What Makes a Gay Icon?

Just curious.

From what I gather, gay icons are usually female and overtly glamorous, and have to have suffered romantically, eg Marilyn, Princess Diana, Judy Garland, etc. Are there any other prerequisites? What would make someone ineligible for the title? And what exactly do these women do for gay men?

Also, feel free to nominate the No. 1 gay icon of all time, and to suggest future candidates.

Ok this is just jst my opinion and holds no factual basis in the real world as far as I know. Take it as you see it and with a grain of salt. I am also not intending to offend anyone and if I do I apologize.

I really wonder if the people that idolize “gay” icons are really gay per se. I am transgendered and I have idolized those women that I would want to be/look like. But that goes for a lot of women I see(magazines and such). When I started doing research into cross dressing, I was amazed(sorry no cite) that a majority of crossdressing men are heterosexual and not homosexual(made me feel a little better about my self). I think that crossdressing being a “gay” thing is really unfair. Also notice that I said crossdressing men because when a woman crossdress(pants?) is it socially acceptable but when a man crossdress(dresses) he is ridiculed. Where is the equal rights in that?(rhetorical.question and sorry if this looks like a mini-rant :stuck_out_tongue: ) Ok I digress, I guess a couple of idols I have are the Olsen twins and Nicole Richie(sp?) who would not want to have their lives. Ok Paris Hilton too. :smiley:

So to sum up, my belief is that the reason that the women are idolized is because the are the repersentitive of what/who the worshiper wants to be like. Therefore, as far as qualifications, it would be on an individual basis and the most popular ones are the ones you always here about.

Yet another disclaimer: I post this with no intention of offending anyone and want people to know that this is solely my opinion.

Season 4 of AbFab has Eddie talking about how Twiggy is a “gay icon.” I watched that thinking it meant Twiggy is gay. ??? I guess it just means that gay people like her?

The standard explanation is that gay men started idolizing them because they represented images of non-male power. Since gay men were viewed as less-than-men, identification with powerful female images was easier to reconcile with their deviating sexuality. Add to that the rise of fan magazines (and later gossip/scandal sheets like Confidential) detailing the personal lives and tragedies many of these women faced, which mirrored the drama some gay men had in their own lives, and the identification becomes stronger.

Diva worship kind of faded starting in the mid-70s with the decline of disco and the rise of clone culture and continued to fade through the 80s (the late drag legend Charles Pierce observed that there weren’t any new female stars worth impersonating, variously offering Phoebe Cates, Jill Clayburgh and Tori Spelling as evidence), with upkicks coming with the rise of Madonna.

Now VH1 does specials and declares pretty much any random singer who can hold an ear-piercing high note for 8 seconds a “diva” (yes I am looking at you Celine Dion) and the concept has been cheapened.

I think a lot of diva worship these days is tinged with irony. It’s less about direct identification with the diva and more about admiration of their ballsiness.

My nominee for #1 gay icon of all time is Judy Garland. The reasons why would fill a book, in fact have filled several which reside on my bookshelves. She was IMHO the best female entertainer ever, if not simply the best entertainer period. Her achievements would be amazing without the personal swamps and minefields she navigated throughout her life. Taking those into consideration, her acheivements were, with no exaggeration, the stuff of legend.

One person I would strike from the list is Princess Diana (unless you mean Wonder Woman of course, in which case you go!). She wore nice clothes and she held AIDS babies when other famous people didn’t. That’s about it from her on the gay front. No gay icon she.

Maybe it’s a regional thing, but I’d strike Marilyn Monroe from the OP’s list and add Bette Davis, Bette Midler, Barbara Streisand and Judy’s daughter Liza. Oddly enough, Rosie O’Donnell & ellen don’t make the cut - but I have no clue as to why.

I think it’s because gay men are more inclined to idolize the glamourous women. I don’t know who gay women idolize.

I can’t imagine anyone, gay or straight, idolizing Rosie. She’s absolutely awful.

Now that you mention it, that’s true. How could I have forgotten Cher and Madonna.

Why, me - of course :eek:

The only recent gay icon I can think of would be Margaret Cho, though I haven’t seen any drag queens performing as her. (Though that would fucking rock.)

As for internationally, I can mention Mylène Farmer in France and Quebec, and Marta Sánchez in Spain.

Judging by this, I’d say it was the flag.

Also depends on which country.

Marlene Dietrich could be considered a Gay icon in Germany and Austria and maybe even Switzerland and France.

Edith Piaf probably in France.

It is hard to nail down exactly what makes someone a Gay icon, although otto’s comments were pretty much on the mark.

And odaran, I truly hope I am not alive to see the Olsen twins become Gay icons…::shudder::

There are certainly Dietrich and Piaf queens in the US. I love Dietrich. Never warmed to Piaf.

There’s a hilarious bit in the movie Parting Glances with this horrible pretentious Old Queen at a party who tells an artist that he’ll buy one of her paintings as long as she puts Edith Piaf in it somewhere. OQ’s sycophantic sidekicks chirps up with “Douglas just adooooooores Piaf” and everyone around them just sort of stares in mild disbelief.

Q. What makes a gay icon?

A. An Eastern Orthodox artist with same-sex attraction. :slight_smile:

Thanks for the replies, folks.

The non-male power theory makes a lot of sense, and it was interesting to hear the transgendered perspective, but it’s still difficult to pinpoint why particular women appeal rather than others.

Bette Davis I can see (actually I’m a massive fan myself, though straight and female), and Dietrich, and most of the others mentioned (except the Olsen twins…did I really read that?!?). But if it’s power, why not Margaret Thatcher or Condoleeza Rice, for instance? Thatcher had power and appealed to plenty of men (weird, I know), but I don’t think she was ever a gay icon.

So, we’ve got glamour, power, a hint of suffering/tragic history. Maybe I’d add a sense of irony, or self-parody. The stars mentioned all have an exaggerated personal style, but also seem always to be on the verge of sending themselves up, or bursting out laughing. This would explain why the more humourless stars/power figures don’t appeal.

Gay women? Can’t think of any male lesbian icons. My lesbian friends all seem to idolise female tennis players…

Neither Thatcher nor Rice are glamourous. I can’t think of a concept more antonymous to “glamourous” than “Thatcher.”

Agreed - my point was that female power alone does not make an icon, they must also be beautiful, tragic, and, perhaps, slightly witty.