For some time I have been of the opinion that any old celeb is declared a gay icon these days. It appears that all people have to do now is pander to the gay community, remove their clothes, camp it up and/or say they love the gays in order to be awarded gay icon status.

Then there are those who declare their interest in being gay icons (yes, I’m talking about you Katie Hopkins). No. Just no.

The world appears to be saturated with ‘gay icons’ in these modern times. I’ve heard people proclaiming the likes of Nick Jonas, Gemma Collins (who I had to Google because I had no idea who she was) and Dan Osborne as gay icons. While I have great, and purely shallow, admiration for Nick Jonas and Dan Osborne, they are not gay icons. They may frequently take their clothes off to the rabid cheers of gay men, but what have they actually done for the gay community other than cash in on us?

Then we have our beloved Kylie Minogue. Let me put it out there that I’m a bit of a stereotype in that I’m a huge Kylie fan. However, in my opinion she isn’t a gay icon. As fabulous as Kylie is, what has she actually done to help further gay rights? I can get on board with her campness and her words of wisdom, such as “When in doubt, add more glitter”, but for all Kylie’s fabulousness, she is not a true gay icon. This is because my idea of a gay icon is someone who has contributed significantly to LGBT causes and issues. People who have broken down stereotypes and challenged perception are also gay icons to me. So here is my list of people who I believe are genuinely gay icons.


  1. Madonna

This is a totally obvious one, but the truth is that Madonna really is a gay icon. She has long stood up for gay rights and was an active champion of our cause in the days when it wasn’t really cool. Even in recent years, Madonna has stood up for gay rights by turning up at a GLAAD event dressed as a boy scout in protest at the scouts in America not allowing gay people to join and protesting against Russia’s treatment of gay people whilst touring in the country. This led to a court summons for Madonna and she was branded an “ex-whore” by someone in the Russian government. What I like about Madonna is that she knows exactly what she is doing. She knows that her profile as one of the most famous people on the planet will draw attention to the issues that she chooses to highlight. Then there’s Madonna’s video for her song Justify My Love, which features man on man action and lesbian cross-dressing sexual games. Nobody else was doing things like that in the early 90s. We have a lot to thank Madonna for.


  1. Skin

Skin is the lead singer of Skunk Anansie, who are one of my favourite bands. Skin is a bald headed black bisexual female who makes heavy rock music. At the time Skunk Anansie rose to fame, black women were put into boxes as RnB singers and the idea that a black female would make hard rock music was absurd to the music industry. But Skin stuck to who she is and carried on, eventually becoming massively successful with her band. Over twenty years since Skunk Anansie released their first album, Skin remains one of a kind. Never one to flaunt her sexuality or claim to be any kind of gay icon, she has simply remained true to herself throughout an amazing career. So for me Skin is not only a gay icon, but an icon for black people and more simply, an icon full stop.

  1. Stephen Fry

While being delightfully entertaining, Stephen Fry has also actively campaigned for many years on things such as HIV/AIDS, mental health and gay rights. He also championed a number of LGBT causes, often using Twitter to tell his 11 million followers about the important work of certain LGBT charities.

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  1. Lady Gaga

Although another obvious choice, Gaga has done a lot in terms of raising awareness of LGBT issues and speaking out against discrimination. It’s well documented what Gaga has done for LGBT people, from speaking out about the suicides of gay teens in America to marching on the White House to get the controversial Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell rule abolished. If you forget about the circus act that surrounds Lady Gaga, it’s plain to see that she is an example of an amazing human being.

  1. Sir Ian McKellan

Not only is Ian McKellan one of the most well-known actors in the world; he is also probably the most high profile out gay actor. With a large pull at the box office, on stage and on television, Ian McKellan has still got it. However, it’s not just being an out actor that’s got him onto this list. He has also been active in the campaign for gay rights since the 1980s and even helped to found Stonewall.

Other people I view as gay icons include Ben Cohen, Jimmy Somerville, Ellen DeGeneres, Peter Tatchell and Tony Blair. Perhaps my list is predictable and there are not many people on it who differ from the typical roll call of gay icons. However, I see everyone listed as a true gay icon. They have actually done something significant to help further gay rights and break down stereotypes. That’s what a gay icon is, right?


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by Daniel Browe | @MrDanielBrowne


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