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July 24, 2011 | by  | in Opinion |
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Bent – Gay Icons

Who do you admire? Who do you respect? Who should be remembered for the mark ze has left on the world?

If someone asked me those questions, I’d probably need a week to answer, and I still would have left out half the people worth mentioning. I was asked to write about people I consider “gay icons”—people who’ve done a lot for the gay rights movement. I could write an entire issue of Salient on this topic, but I only had 500 words. Do you agree with the people I’ve chosen? Is there someone you can’t believe I missed out? Who are your own personal “gay icons”?

Harvey Milk (1930—1978):
The first openly-gay man elected to United States public office (City Supervisor, San Francisco, 1977). Influenced by the hippie movement of the 1960s, he devoted his life to gay pride and gay activism in the early ’70s. A fellow city supervisor shot
Milk dead in 1978, stopping Milk’s wave of revolutionary reform in its tracks. I hope that I, too, can one day achieve as much as Harvey Milk.

Harvey Fierstein (1952—):
An American playwright/actor, Fierstein was openly gay when practically no one else was. For this honesty alone, we should worship him. However, he has frequently gone further, presenting rainbow issues in his plays. This has forever etched queer rights onto the worldwide agenda. Because of him, every GLBTQI person can say, “We’re here; we’re queer: get used to it!”

Cher (1946—):
Cher’s son, Chaz (born Cher’s daughter Chastity) Bono, came out as a lesbian in 1995. Chastity’s revelations initially shocked the singer/actress, until Cher realised GLBTQI didn’t have the same privileges as straight people. Since then, she has been an ardent supporter of rainbow rights, and has supported Chaz through his female-to-male gender transition. Who doesn’t want a parent like Cher—a real-life Hazel/Debbie from Queer as Folk!

Ellen DeGeneres (1958—) and Sir Elton John (1947—):
American comedienne DeGeneres and British singer John are the queer face of the new millennium. Each married a member of hir own sex and settled down to a quiet life at home. Sir Elton even adopted a child! DeGeneres and John showed the world that what the rainbow community has said all along is true: everyone is capable of loving, and should have the chance to love somebody else. In the words of ’80s band Foreigner, we all want to know what love is.

Each and every person who has fought to make a better world for GLBTQI, from the drag queens who fought during the 1969 Stonewall riots to the leaders of Wellington’s recent Queer the Night march, deserves our acknowledgement, awe, and appreciation. Without hir efforts, the queer community everywhere would still be silently closeted, afraid to stand up and be counted. So I say “Thank you” to Harvey, Harvey, Cher, Ellen, and Sir Elton; “Thank you” to everyone who has ever played a part, no matter how small, in the rainbow movement. Thank you. *

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