Gay Icons

Tony Guadagnino

Tony Guadagnino is a marketing consultant. Located in New Jersey, his clients are based across the country, focusing on social media to build their presence on the internet. He studied creative writing in college and is currently working his first novel on the subject of bullying. He lives with his partner Mark.

Gay Icons — what makes someone a gay icon? Nobody pulls a celebrity’s name out of thin air and declares “THEY’RE A GAY ICON.” It just happens. But how? There really isn’t a Rule Book to qualify as a gay icon. I find it fascinating how celebrities become an Icon in the LGBT community.

If Noah Webster had to create a definition, my guess is that it would probably read: someone in the public community who embraced the LGBT Community. Their qualities include glamour, flamboyance, strength, and attitude.

While there have been some dignified men labeled a Gay Icon, most of them are females who have a “DIVA” quality within them. And while it seems that the term “Gay Icon” began within the past few decades, they can actually be traced way back. Arguably, the first gay icon may have been Saint Sebastian. Who is he? He is a Christian saint and martyr, mostly identified by his strong and shirtless physique. Drawings and paintings of him always depict him with arrows shot into his bare chest; however, it is believed that he died by clubbing. Yet his depictions in the art world are said to exemplify the definition of a homosexual — an erotic vision of a man, feeling the torture of the being a closet case (symbolized by the arrows).

NOTE TO READER: Now is the time to pause and google pics of Saint Sebastian. I’ll wait for you to return.

Welcome Back! If I were to stay within the past 100 years, one of the first Gay Icons is Dorothy Parker. Poet and writer of the 1930s and 40s, Parker had a large following in the gay community. Leaving an unhappy home at the age of 20, she became an editorial assistant for Vogue and later became a writer for Vanity Fair. Five years later, after being fired for writing articles that had criticized Hollywood producers, she went to the newly created The New Yorker, where she developed an audience for humorous poems. She later became a playwright and movie writer. She was a co-author of the very first version (1937) of the movie A STAR IS BORN. She married her co-author Alan Campbell who was bisexual and labeled (by Dorothy) that he was “queer as a Billy goat.” She remained a satirical writer and prominent figure in the literary world until her death in 1967. (Interesting fact: when she died, she left her entire estate to Martin Luther King Jr.)

Now, when people reference “friend of Dorothy” as a gay person, we know that nobody is talking about Dorothy Parker. It references DOROTHY GALE — the main character of The Wizard of Oz. Although the book was written by L. Frank Baum in 1900, it was 1939 when the iconic movie was released. (Making it 80 this year.) Do you think it references the movie? The answer is MAYBE!

Have you ever read The Road to Oz? It’s the fifth installment in the Wonderful World of Oz collection. In it, there is a scene when Dorothy (who has returned to Oz) runs into Polychrome (a character in the book). The following exchange takes place:

P: “You have some queer friends, Dorothy.”

D: “The queerness doesn’t matter, so long as they’re friends.”

Some believe this is where the “friends of Dorothy” term originated. Others believe it was from the movie. Not only is the star of the movie is Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale from the Wizard of Ozthe quintessential Gay Icon, but there are gay references throughout the movie, like when the Cowardly lion sings “I’m afraid there’s no denyin’, I’m just a dandy lion.”

Regardless of its origin, the phrase dates back to the 1940s when homosexuality was illegal. Men would secretly meet by asking “are you a friend of Dorothy?” without the heterosexual world knowing what it means.

This topic of Gay Icon is a very large topic to discuss, so fortunately, my editor has allowed me to spread this topic over the next few issues. Check out next month’s article, and I’ll discuss some more Gay Icons.


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