How Not to Become a Gay Icon

Updated: Dec 12, 2015 12:35
The Bay's best newsletter for underground events & news


image from Billboard

Shortly after graduating college, I found myself in an “identity crisis.”  I realized that I had spent the last four years of my life writing analytical essays about “thingness” or whatever other words I could add -ness to the end of, and over-using the word “utterly” to make myself sound scholarly. Well, turned out my studies were utterly useless, the job market was utter shit, and I was an utterly broke and utterly depressed wreck.  My life was like that movie Tiny Furniture, except I wished that my mom had a swanky TriBeCa loft that I could steal wine from when she wasn’t home, and my sex life wasn’t even active enough for doggy-style drain piping (um, you’ll have to see the movie for that one). Instead, I was in San Francisco, struggling to get by, and  immediately surrounded by men who would have liked me better if I had a wee-wee.  So, in an effort to expand my social circle, get free drinks, and (so I thought at the time) achieve my true calling in this world, I did what any lonely and depressed weirdo with a love of glitter eyeshadow would do:  I attempted to become a Gay Icon.

What do I mean by “Gay Icon,” you ask?  I mean a Gaga, a Liza, or a Babs.  A Cher, or– for the eccentric types– a Tilda.  I mean a sassy, typically unconventionally attractive, talented diva that is adored by homosexual men far-and-wide.  The only problem was that I can sing and act about as well as I can grow a wee-wee, which is to say: not at all.  So I had to rely on my wit alone, which I guess made me more like a less-obnoxious Kathy Griffin than anything.  But instead of taking to the stage (the idea of displaying my oily T-zone to a “live studio audience” was enough to send me into a fit of the shakies/mad face-scrubbing rage), I pursued the title of “Funny Lady Gay Icon” the way I knew best: I  threw on my wackiest ensembles, frequented the gay bars, and bestowed my humorous anecdotes upon smaller, less anxiety-inducing groups.

Before I tell you how my brush with gay iconicity both began and ended (spolier alert: like a hormonally-charged junior prom date, it burned hot and fast, and ended in vomiting), lemme shout something from the rooftops: anyone attempting to be  Gay Icon should steer clear of fag haggery.  Fag hags are called “hags” for a reason– much like their cousins, spinsters, fag hags are sad and desperate, and use gay men as boyfriend substitutes/ego boosters who assure them that no, those tube socks don’t make their calves look chunky.  And while I was sad (that I could no longer use “utterly” without sounding like an ass), and desperate (for a job that didn’t make my soul sore), and without a boyfriend (seemed like the all of the guys  I knew in SF were gay or 42, and I already had too many daddy issues to be dating someone closeted or with crow’s feet), I wasn’t looking for reassurance in the form of a  badly stereotyped wrist-flicking shopping buddy.  I was just looking to let loose and freely express myself after years of forced scholarliness, and the gay bars of San Francisco seemed like the most logical place to let my freak flag fly.

But the pressures of being a gay icon proved to be harder to handle than I thought.  In the beginning, being a wannabe Queen of the Castro seemed easy enough: I joined my friends at gay happy hours, told jokes, dazzled with over-the-top ensembles, guzzled free and cheap beverages, and met lots of new people. I was hangin’ ten on the rainbow pipeline, and– cowabunga, dude!– it felt awesome.  That is, until I sucked down too many free G&Ts one night, and mid-sentence during a sassy tale, threw up on someone’s expensive shoes.  The barf kept coming, and wouldn’t stop– certainly freaky, but not exactly the type of freakiness I’d hoped to exhibit.


You did what?

A security guard kicked me out of the bar, and my best friend put me in a cab to his apartment where he remarked that he “could feel the vomit splashing all over his ankles.”  My memory of the rest of that night is spotty, but I do remember falling in my friend’s shower, and (lowest point of my entire life) throwing up on his bed.  The next morning, when I awoke at his apartment with no non-barf-encrusted clothes to wear to work, I was confronted with the tough choice between the only two lady outfits in his closet: his Tina Turner Halloween costume, and his Madame Zapple drag outfit.  I went with Madame Zapple, and ended up completing my work day in a shiny, hot pink dress with billowy sleeves that “hid [my friend’s] big arms.”  Funny thing is, about six people told me how nice I looked that day.  Not so funny thing is, my best friend also worked with me, and passed me a note later that day that read, “Do you remember kissing me profusely last night?”

So, living the life of a Gay Icon turned out to be too much for a nerd like me.  Fame (even F-list fame) takes a toll on people, and all divas have their hot mess moments, but I didn’t want to become the name on everybody’s lips for all of the wrong reasons.  I’m glad that I broke free from my post-grad funk and let my freak flag fly, but I’m not so sure that the guy whose shoes I ruined was as happy about my freak flaggin’.  That being said, I will offer this advice to any potential Gay-Icons-in-the-Making: wear as much glitter eyeshadow as possible, dance, and enjoy those amazing 2-for-1 drink specials (nothing beats happy hour in the Castro), but don’t get so wrapped up in the glory of Gay Iconicity that you turn into a barfer in the billowing sleeves of a drag queen.  The hot mess-ness of that display is utterly repulsive.

Like this article? Make sure to sign up for our mailing list so you never miss a goddamn thing!
Previous post

Dude, Go Visit The Little Lebowski Shop

Next post

Win Tickets to Sisterz of the Underground, A Night of All Female Hip-Hop Performances including Kid Sister

Carrie Laven - Pretty Penniless

Carrie Laven - Pretty Penniless

Carrie Laven is a natural-born storyteller from California, but she
lives in New York now. She likes dogs, nail art, and Mexican food,
but mostly she likes scoring sweet deals at thrift stores. She tends
to have a flair for the dramatic.


  1. Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap
    March 28, 2012 at 11:18 am

    This is fucking HILARIOUS!!

  2. Tiara Francis - NY Know-it-all
    March 28, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Boiler Room is my gay icon-status place of choice in NYC.

  3. Carrie Laven - Pretty Penniless
    March 29, 2012 at 7:34 am

    Thanks for the suggestion, Tiara! I’ll have to give it whirl, but pace myself– I just can’t keep up with gays, when it comes to partying!

  4. irene hawkins
    March 29, 2012 at 8:55 am

    Loved this. I am definitely going to peeking in to your website.

  5. Enrique Grijalva - Mr. Minimum Wage
    March 30, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Very informative. I can now add the term “Fag Hag” to my utterly limited vocabulary.

  6. […] such as: pretentious art snob, balloon animal sculptor, fashion industry bitch, belly dancer, and sloppy Gay Icon (nevermind– that hat actually dazzles atop my dome), before eventually coming full-circle and […]

  7. […] such as: pretentious art snob, balloon animal sculptor, fashion industry bitch, belly dancer, and sloppy Gay Icon (nevermind– that hat actually dazzles atop my dome), before eventually coming full-circle and […]

  8. […] such as: pretentious art snob, balloon animal sculptor, fashion industry bitch, belly dancer, and sloppy Gay Icon (nevermind– that hat actually dazzles atop my dome), before eventually coming full-circle and […]

  9. Derek_Franklin
    December 12, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    While I understand the writer was young when she jumped into the gay scene, I will say as a queer man in SF it’s a little irritating to see the same misunderstanding of ‘fabulous’ gay night life, especially for a lot of straight people to feel entitled to jump in and out of- as just one giant drinking binge. It’s a shallow assessment of a subculture and community, it kind of feels just like she thought of everything as a costume to put on and take off as she say fit, and it really reminds of all the ‘woo girls’ who act really entitled to spaces that aren’t theirs, and that no respect is given to a subculture that’s needed to exist for survival and yes celebration. Gay bars don’t exist for straight girls’ identity crises, and again I understand the naivete the writer is trying to communicate, but I’d much more prefer a follow up piece about the writer starting to understand and respect the nuances of the culture- the art, the performance, the non alcohol aspects that drive the culture of the scene, that don’t exist to be consumed by people who see it as just one giant glitter filled party to jump in and then out of when things got too messy for them.