The phrase "gay icon" gets tossed around a lot, but what does that really mean? Welcome to Gay Iconography, a new feature where we present a proposed iconic figure or character and then ask you to weigh in with your thoughts.
I started thinking about this feature back in June last year when I first read that Cher would be headlining New York City's Pride Dance On the Pier. Now, while of course I appreciated Cher and could easily sing along to many of her hits, I didn't really consider myself a "Cher person," per se. I didn't own any albums, I couldn't recite her IMDB page from memory and I can barely do a decent approximation of that thing she does with her tongue.
Still, Cher performing on the pier called to me like a big, gay siren song. I couldn't resist the urge to buy tickets. Of course I wouldn't pass up the opportunity to see an icon, especially surrounded by my people.
That's what got me thinking. What is it about these (mostly straight, mostly white) female figures that resonates so strongly with gay men? It's obvious why we would laud figures like Harvey Milk and Bayard Rustin; it's less immediately clear why we gravitate toward the likes of Cher, Bette and Barbra. Then there's a whole slew of people who don't necessarily fit the same Judy/Liza/Cher mold, but are adored by the gay community anyway. Who gets to decide the definition of gay icon?
Well, we do. After all, our interest in these people says just as much (if not more) about us than it does about them. These are conversation starters, and it's been amazing to see some really interesting discussion take place in the comments.
So, in that spirit, let's start the new year talking about the one who first inspired this feature, someone that Liza Minnelli once said was a bigger icon than Barbra Streisand and herself. Let's talk about Cher.
Get in the spirit with just a few Cher clips, AFTER THE JUMP ...