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 ...
This week, Justin Timberlake announced on his website that his 20/20 Experience World Tour is headed to Russia--St. Petersburg and Moscow, to be exact--in 2014, with tickets going on sale this Saturday. Since the performances in Russia will mark Timberlake's first time performing in the country, people are starting to ask, essentially, WWJD--what will Justin do? US News reports:
"Obviously our hope is that Justin will use his time in Russia as an opportunity to highlight and expose the horrible situation that the LGBT [community is] facing there," says Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Charles Joughin. Recent legislation passed by the Kremlin includes the prohibition of "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" and a ban of the adoption of Russian children by same-sex couples abroad and unmarried individuals in countries where same-sex marriage is legal.
Cher recently revealed she had been asked to perform at 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi in February, but turned down the offer because of the crackdown. Elton John, meanwhile, has vowed to go on with his concerts in Russia next month, despite boycott threats, being labeled "the devil's work" by a Russian Islamic leader, and calls that John wear a traditional Cossack uniform rather than his usual costume, which one group suggested was "homosexual propaganda."
The problem, as HRC's Joughin points out, is that Russia's anti-gay laws are so vague--and so all-encompassing--that nobody really knows exactly what's illegal. "It could be that tweeting, 'I support LGBT equality,' while you're in Russia could violate the law," Joughin told US News.
Of course, Timberlake's not the kind of gay icon that Cher or Elton John are, but he has voiced his support for LGBT rights in the past. More importantly, though, he represents--and can speak to--a younger generation. And in today's Russia, that generation could use all the pro-LGBT sentiment it can get.
Cher accepted a "Legend Award" from the UK's Attitude magazine over the weekend.
She joked that "of course" the first gay men she knew were hairdressers when she was a child and her mother had them over, adding that she didn't know what "gay" meant at the time:
"In the beginning, I actually thought that 'gay' was code for 'fun'.”
Added Cher: "Gay men especially...they either love you or they don't even notice that you're on the planet. And I think what they like — I think what you guys like — is you like a strong woman that's having a breakdown constantly, and that certainly is me. Judy Garland's got nothing on me."
Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...
Cher has released a romantic and baroque lyric video for the track "I Hope You Find It." A cover of a Miley Cyrus song from the movie "The Last Song," the lyrics describe the singer's loving, caring hopes for someone whose gone away.
"I Hope You Find It" is the second single from Cher's new album, "Closer to the Truth," which dropped on Tuesday. She premiered the song on Monday's Today show after riding in on an NYPD motorcycle.
Watch the lyric video, AFTER THE JUMP...