1560254521] In later years, her daughter Chastity Bono came out as a lesbian at the age of seventeen, much to her mother's initial feelings of "guilt, fear and pain". When Cher was able to accept her daughter's sexual orientation, she realized that Chastity, as well as other LGBT people "didn't have the same rights as everyone else, [and she] thought that was unfair".cite book |last=Plumez |first=Jacqueline Hornor |title=Mother Power |publisher=Sourcebooks, Inc. |date=2002 |pages=182 |url= |isbn=1570718237] Cher emerged not only as a icon among LGBT people, but also a role model for straight parents who have gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender children. She became the keynote speaker for the 1997 national Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) convention. Cher's longevity in the music industry has often been credited to her gay following.cite book |last=Mann |first=William J. |title=Gay Pride: A Celebration of All Things Gay and Lesbian |publisher=Citadel Press |date=2004 |pages=14 |url= |isbn=0806525630] William J. Mann, author of "Gay Pride: A Celebration of All Things Gay and Lesbian," comments " [w] e'll be dancing to a ninety-year old Cher when we're sixty. Just watch".Continuing into the 1980s, pop music singer Madonna—dubbed the "Queen of Pop" by the media and in later years the "World's Most Successful Female Recording Artist" by "Guinness World Records"—became the prominent gay icon of the late twentieth century. [cite book |last=Cross |first=Mary |title=Madonna: A Biography |publisher=Canongate U.S. |date=2004 |isbn=0313338116] [cite web|first=Edith |last=Bowman |url=|work=BBC News |title=BBC World Visionaries: Madonna Vs. Mozart|quote=In 2000, Guinness World Records listed Madonna as the most successful female recording artist of all time. |date=2007-05-26|accessdate=2008-05-12] cite web |last=Gdula |first=Steve |url= |title=Happy Madonna day! |date=2005-11-11 |accessdate=2008-07-09] "The Advocate"'s Steve Gdula commented " [i] n the beginning, back in the 1980s and even the early 1990s, the release of a new Madonna video or single was akin to a national holiday, at least among her gay fans". Gdula also stated that during this time period, which was the rise of the AIDS epidemic, that "when other artists tried to distance themselves from the very audience that helped their stars to rise, Madonna only turned the light back on her gay fans and made it burn all the brighter". Georges-Claude Guilbert, author of "Madonna As Postmodern Myth: How One Star's Self-Construction Rewrites Sex, Gender, Hollywood and the American Dream", writes that Madonna's reverence as a gay icon is equated with that of Judy Garland, as the similarities between the two popular culture icons are immeasurable.cite web
url= |title=Madonna As Postmodern Myth: How One Star's Self-Construction Rewrites Sex, Gender, Hollywood and the American Dream |publisher=McFarland |ISBN=0786414081 |first=Georges-Claude |last=Guilbert |date=2002 |accessdate=2008-07-09
] Guilbert dictates that all gay icons "usually belong to one or the other of two types of female stars: either the very vulnerable or suicidal star, or the strong idol whom nobody or nothing resists, like Madonna". According to "Madonna: An Intimate Biography", by J. Randy Taraborrelli, the pop star has always been aware that her most loyal fans were gay men and has appeared in "gay-oriented magazines as an activist for gay rights and was even named in the book "The Gay 100" as one of the most influential gay people in history".cite book |last=Taraborrelli |first=J. Randy |title=Madonna: An Intimate Biography |publisher=Simon and Schuster |date=2002 |pages=147 |url= |isbn=0743228804] Madonna has always been open about her bisexuality and her sexual relationships with women—in particular a highly publicized rumored relationship with Sandra Bernhard—have generated much media interest. Other superstar recording artists, such as Cyndi Lauper followed.cite web |url= |title=Cyndi Lauper to Perform at National Forum |work=Equality Forum press release |date=2005-02-24 |accessdate=2007-08-01] Lauper and Madonna, respectively trail blazed women's sexual liberation, which at the time, was unseen in popular music. [cite book | last1 = Creekmur | first1 =Corey K. |last2=Doty |first2=Alexander|title=Out in Culture: Gay, Lesbian, and Queer Essays on Popular Culture |publisher=Duke University Press |date=1995 |pages=420 |url= |isbn=0822315416] Lauper's 1983 debut album "She's So Unusual" generated a large following of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender fans with the "gay-friendly camp and lesbian-friendly womyn power epitomized in [her] femme anthem "Girls Just Want to Have Fun".cite web |last=Stites |first=Jessica |title=She Still Bops |publisher="The Advocate" |date=2008-06-30 |url= |accessdate=2008-07-11] Lauper explained that growing during the 1960s influenced her dedication to fair and equal treatment of all people, noting that the the music of the 1960s "helped to open the world’s point of view to change".cite web |last=Lauper |first=Cyndi |title=Here's Where I'm Coming From |publisher="The Advocate" |date=2008-06-11 |url= |accessdate=2008-07-11] According to Lauper "It wasn’t until my sister came out in the early ’70s that I became more aware of the bigoted slurs and the violence against a community of people...who were gay". Lauper has since become an active Gay Rights activist, often encouraging LGBT people and their allies to vote for equal rights. Political activism for LGBT rights is the theme of Lauper's annual True Colors Tour.

Other icons from this decade include Whitney Houston, Estelle Getty, [ cite web|url= |title=Thank You for Being a Friend; Golden Girls' Estelle Getty Dead at 84 |accessdate=2008-07-24 |last=Taylor |first=Maggie |date=2008-07-22 | ] Joan Collins,cite web |url= |title=Kylie is 'greatest gay icon' of all time |first=Jon |last=Land |date=2007-05-01 |accessdate=2007-08-01 |] Annie Lennox, [cite web |url= |title=Diva Annie Lennox Sings… Live… |work=GTMagazine |date=September, 2007 |accessdate=2007-09-29] Liza Minnelli, and Kylie Minogue, who later rivaled Madonna for the title of "Greatest Gay Icon of All Time".


Janet Jackson, who was twice established as one of the highest paid recording artists in the history of contemporary music during the 1990s, became a gay icon after she released her sixth studio album "The Velvet Rope" (1997). [Citation | last1 = Goldberg | first1 = M. |title=The Jacksons score big |journal=Academic Search Premier |pages=32 |publisher="Rolling Stone" |date=1991-05-02 |year=1991 |url= | issn = 0035791X] [Citation |title=Janet Jackson Hits Big; $80 Million Record Deal | newspaper=Newsday |pages=A02 |year=1996 |date=1996-01-13] [Citation |last1=McCormick |first1=Neil |title=The Arts: Give her enough rope... Reviews Rock CDs | newspaper=The Daily Telegraph|pages=11 |year=1997 |date=1997-10-18] The album was honored by the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum and received the the award for Outstanding Music Album at the 9th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in 1998 for its songs that dealt with sexual orientation and homophobia.cite web |url= |title=Janet Jackson to be Honored at 19th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles |accessdate=2008-04-01 |last=McCarthy |first=Marc |work=GLAAD |date=April 1 2008] On April 26, 2008, she received the Vanguard Award—a media award from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation—to honor her work in the entertainment industry in promoting equality for LGBT people. GLAAD President Neil G. Giuliano commented, "Ms. Jackson has a tremendous following inside the LGBT community and out, and having her stand with us against the defamation that LGBT people still face in our country is extremely significant."

People such as Ellen DeGeneres, Elton John, [cite web |url= |title=Elton John |date= |publisher="" |accessdate=2008-04-24] Neil Patrick Harris, k. d. lang, [cite web |last=Frank |first=Steven |url= |title=k.d. Lang, A Woman in Love |date=2005-09-25 |work=Advocate 40th |publisher="The Advocate" |accessdate=2000-06-20] Rosie O'Donnell,cite news|url=|title=Gay icons rock Berkeley for a cause in post-Pride 'True Colors' celebration | O'Donnell is cattily amusing|last=Chonin|first=Neva|date=2007-07-02|work=San Francisco Chronicle|publisher=Frank J. Vega|pages=E1|accessdate=2008-07-08] and T.R. Knight became gay icons after becoming open about their sexual orientation as media professionals and public figures. Other icons from this decade include Lucy Lawless, Tori Spelling, [ [ Tori Spelling relishes role as gay icon] ] the Spice Girls, [cite web |title=Welcome to Spiceworld! |url= |work=The Vancouver Sun |date=December 7, 2007 |accessdate=2007-12-09] and Peter & Katie Andre. [ [ Kylie Minogue Is 'Greatest Gay Icon' Of All Time (also mentions Andre)] ] By the late 2000s, several entertainers were dubbed as members of a new generation of gay icons. These include:

* Beyoncécite web |url= |title=Gordon Ramsay 50th most popular gay icon |last=Grew |first=Tony |work=Pink News |date=2007-12-29 |accessdate=2007-08-01]
* Lance Bass
* Margaret Cho [cite web |url= |title=Margaret Cho's Revolution |accessdate=2008-04-24 |last=Bugg |first=Sean |coauthors= |date=2003-05-29 |work=Metro Weekly |publisher=]
* Paris Hilton [ [ Paris Hilton Is This Year's Hottest Gay Icon] ]
* Sophie Ellis-Bextor [ Sophie as a Gay icon]
* Harvey Fierstein
* Kathy Griffincite web |url= |title=Ten Rising Gay icons |accessdate=2008-03-10 |last=Evans |first=Chris |coauthors= |date=2007-11-19 |work=Blogcritics Magazine |publisher=]
* Jake GyllenhaalJenson, Michael. (July 23 2007), [ "The Hot 100 List"] , "AfterElton". Retrieved July 16 2008.]
* La Toya Jackson [cite web |url= |title=La Toya Jackson Learns Life's Lessons| |date=June 2005 |accessdate=2007-12-21]
* Sarah Jessica Parker
* Ellen Pompeo [Starpulse entertainment news blog, June 18, 2007, [] . Accessed 2008-02-27.]
* Britney Spears [cite web |url=
title=Baby One More Time: Gay icon Britney Spears is pregnant |first=Leigh |last=May |date=11 May, 2006 |
* Gwen Stefani [cite web |url= |title=THE ESCAPE ARTIST |work=Instinct Magazine |date=January, 2007 |accessdate=2007-09-29]
* Mink Stolecite web |url= |title=Mink Stole has a role in the sequel to Eating Out |accessdate=2008-03-30 |last=Clodfelter |first=Tim |coauthors= |date=2007-06-07 |work=relish now! |quote=Mink Stole never set out to become a gay icon. 'While I’m thrilled with the title - it’s lovely to be considered an icon of any type.']
* George Takei
* Rufus Wainwright [cite web |url=|title=He’s not just a gay icon—the girls love Rufus Wainwright |work=Monterey Country Weekly |date=August, 2005 |accessdate=2008-02-27]
* Kate Bush [cite web |url= |title=Rufus Wainwright's list of gay icons|11/12/06]

In sports

Martina Navratilova, David Beckham,cite web |url=,8659,15936747-23215,00.html |title=Becks is a gay icon |work=Fox Sports |date=2005-07-15 |accessdate=2007-08-01] and Billie Jean King are all seen as gay icons.cite web |url= |title=Lesbian tennis star becomes a pioneer for women’s rights |date=2006-04-26 |accessdate=2007-01-15] In Beckham's case, it is his combination of athletic prowess, good looks and flamboyant private life; in the case of King and Navratilova, it has more to do with their strength of character after coming out respectively as bisexual and lesbian.

In politics

In the political arena, gay icons are represented by, among others, Princess Diana, [cite book |last= Gage |first= Simon |authorlink= |coauthors=Lisa Richards, Howard Wilmot, Boy George |title=Queer |publisher="Thunder's Mouth Press" |date=2002 |location= |pages=17 |url= |isbn=1560253770] Coretta Scott King,cite web |last=O'Bryan |first= Will |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Losing an Ally: Gay leaders mourn the death of Coretta Scott King, mull the future of the King legacy for GLBT civil rights |work= |publisher="Metro Weekly" |date=2006-02-16 |url= |accessdate=2008-04-10] Abraham Lincoln,cite web |url= |title=Invisibility: Gay Icons in U.S. History |accessdate=2007-01-16 |date=26 April 2005 |work=panel event |publisher=Equality Forum 2005 ] Margaret Thatcher, [ [ Thatcher the gay icon] ; Brian Coleman; New Statesman; 2007-06-25; accessed 2008-07-09] Winnie Mandela,cite web |url= |title=In praise of the Bitch Goddess |last=Labruce |first=Bruce |date=2000-04-13 |accessdate=2007-01-15] Michèle Duvalier, Hillary Clinton, [ [ Why Barack’s Mojo With the Gays Can’t Match Hillary’s - Daily Intel - New York News Blog - New York Magazine ] ] Eva Peron,cite book |title=Sexual Textualities: Essays on Queer/Ing Latin American Writing |first=David William |last=Foster |publisher=University of Texas Press |isbn=0-2927-2501-9] Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis [ [ Jackie Under My Skin: Interpreting an Icon] ; Wayne Koestenbaum; Forth Estate; 1996] and Imelda Marcos. Roger Casement, a British civil rights activist, became a gay icon of the early twentieth century. [Citation | last1 = Lewis | first1 = Brian | title= The Queer Life and Afterlife of Roger Casement | journal = Journal of the History of Sexuality | volume = 14 | issue = 4 | pages = 363–82 | publisher = HW Wilson| location = | date = 2005 | year = 2005 | url = | doi = 10.1353/sex.2006.0040] Civil rights activist Coretta Scott King was held in high regard among members of the gay community for her involvement in the Gay Rights Movement. During her life time, she routinely equated the goals of the Civil Rights Movement, led by her husband Martin Luther King Jr., with the that of LGBT activism.

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently gained gay icon status after stripping off his shirt and striking several virile poses during a holiday in the Siberian mountains [ [ Putin the Gay Icon] ; retrieved on 2007-10-14] These individuals have been lionized for their strength, style, compassion, or work for equal rights. An ironic icon is Anita Bryant, as her work has opposed homosexuality.cite web |last=Steele |first=Bruce C. |title=Milestones |publisher="The Advocate" |date=2002-11-12 |url= |accessdate=2008-07-09] During the 1970s, Bryant led a nation campaign called "Save Our Children", in which she equated homosexuality with child molestation and insisted homosexuals cannot reproduce and therefore must "recruit" or "convert" people to their lifestyle.cite book |last=Sagert |first=Kelly Boyer |title=The 1970s |publisher=Greenwood Publishing Group |date=2007 |pages=34 |url= |isbn=0313339198] California State Senator John V Briggs applauded Bryant's work as a "national, religious crusade [and] courageous stand to protect American children from blatant homosexuality". However, as Bruce C. Steele of "The Advocate" documented, Bryant's crusade against the Gay Rights Movement, in fact, made her synonymous with it.

According to John Coppola, exhibit curator and former head of exhibits at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., "In a completely unintended way, Anita Bryant was about the best thing to happen to the gay rights movement...She and her cohorts were so over the top that it just completely galvanized the gay rights movement".cite web |title=Celebrating Anita Bryant: The Mother of Gay Rights |publisher="Pensito Review" |date=2007-07-04 |url= |accessdate=2008-07-14] The 30th anniversary of Bryant's campaign against LGBT rights has been commemorated at the Stonewall Library & Archives, with executive director Jack Rutland dubbing her "The Mother of Gay Rights".

Fictional examples

Several fictional characters have also been regarded as gay icons. Bugs Bunny, a fictional anthropomorphic rabbit appearing in animation by Warner Bros. Cartoons during the Golden Age of American animation—dubbed the greatest cartoon character of all time by "TV Guide"—has been declared a "queer cultural icon [and] parodic diva" due to his "cross-dressing antics" and camp appeal. [cite news|title=Bugs Bunny tops greatest cartoon characters list|url=|publisher=CNN|date=2002-07-30|accessdate=2008-02-27] [cite book |last=Murray |first=Raymond |title=Images in the Dark: An Encyclopedia of Gay and Lesbian Film and Video |publisher=TLA Publications |date=1994 |pages=455 |url= |isbn=1880707012] [cite book |last=McGowan |first=Kate |title=The Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory: 1995 |publisher=Blackwell Publishing |date=1998 |pages=129 |url= |isbn=0631208968]

Homosexual interpretations of Batman and the original Robin Dick Grayson have been an interest in cultural and academic study, due primarily to psychologist Fredric Wertham's "Seduction of the Innocent" (1954).cite book |last=Daniels |first=Les |coauthors=Chip Kidd |title=Batman: The Complete History |publisher=Chronicle Books |date=2004 |pages=69 |url= |isbn=0811842320] In the mid-1950s, Werthman led a national campaign against comic books, convincing Americans that they were responsible for corrupting children and encouraging them to engage in acts of sex and violence. In relation to Batman and Robin, Wertham asserted "the Batman type of story helps to fixate homoerotic tendencies by suggesting the form of an adolescent-with-adult or Ganymede-Zeus type of love-relationship".cite book |last=Bosmajian |first=Haig A. |title=Burning Books |publisher=McFarland |date=2006 |pages=202 |url= |isbn=0786422084] In "Containing America: Cultural Production and Consumption in Fifties America", authors Nathan Abrams and Julie Hughes point out that homosexual interpretations of Batman and Robin existed prior to Wertham's "Seduction of the Innocent".cite book |last=Abrams |first=Nathan |coauthors=Julie Hughes|title=Containing America: Cultural Production and Consumption in Fifties America |publisher=Continuum InternationalPublishing Group |date=2005 |pages=163 |url= |isbn=1902459067] Wertham claimed his book was, in fact, prompted by the earlier research of a Californian psychiatrist.

Superman has also become a gay icon.cite web |url= |title=Superman: Gay Icon? Christ Figure? |work=CBS news |date=2006-06-16 |accessdate=2007-08-01]

One of the TV series that appeals most to LGBT culture is the 1960s sitcom "Bewitched". Aside from the campy characterizations, it contained two gay cast members (Dick Sargent and Paul Lynde). Star Elizabeth Montgomery was grand marshall at a Los Angeles gay pride parade in the early 1990s.


Many celebrities have responded positively to being regarded as gay icons. Several have noted the loyalty of their gay fans; Eartha Kitt, Janet Jackson, Joan Rivers, and Cher credited gay fans with keeping them going at times when their careers had faltered.cite book |last=Rutledge |first=Leigh W. |title=The Gay Book of Lists, 3rd Edition |publisher=Alyson Publications |year=2003 |location=Los Angeles, CA |pages=130–132 |isbn=1-55583-7409] Kylie Minogue has acknowledged the perception of her as a gay icon and has performed at such events as the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Asked to explain the reason for her large gay fanbase Minogue replied, "It's always difficult for me to give the definitive answer because I don't have it. My gay audience has been with me from the beginning... they kind of adopted me." She noted that she differed from many gay icons who were seen as tragic figures, with the comment, "I've had a lot of tragic hairdos and outfits. I think that makes up for it!"cite web |last=Ives |first=Brian |coauthors=Bottomley, C. |title=Kylie Minogue: Disco's Thin White Dame | |date=2004-02-24 |accessdate=2007-01-21 |url=]

Former wife of shamed televangelist Jim Bakker, Tammy Faye Messner (an unlikely gay icon who was called "the ultimate drag queen")cite news |last=Wilson-Smith |first=Anthony |title=Tammy Faye's Fab Fan Club |work=Maclean's |pages=7 |date=2000-05-22] —said in her last interview with Larry King that, "When I went - when we lost everything, it was the gay people that came to my rescue, and I will always love them for that."cite news |last=Rabey |first=Steve |title=Tammy Faye, gay icon |work=Christianity Today |pages=85-86 |date=2000-10-02]

Others have been more ambivalent. Mae West, a gay icon from the early days of her career, supported gay rights but bristled when her performance style was referred to as camp.cite book |last=Watts |first=Jill |title=Mae West: An Icon in Black and White |publisher=Oxford University Press, USA |year=2001 |location=New York |pages=300 |isbn=0-19-510547-8 ] Judy Garland gained iconic status in part by acknowledging gay fans' existence at a time when few would, but her attitude toward her gay following was ambiguous.cite news |last=Gross |first=Michael Joseph |title=The Queen is Dead |work=The Atlantic Monthly |pages=62-69 |date=August, 2000 |url=]

Madonna has acknowledged and embraced her gay following throughout her career, she even made several references to the gay community in her songs or performances, and performed at several gay clubs. She has declared in interviews that some of her best friends are gay and that she adores gays and refers to herself as "the biggest gay icon of all times."cite web |url= |title=Madonna: ‘I hope I’m still a gay icon’ | |date=2005-10-26 |accessdate=2007-08-01]

See also

* LGBT culture
* New Queer Cinema
* Queer Theory
* Judy Garland as gay icon
* Madonna as gay icon
* Janet Jackson as gay icon
* Cher as a gay icon



* "Frightening the Horses: Gay Icons of the Cinema", Eric Braun (2002). ISBN 1-903111-10-2
* "20th Century Icons-Gay", Graham Norton (2001). ISBN 1-899791-77-9
* "Gay histories and cultures", George E. Haggerty (2000). ISBN 0-8153-1880-4
* "The Culture of Queers", Richard Dyer (2002). ISBN 0-415-22376-8

External links

* [ GLBT Historical Society]
* [ Gay men and women should just be themselves]
* [ Christina up close]
* [ Sophie Morris. "From the tragic to the bland" // New Statesman, 1 August, 2005]
* [ John Howard. "Pink doesn't mean fluffy" // Independent, The (London), 4 August, 2005]

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