In honor of Gay Pride Day this past Sunday, I’ve compiled a list of 10 awesome people who currently are or should be gay icons in the LGBT community, but for some reason are not revered at a Judy Garland or Streisand level. Thus, I demand a recount to include the following people.
And a-gay we go!!:
1. Delta Burke
I seriously do not understand why this woman, aka Suzanne Sugarbaker of Designing Women, is not at Cher-level status. Between her Miss America pageant running, outlandish Southern fried diva tantrums, battles with her weight (and diabetes!), and those million dollar cheekbones, I say, she’s the recipe for a perfect drag performance. Plus, she’s currently starring as Truvy in the Broadway production of Steel Magnolias. SERIOUSLY!!?!? Is she even REAL?
Her fabulousness can be summed up in one phrase: NO ONE. CROSSES. A SUGARBAKER.
2. Estelle Getty
What can I say about the one and only Sophia Petrillo that hasn’t already been said? She has more moxie in her 4’11″ ft frame than Celine Dion could ever hope to contain. Before her death, she’d been in show business (starting in fucking VAUDEVILLE!) for about FIFTY years.
If you ever encounter a situation in which all your roommates (except you) get tickets to see Burt Reynolds, land in jail suddenly because they are somehow mistaken for prostitutes, thereby leaving all their tickets to you but you decide to leave them in jail to teach them a lesson, just think: What Would Sophia Do? It would probably be something along the lines of this
“You’ll get over it, Dorothy. And if you don’t, who cares?! I’m on my way to see Burt Reynolds!” [Sophia walks out of the police station triumphantly clutching the tickets in her hand, while Rose, Blanche and Dorothy cry out to her from their cell]
Clearly, this woman has her priorities straight…or GAY!!! Am i right? Am I right??
3. Lily Tomlin
Most people don’t even know or think about Lily Tomlin being a lesbian, having oficiallly come out to the media in 2001. Though, it’s not as though she was in the closet the entire time. In fact, I think it was sort of awesome that she was cheeky about it, though never really went to great lengths to hide at all.
In addition to her amazing movie and comedy career, Tomlin has been involved in a number of feminist and gay friendly film productions. In her 1975 album Modern Scream, she poked fun at straight actors who make a point of distancing themselves from their homosexual characters. Answering the pseudo-interview question, “How did it feel to play a heterosexual?” she replied: “I’ve seen these women all my life, I know how they walk, I know how they talk…”
4. Judith Butler
If there is ever a Queer Studies superstar celebrity of the past 20 years, it is definitely Judith Butler. Her first book, Gender Trouble, she examines the works of, among others, Simone de Beauvoir, Jacques Lacan, Luce Irigaray, Monique Wittig, Jacques Derrida, and, Michel Foucault. The book has enjoyed such widespread popularity outside of traditional academic circles, that it even inspired an intellectual fanzine called Judy!. For REALS!!
I mean, she fucking discovered gender performativity, y’all! Need I say more? Well, I probably do…it’s kind of hard to write about her without launching into an essay. But that’s why she’s so damn AWESOME!
5. Jake Gyllenhall & Heath Ledger
Though Heath Ledger’s untimely death and role as the Joker in The Dark Knight have unfortunately overshadowed his amazing performance in Brokeback Mountain, I will always remember him most because of his portrayal of Ennis Delmar. And who could forget the ever-adorable Jack “Nasty”? I remember seeing the preview for this movie, and being over the moon that FINALLY, my obsessions with cowboys and hot men have all come together in one story about secret gay love!
6. Angela Davis
I don’t think I really need to explain how much of a subversive badass you have to be to become the third woman EVER to appear on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list AND to have John Lennon & Yoko Ono write a song about you.
In 1997, she came out in Out magazine as a lesbian, has spent her entire professional career exploring the intersections of race, sex, and class, and continues to be relevant as a professor at UC Santa Cruz (Stuart‘s almamater!) Do yourself a favor, and pick up a copy of Women, Race, and Class– a collection of her essays that definitively prove that she is THE SHIT.
7. Marlon Brando
Give it up for the butchiest butch to ever butch!! Without him, it wouldn’t be nearly as hot to subvert gender norms! He, along with my other favorite Butchy McButcherson, James Dean, personify the quintessential troubled masculine angsty archetype. Would Chloe Sevigny have looked as hot in If These Walls Could Talk 2 without Brando as a reference? I rest my case.
8. Margaret Cho
I literally wrote a college paper on what a genius she is at using comedy to expose the ridiculousness of homophobia and misogyny. One of my all-time favorite lines of hers is (in the context of a story about her first time with a woman): “I was like, Am I gay? Am I straight? And I realized…I’m just slutty. Where’s my parade?”
Seriously…where is our parade?
9. Josephine Baker
Baker was the first African American to star in a major motion picture, was incredibly active with the NAACP and the American Civil Rights movement, and was called “..the most sensational woman anyone ever saw” by Ernest “Macho Man” Savage…err….Hemingway. Also, Baker was probably the first person to perform with a pet cheetah named Chiquita, who wore a diamond-studded collar. I’m pretty sure that’s the gayest thing I’ve ever heard!
Long story short, she’s like worth about 200 gazillion Beyonces.
10. Lou Reed
Lou Reed might be the only human male-identified-male to pull off being, essentially, the ultimate height of tough guy-type masculinity AND openly bisexual. If you want to hear amazing anecdotes about Lou Reed’s varied dating history and have your mind blown on a number of levels, check out Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk. He might be the ultimate personification of New York City.