an individual, typically a celebrity or famous person, who is held in high regard and/or loved by the gay community. Gay icons aren’t necessarily Queer themselves, in fact, many gay icons are heterosexual and cisgender – but typically, are strong allies (although too, many gay icons only become strong allies after being adopted by as gay icons).
There is no specific set of requirements for a celebrity to become a gay icon; some have been adopted as icons due to their flamboyant or camp style (e.g. Cher, the Spice Girls), or, on the other end, butch style (e.g. k.d. Lang, James Dean) others for singing songs in which the Queer community can adopt (e.g. Lady Gaga’s Poker Face), even if the songs aren’t specifically about Queer sexuality (e.g. Donna Summer’s I’m Coming Out), and songs that have been consistently popular in gay venues.
Similarly across other areas of the entertainment industry, some celebrities have achieved gay icon status for being in films that suggest or can be considered metaphors (however loosely) for Queer themes, love, etc.; Judy Garland is perhaps one of the most famous examples of achieving gay icon status, due to her appearance in The Wizard of Oz.
Other icons, such as German actress Marlene Dietrich achieved gay icon status due to their own sexuality (Dietrich was a bisexual), but also their sense of style – Dietrich was a pioneer in breaking gender norms with her presentation: one of Dietrich’s most famous and celebrated looks is her in a tuxedo and top-hat, which was revolutionary at the time.
Some times, people achieve gay icon status merely for living lives that have relatable experiences to the Queer journey: typically those whose lives have been tragic.
Not at all gay icons embrace the label or status, indeed, some have pushed back against it or have been marred in controversy since (e.g. Donna Summer).
Originally published: 11th December, 2020
Last modified: December 11, 2020