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Thursday, June 30, 2011


From Judy Garland to Britney Spears there have been many women over the years who have been branded with the title “gay icon.” Some, such as Joan Crawford, gained an early gay following due to her struggles both on and off screen, likening her to an underdog with whom many gay men of the time felt they could relate. Others, such as Madonna and Kylie Minogue, have openly embraced their queer fan base performing at LGBT events, supporting gay issues and incorporating queer themes into their videos and live performances.

However, in the short time she has been on the pop music scene, Lady Gaga seems to have set a new standard for those who would wish to qualify as a future gay icon.

Since her first album was released in 2008, Lady Gaga has embraced the gay community and been an advocate for LGBT rights like no other diva before her. In the liner notes of her debut album she wrote, “I will always fight for the gay community…” This was a bold move on her part as many celebrities have shied away from being linked to the gay community at early points of their careers. But Gaga has made her allegiance clear from the beginning and even performed at several LGBT events, such as the NewNowNext Awards and San Francisco Pride in the early months after the release of her first album.

In the days that followed, she promoted the album with live performances in many smaller venues, including gay and lesbian dance clubs.  Her genuine affection for her gay fans was obvious and any who believed otherwise would soon be forced to reevaluate their opinion when Gaga later revealed that she was bisexual in an interview for Rolling Stone. Turns out, Gaga was not only a supporter, but a part of the LGBT community as well. Though some were quick to label her coming out as a publicity stunt, the pop princess only intensified her advocacy in the years that followed and proved that her statements were more than lip service.

If visibility is the first step then Lady Gaga is running a marathon for equality. She has taken every available opportunity to voice her support for gays and lesbians in interviews, during acceptance speeches, and even televised performances.

In 2010 Gaga took a fierce stand against the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy. Dressed in a frock made of meat, Gaga attended the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards accompanied by four members of the US Military who had each been prohibited from serving due to DADT. When interviewed Gaga stated, “If we don't stand up for what we believe in and if we don't fight for our rights, pretty soon we're going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones.”

The songstress could have stopped there, but she continued her stance against the discriminatory law by releasing 3 videos on YouTube shortly after the awards show. In the videos she encouraged others to contact their senators and urge them to overturn DADT. She then took the fight even further by speaking at the “4the14K”Rally in Portland, Maine where she urged members of the US Senate to repeal the DADT policy.

Since then, Gaga has shown no signs of slowing down her support of the LGBT community. Her latest number-one hit, “Born This Way” is undeniably pro-LGBT and is the first hit song in the US to use the word “transgendered” in its lyrics. She’s also put her money where her mouth is by donating proceeds from the single to anti-bullying charities.

Recently, Gaga has made even more headlines in the crusade for equality by walking away from a lucrative deal with retail giant Target due to the company’s previous donations to an antigay political campaign. And just last week, she encouraged fans to voice their support for marriage equality by contacting state senator Mark Grisanti, who has wavered on supporting marriage equality, with “2000 emails” during an appearance in Buffalo, New York.

Lady Gaga hasn’t merely raised the bar for those who would claim the status of gay icon, she’s completely reinvented the criteria. No longer can a celebrity simply state, “I love my gay fans” and expect the LGBT community to call them an icon. A new standard has been set. And while this shouldn’t detract from those who have worn the title in the past, Lady Gaga has worn it best.



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