Gay Iconography | Tegan and Sara

Gay Iconography: Tegan and Sara Bring LGBT Visibility 'Closer' To Pop


When actress Ellen Page made headlines coming out earlier this year, she name-dropped a few notable out celebrities, including football star Michael Sam and recent Time Magazine covergirl Laverne Cox. While those names are familiar (especially to readers of this blog), she also gave a shout-out to musicians Tegan and Sara Quin.

They may not have the name recognition as the traditional spate of gay icons, but Tegan and Sara have been providing the soundtrack to many an awkward adolescence since the release of their official debut full-length album in 1999. The lesbian twin sisters have spoken openly about their sexuality while building a career on expertly-crafted songs ranging from folk to rock to pop.

“As a political person who makes popular music that has nothing to do with politics,” Sara told The Advocate last year, “I think it’s important to be visible and have my politics be visible in appropriate ways offstage. I don’t want to make a political record, but I’m going to leave a political record offstage.”

Though certainly not as widely celebrated in the gay community as classic Judys or Madonnas, the Sisters Quin have become champions for many indie, oddball LGBT youth. The band’s signature humor, positivity and vulnerable songwriting keeps growing their fanbase as their profile continues to rise.

Enjoy some of our favorite Tegan and Sara tunes and clips, AFTER THE JUMP ...


Tegan and Sara grew up in Canada at a time when Ani DiFranco, Melissa Etheridge and k.d. lang were releasing some of their most influential music. In the video above, they speak about coming to terms with their sexuality and why it was so important for them to be out artists. Sara says: “I choose to be a visible minority every day. I come out every day. I actively look for ways now to talk about who I am because I want to live as openly as I can, but I also want to inspire those who... living and being themselves is a tremendous effort and takes a tremendous amount of courage.”


The band’s earlier work leaned much more toward DiFranco-influenced folk. See them play "My Number" from their album This Business of Art on David Letterman in 2000, above.


By the time they released their 2009 album Sainthood, they seemed to solidify a shift to a more indie-rock vibe. Though songs like “Northshore” highlighted some of their punk roots, others like “Alligator” (above) began to hint at more pop material to come.


The band’s latest album, Heartthrob, fully embraced pop music. Lead single “Closer” (above) is a quintessential earworm (and even got the Glee treatment). The album enjoyed critical and commercial success, and it scored the band an opening slot on Katy Perry’s North American tour.


Part of what’s endeared Tegan and Sara to fans is their live act. The sisters seemingly endless amount of tours feature excellent live performances, but also the kind of banter that could only be provided by twin sisters. The clip above shows a bit of the between-song chatter the sisters share, as well as ballad “Love They Say.” As Tegan tells the crowd: “This song is only for gay people!”

Do you prefer Tegan and Sara's folk material or the more recent pop songs?

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  1. These lovelies are a sweet force, good tunes, words, wit...another rockin' Canadian contribution to us all.

    Posted by: UFFDA | Jun 21, 2014 12:32:59 PM

  2. I prefer everything Tegan and Sara do. They are fantastic. Personally, I wouldn't call them 'gay icons', but I understand that this column uses a looser definition of icon.

    Posted by: John | Jun 21, 2014 1:30:49 PM

  3. How old are you, Bobby? 19? I don't mean to troll you - That's reserved for the Occupy The Disco clowns.

    However, do you think you could actually pick real icons instead of perhaps the people whom have the potential to be?

    Don't get me wrong, I really like Tegan & Sara and Beth Ditto but they're no where near gay music icons as Bob Mould, Freddie, Melissa Etheridge, KD Lang, and Rob Halford whom paved the way for Beth T&S, et al.

    Posted by: Adam L | Jun 21, 2014 2:19:20 PM

  4. Tegan and Sara's smart, sweet, pop songs helped me make it out of my teen years alive, and as an adult their music continues to resonate with me.

    I really adore these girls and I'm so pleased that after more then a decade of releasing great records they are finally getting the attention they deserve.

    I don't know if they are gay icons yet, but they are certainly people every young gay person should look up to.

    Posted by: Thomas | Jun 21, 2014 3:40:44 PM

  5. Not yet.

    Posted by: Lazycrockett | Jun 21, 2014 5:09:24 PM

  6. These two have greater name recognition than either Cox or Sam in Canada. As they should.

    Posted by: Knock | Jun 22, 2014 2:27:58 AM

  7. Please, never, ever try to compare Judy with Madonna, as there is NO comparison. Although I'm rather amused that Madonna has now been placed in a category that could make her somewhere between 55 and 92 years old. That's all, couldn't get past the first sentence…

    Posted by: tinkerbelle | Jun 22, 2014 6:27:54 AM

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