The term “gay icon” is thrown around constantly in the entertainment world. Cher and Madonna come to mind for their strong connection to their gay fans. Their chart-topping dance pop pushed the boundaries of sexuality and gave listeners a haven for expression.
In an increasingly accepting world, the term gay icon is becoming less about activism and more about fan base. The artists are more often than not making pop music, though there are exceptions like Against Me! and their punk songs about gender dysphoria. The gay icon is transient, with different parts of the community fawning over different pop musicians. The major artists considered. considered gay icons in recent years including Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Lana Del Rey, Marina and the Diamonds and Lady Gaga. The last of these performers is perhaps the most embracing of her title of gay icon.
Openly bisexual, Lady Gaga, who attended the Tisch School of the Arts for drama prior to dropping out to pursue music, is known for her philanthropy and political forwardness. She even started the Born This Way Foundation for empowering youth to be more accepting and raise money for charities that benefit LGBTQ teenagers.
As of late, Gaga has been letting the spotlight shine on other artists while she focuses on rebranding herself as a jazz artist. Despite not being outright involved in activism recently, she is still considered a prominent gay icon due to the size of her LGBTQ fanbase. Even though she is not currently involved in activism, she took her world tour to Russia as a form of subversion. Interestingly enough, feminist punk band Pussy Riot’s pro-gay protest in the Moscow Cathedral did not garner the band much of a gay following.
Whether outright standing up for the LGBTQ community in an active way or garnering approval from their target audience, several factors go into giving an artist the title of a gay icon. Nonetheless, the fact remains that the gay community is a powerful driving force in music and is showing no signs of slowing down.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, April 9 print edition. Email E.R. Pulgar at [email protected]